Well, that was a disappointment. stuckintraffik had raved to me about the awesomeness of Ian/Iain Banks, and insofar as he was talking about the Culture novels, he's been absolutely correct. The Crow Road, on the other hand, a mainstream novel about three generations in the life of a Scottish family, is an occasionally amusing story handicapped by frequent shifts in time which make the story harder to follow than it needs to be. I also found the reflexive denigration of the Tories by all and sundry annoying, but YMMV on that score. So, anyway, if you like this sort of thing, then this is the sort of thing you'll probably like.
Not so disappointing, if occasionally just as hard to follow, was Michael Flynn's The January Dancer. Flynn is the co-author (with Niven & Pournelle) of Fallen Angels, the Global Cooling dystopia featuring rampant Tuckerizing, and I was wondering how his chops were without the Big Names helping him out. (I'd been told that his Firestar series was very good, but some things you have to judge for yourself, no?) Anyhow, The January Dancer is about an alien artifact found by a tramp freighter captain on an out-of-the-way planet and the repercussions the artifact has for the several people that wind up owning it - not always pleasant ones, needless to say. It's an interesting and colorful future that the tale is set in, I must say, and I suspect if I knew more about Irish history and culture I'd appreciate that future and its subtleties better, but I don't, and it's good enough as is. Recommended.
Man-Kzin Wars XII is essentially a joint effort by Hal Colebatch and Matthew Harrington (5 of the 6 stories) with an endcap story by Paul
Chafe. Easily as good as the best anthologies in the series, especially with the hilarious "String" which features one of the few examples of interspecies sexual humor in the series along with a shipful of kzinti who are high as kites. If you like the series, this is a must read, and if you're uncertain about the series this is a good place to start.