by Iain M. Banks (2008). An utterly compelling hard-core science-fiction novel of the far future, in a galaxy with thousands of distinct human, quais-human, computer, robot and alien civilizations at different levels of sociological and technological development. These range from the more-or-less medieval culture in which the novel starts out to races so advanced that they have “sublimed”, achieving a sort of immortal godhood as beings of pure energy. The only novels that posses such a grandious and compelling view of multi-threaded natural and artificial life in the universe is Olaf Stapledon’s Last and First Men (1930) and Star Maker (1937). Matter is no abstract, dispassionate birdeye view of life in the distant future. The book is driven by passion – it follows two brothers and a sister as they try to deal with the brutal murder of their father, a king. The true hero of the novel, though, is an extraordinary creation, the planet Sursamen. This construct, built by an unknown and extinct civilization eons ago, consists of a gigantic series of shells, each a thousand miles apart, filled with different environments – lands, mountains, oceans hundreds of miles deep – lit and heated by internal thermonuclear sun-like sources and interconnected by tunnels that permit travel – for those in the known – between the different levels. Each level is inhabited by different creatures and races. This equilibrium is disrupted by the discovery of a very ancient artifact that comes to life. Matter is a stunning novel and a must read for anybody interested in the ultimate boundaries of technology.