The Hydrogen Sonata is part of a series that has elicited a plethora of positive energy from the science fiction community. Centred on an interstellar utopian society, the Culture novels have been praised for their resurrection of the space opera through which political, societal and philosophical themes are interwoven.
This latest addition introduces the reader to the last remaining days of the Gzilt civilisation. After thousands of years of devotion spent on the development of their race, overseen by the Culture, the Gzilt are finally ready to Sublime, an ambiguous last stage of life akin to the achievement of Nirvana. However, an unexpected discovery pertaining to their long-held beliefs brings them to the edge of conflict and the fate of their ultimate ending falls into the hands of Lieutenant Commander Vyr Cossant as she makes the dangerous journey to secure it.
A daunting premise it is, but Banks' witty commentary and immersive settings add a surprising sense of dynamism to the plot, rendering it appealing to both old fans of the series and new sci-fi readers. At 500 pages long, the discoveries are rarely thin.