They manage all this without corruption or abuse of power... because they have given up control to the Minds, sentient machines so intelligent that no human could hope to compete with them. The Minds look after the humans and send lesser machines out for resources when they're needed. Also, they think of ways to improve technology. They are logical, but understand emotions. And so far, Iain M. Banks seems to be saying that The Culture is awesome. And I agree. I want to live in The Culture. I want to live on an Orbital and do whatever I want without having to worry about money, or "will I get kicked out for something stupid like my appearance?" and just be free to do whatever, whenever. I, for one, welcome our new silicon overlords. :-D
What I love the most about this series, so far, is that The Culture is so perfect that the only way to get a decent story out of it is to focus on the places where The Culture clashes with other societies. Which was the problem I had with Traipah at first, too, and was what made me so obsessed with it - I was determined to find a way to make good stories from it.
"Consider Phlebas" is awesome indeed. Exciting, adventurous, and funny. But it also has its dark spots. If you read it, I warn you: when you get to the scene where Horza gets stranded on the island, you might want to skip to page 185. That whole business with the Eaters and their leader, Fwi-Song, was so graphic and disturbing that though I passed that section days ago, I still occasionally get flashbacks that make me shudder.
But aside from that, great book. I highly recommend it.
Crossposted from http://fayanora.dreamwidth.org