A bit of a slow start, but I found it interesting enough once I'd gotten farther in. Still, it does take its time ramping up. As usual so far, Banks' writing is good - good characterization, as always, and an interesting setting to explore. You see a lot of the darker side of the Culture in this novel. Not that any of the novels so far are particularly light.
Incidentally, as a counter point to Emperor Mollusk, this story shows how you can have very powerful technology while still giving a good sense of struggle and telling a good story.