There are weaknesses though. I think in craft terms the writing is quite flawed, and should have been re-edited more firmly. The emotional impact of the ending was muffled. And, for me, that male character which re-emerges in every single Banks book was too much to the fore. You know him - he's the scion of an uber- rich family, has a loyal servant or two, takes too many drugs, does Xtreme sex and/or sports, and is also daring and brilliant. He generally has a Dark Secret which Torments him. He is viewed ironically, with a sub-text of judgement. But blimey, there ain't half a lot of them in this book. The hero, the anti-hero friend, and the mysterious billion-year old alien guide are all this same guy.
Freakanomics by Steven Levitt. Levitt is a bright boy, and his ideas have been written up by a new York Times journalist. I read this in two hours. It's quite fun. This is the kind of stuff you read quite a lot on the Internet - right-of-centre but socially liberal young man has a good insight into a paradoxical aspect of modern society, without any deep (and hence disturbing) political theory to structure his insights. Shallow but fun.
A History of God by Karen Armstrong. A history of ideas about God in the Abrahamic religions by an ex-nun. Armstrong is a generous, kindly, character, who is somewhat impatient of religion, but sympathetic to the impulses that underly it. This is a dense book, that crams in 2,600 years of theology. Took me a long time to read.
Our living multiverse by Fred Adams. A fairly well written overview of cosmology, but I shouldn't have picked this one in the shop, as there's nothing new here.
The Guardian book(s) of sudoku I am still addicted to sudoku. This book has the most pretentious blurb I have ever read. These number puzzles, the Guardian alleges, contain 'almost imperceptable witticisms' Ha! Take that, Daily Mail! Suck it up, my numeric witticisms are barely perceptable.
Unstable molecules by 'James Sturm'. Subtitle 'The early history of the fantastic four'. A graphic novel following the tangled lives of four ordinary Americans in the 1950s, intercut with excerpts from real and imaginary Marvel comics. Cool.
Comet in Moominland by Tove Janssen. Read yet again. I love this book.