(Review ends here for geeks, non-geeks read on.)
Iain M. Banks writes hard SF, most of it set in his Culture universe, where humanity has evolved into a free-thinking, free-loving, do-gooding society of people, machines, aliens and anything else that wants to join in. Imagine someone took the Star Trek ideals of no money, peace, and happiness and removed all the po-faced, father-knows-best overtones. And then added in free drugs and fun for everyone. Yay! Let's move there!
The stories usually involve Special Circumstances, the section of the Culture tasked with ass-kickery and general meddling in the other galactic societies. Imagine Star Trek's starfleet but replace the uniforms, plot holes, what-is-this-earth-thing-you-call-love, we-must-not-violate-the-prime-directive with a shitload of weapons, ships that think, and plots that are thoughtful, exciting and funny.
"Matter" is no exception to this. A great read. My only complaint was that the epilogue was tucked away after the appendix-cum-glossary at the end of the book. You might miss it.
Read this book. Then read the other Culture novels. In any order, it doesn't matter - this is no fantasy epic in 27 volumes. Then read anything else by Banks with or without the M. "Complicity" is a good one if you like to pretend you don't like science fiction. But you know you do, really.