I was a bit surprised by this book. I know that Banks is acclaimed for both SF and mainstream but challenging literature. I think that I expected more literary SF from this book, but what it is is pretty straight forward Space Opera. It's quite good and well written, but in no way special. It reminds me a bit of Larry Niven. The world building is not quite so impressive as Niven though and the characterization and prose is no better.
It's good enough that I intend to give more of Banks a whirl, but at the same time I have to admit that I am a little disappointed at how run-of the-mill it is.
In the end it is well written and competent straight ahead Space Opera. It fulfills its genre niche, but has nothing revolutionary about it.