- Complete Monster: Emperor-Regent Nicosar & Joiler Veppers. See those pages for details.
- Magnificent Bastard: Veteuil in Surface Detail is a ruthless soldier who starts out fighting for the Pro-Hell side in War on heaven, working to sabotage the Anti-Hell side. However, Veteuil opts to sabotage the Pro-Hell side, sabotaging them and helping the novel's heroes to ensure the death of the hell side. A genius strategist, Vetueil manipulates and uses everyone over the course of the novel with none the wiser, possibly even working for the mysterious culture. In the novel's final line, Veteuil's true identity is revealed to be a repentant Elethiomel Zakalwe, the Chairmaker, who has been seeking his redemption for centuries.
- Mary Suetopia: One thing that makes Banks such a great writer is how he averts this: he is the first to admit that the Culture is the "ideal society" in which he dreams to live, and he is also the first to show how imperfect it is. Specifically the possibility for complete, mind numbing boredom, and the repeated claim (by both citizens and outsiders) that The Culture in fact cannot stand cultures different to its own, and so seeks to "sanitize" the rest of the galaxy. Staving off this boredom and giving purpose to the Culture's existence may be Contact's real function. Also, the utopian nature of the Culture is presented as entirely a function of their post-scarcity economics. When they find anything that actually is scarce, they are only too ready to compete over it. e.g. the Minds scheming and fighting over the titular Excession, or the various lengths Culture citizens go to in pursuit of tickets to the first night performance in Look to Windward. Ultimately, Banks simply acknowledges that even the Culture can't be all things to all people; it's just as close as the author can make it, while still being mindful of the reader.
- Tear Jerker: Quite a few of these have taken place throughout the series. One of the most notable would be, for example, the conjoined fate of the Masaq Hub and Quilan in Look to Windward Or the real Zakalwe's backstory in Use of Weapons. In Matter there was also the kicker of Oramen's sudden death, along with Ferbin's later self-sacrifice.
YMMV / The Culture