I read a story years ago that revolved around a mysterious ‘ship’ (it was a basic shape - I believe the name of the book was also around this shape) found in the universe. It had some species worried and was causing tension between other species.

My memory of the details is minimal but I do remember:

  • There was a woman in a tower near the beginning of the book. There were sea-like creatures that went by that she could see from her window. Her species had access (through some kind of neural lace?) to their own biology and could change themselves from appearance to gender through their mind. Her and her partner had switched genders to have a baby but something happened to her partner. (Killed in the tower?) I believe it was revealed later that she was aboard a ship.

  • The hero of the story was a typical ex-military rogue type character. I remember two specifics moments with him. One, he was out in a busy city hosting some kind of festival or party and was describing the different appearances chosen by the race (using this neural lace). And the other was him visiting another race. There was a big hall and the culture of this race was barbaric. He may have needed a helmet to breathe there.

Again, my memory is very foggy on the details - sorry! I remember really enjoying the different species and worlds in the book mixed with the adventure.

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    Hi, welcome to SF&F! About what year would "years ago" be? Do you remember any details of the cover? Please check out the other suggestions for story-id questions and edit in anything else you think of.
    – DavidW
    Commented Mar 3, 2020 at 5:02

1 Answer 1


Just had an epiphany and googled "book with neural lace". I found it.

If anyone is curious by my non-descriptive question, the book is Excession by Iain M. Banks, 5th book of the Culture series.

The book is largely about the response of the Culture's Minds (benevolent AIs with enormous intellectual and physical capabilities and distinctive personalities) to the Excession itself and the way in which another society, the Affront, whose systematic brutality horrifies the Culture, tries to use the Excession to increase its power. As in Banks' other Culture novels the main themes are the moral dilemmas that confront a hyperpower and how biological characters find ways to give their lives meaning in a post-scarcity society that is presided over by benign super-intelligent machines. The book features a large collection of Culture ship names, some of which give subtle clues about the roles these ships' Minds play in the story. In terms of style, the book is also notable for the way in which many important conversations between Minds resemble email messages complete with headers.

The story does employ Neural Lace.

A neural lace is a general purpose biomechanical computer implant.

  • Please explain how the book matches?
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Mar 3, 2020 at 5:12
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    Also, please come back in two days to accept the answer by clicking on the checkmark by the voting buttons. :)
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Mar 3, 2020 at 5:12
  • I've added some details, but I don't know which page you found.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Mar 3, 2020 at 5:16
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    Also reminded me of Use of Weapons. Cheradenine Zakalwe was ex-military. I recall him attending a strange party in that novel where there was a lot of medical body modification going on. Could the woman have been Diziet Sma? Commented Mar 3, 2020 at 8:43
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    Assuming their not mixing two books up this is definitely "Excession". The womans partner becomes female so they can each conceive a child but they break up (for reasons I won't spoil). The tower is onboard a ship she has decided to stay on for many years out of grief. The other main character in the book is a man who enjoys spending time in alien cultures and wants to become one of them. The first time we meet him he is attending some kind of party where the aliens are being boisterous and he wishes he could experience it. Neural laces are also very prominent in Culture Novels. Commented Mar 3, 2020 at 16:23

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