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The fourth Culture novel, written by Iain M Banks. It concerns the reactions of individuals (mostly minds) of The Culture (and other interspacial species) to the discovery of an unknown and enigmatic artifact: The Excession.

Tropes used in The Culture/Excession include:


  The Killing Time: "Please accept my mind-state."

  • Badass: To borrow a phrase from another Culture novel, the Killing Time rips through an entire battle fleet like a berserk raptor plunged into a nest of kittens.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: The Affront, in a nutshell. Unfortunately, they're also all Complete Monsters.
  • Bunny Ears Lawyer: The Interesting Times gang. They're all eccentric, but they're not all Eccentric.
  • The Charmer: Byr - or arguably a Casanova.
  • The Chessmaster: The conspiracy's planners, very much.
  • Continuous Decompression: on Pittance.
  • Cool Ship: Most of the characters are ships, but the stand outs are the Sleeper Service and the Killing Time.
  • Death Seeker: The Killing Time, sort of, after its attempt at Heroic Sacrifice failed.
  • Didn't See That Coming: no one in the entire galaxy saw the Excession itself coming, and in particular no one even considered that the Eccentric Sleeper Service WAS BUILDING A WAR FLEET!
  • Driven to Suicide: Attitude Adjuster.
  • Exposition of Immortality: Drone Churt Lyne, who accompanies Ulver Seich on her travels is mentioned as having been a family friend for a milennia and parts of it's Mind dating back to ancient household computer programs from 9,000 years ago. The MSV Not Invented Here is also pretty old, Desert-class MSVs were among the original "large self-sustaining" ship designs the Culture came up with two milennia prior to the Idiran War, which itself took place 800 years before the events of Excession.
  • Face Palm: The Fate Amenable To Change, metaphorically.

  If the Fate Amenable To Change had been a human, at this point, it would have looked down, put one hand over its eyes, and shaken its head.

  • Faster-Than-Light Travel
    • Taken to a mind-bending degree. To get away from its official/unofficial stalker, one ship converts all its extra mass into one huge engine. By the end, the stalker is left asking itself, "Where is it going, ANDROMEDA?!?!"
      • Reaching somewhere in the vicinity of 230,000 times lightspeed.
    • Keep in mind that this is a ship with an internal volume of over a hundred thousand cubic kilometers.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: Creatures genetically altered by the Affront.
    • And what Grey Area does to organic creatures it doesn't like. Also crosses over with And I Must Scream.
  • For the Evulz: Affront culture. Every facet. A particularly vile example include the fact that one of the very first things the Affront did when they gained enough knowledge of genetic manipulation was to alter all their females so that they would only feel pain and fear during any vaguely sexual situation.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: The Attitude Adjuster.
  • Knight Templar: Grey Area. May cross over with either Complete Monster or Sociopathic Hero depending on your point of view.
  • Laughably Evil: The Affront, who are so innocently enthusiastic about their bloodthirsty viciousness that most higher civilisations that encounter them can't help but be amused. Not everyone appreciates the joke, though.
  • Macho Masochism: Affronters.
  • Male Pregnancy: Byr.
  • Mercy Kill: the Affronter Captain that committed suicide in a particularly painful way, rather than live with the shame of defeat, was put out of his misery by the Heavy Messing.
  • Mind Rape: The Grey Area. There is a reason the other Minds call it Meatfucker.
    • Effectors are pretty much this when used as weaponry. The Attitude Adjuster is killed this way, being made to believe that it has crossed the Moral Event Horizon and forced to commit suicide.
  • More Dakka: Or at least the threat of it, is how the Sleeper Service prevents the impending war. As well as converting much of its mass to engines it has also spent its time as an Eccentric constructing more than 80,000 warships. These range from thousands of the smaller Thug and Gangster classes (which are still capable, individually, of killing planets) to 512 Abominator class capital ships (a single one of which curbstomped an entire battle group of warships far more advanced than those possessed by the Affront in milliseconds in Surface Detail).
  • Oh Crap: The Yawning Angel's reaction when it realizes the Sleeper Service converted all its internal volume into engine.

 Two hundred and thirty-two thousand times the speed of light. Dear holy fucking shit.