A Night at the Space Opera

One of the best novels written about Sept. 11, 2001, was published in August 2000. Look to Windward, by Scottish science-fiction writer Iain M. Banks, is set in a galaxy-wide civilization called the Culture that's so ridiculously technologically advanced that people have become functionally immortal godlings. They can do anything they want; therefore everything is a game and nothing matters. When they interfere in the affairs of a less advanced species called the Chelgrians, the Chelgrians retaliate with a grotesque act of terrorism.

The Culture novels (there are eight of them) are about the challenges of a world in which thinking...

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