Matter by Iain M. Banks
This book may very well end up being selected as my "Best Read of 2009." Yeah. It's that good.
Step aside Star Wars, this is space opera at its finest. The seventh of Banks' Culture novels, Matter follows the journeys of three royal children who share the same murdered father. The oldest son and now rightful king, Ferbin, is also presumed dead. Having witnessed the murder in the shadows, he sets out with his servant to find a way to put everything right again. The only daughter, Djan Seriy Anaplian, is across the galaxy as part of the Culture's Special Circumstances division when she hears of her father's and brother's deaths. She then decides to return home to pay her respects, which means getting de-fanged of her SC enhancements. But it's all good. She stows away her favorite drone disguised as a knife missile. Just in case. The youngest brother, Oramen, who thinks he will be king once he's old enough, dodges assassination attempts while trying to acclimate to his new position as Prince Regent. He's introduced to women, alcohol, drugs, you name it. The entire kingdom is at his beck and call. Or so he thinks. In the meantime, the only available ruler is, not so ironically, the king's murderer, playing every card to his advantage.
And that doesn't even begin to tell the story. There are so many awesome things packed into this book. Alien races and lands you'd never dream of. Something called a Shell World--this concept still has me amazed. Ships that name themselves silly things like, Don't Try This at Home, and The Hundredth Idiot. The fantastical ins and outs of being a member of the Culture. Hilarious interactions between characters that makes your belly hurt from laughing. Bloody fights that make you cringe. Emotional turmoil that had me gasping, crying, biting my knuckles…anything to release the pressure.
The ending to this book was so intense, I screamed. You read that right. I screamed. Iain M. Banks is now one of my favorite authors because of this book, and I can't wait to read more of his work. JUST READ IT!