Surface Detail is a novel from Iain Banks, under the name Iain M. Banks. A science fiction novel, it is the latest in his popular Culture series. It was first published in the UK on 7 October 2010 and the US on 28 October 2010.
The events of Surface Detail take place around 2770AD, six hundred years after the "Chel Debacle", depicted in the earlier novel Look to Windward and thus around seven hundred years after the events in Use of Weapons.
Each chapter of the book covers one or more of the six main protagonists–Lededje Y'breq, a chattel slave; Joiler Veppers, an industrialist; Marshal Vatueil, a soldier; Prin and Chay, Pavulian academics; and Yime Nsokyi, a Quietus agent. Much of the plot occurs in various simulated environments.
It begins in the realm of the Real, where matter still matters. It begins with a murder. And it will not end until the Culture has gone to war with death itself.
Lededje Y'breq is one of the Intagliated, her marked body bearing witness to a family shame, her life belonging to a man whose lust for power is without limit. Prepared to risk everything for her freedom, her release, when it comes, is at a price, and to put things right she will need the help of the Culture.
Benevolent, enlightened and almost infinitely resourceful though it may be, the Culture can only do so much for any individual. With the assistance of one of its most powerful - and arguably deranged - warships, Lededje finds herself heading into a combat zone not even sure which side the Culture is really on. A war - brutal, far-reaching - is already raging within the digital realms that store the souls of the dead, and it's about to erupt into reality.
It started in the realm of the Real and that is where it will end. It will touch countless lives and affect entire civilizations, but at the centre of it all is a young woman whose need for revenge masks another motive altogether.