This is not one of 2011's 100 books. I read this last year and I'm a little behind in my thoughts on reading posts.
I'm a huge fan of Iain M. Banks. I think his science fiction is way better than his mainstream stuff (which I do still enjoy). Matter simply confirmed that for me. I loved it. It is a Culture novel that starts of in a world in another civilization's sphere of influence that has not developed space technology of it's own. This part of the story is more of a mediaeval fantasy. One of the main characters has left this world to join the Culture and decides to return on hearing of her father's assasination, where she discovers interference by other civilizations and her trip turns into a Special Circumstances mission.
The scope and detail of the novel are vast and intricate. I don't know how I would be able to keep hold of all that information while writing. Banks is pretty much good at all the elements of writing. The characters are great with fantastic names. The dialogue is excellent. Story structure is good. The mystery at the centre of the novel was handled really well; it was clear that things were not as they seemed, would not work out the way the characters believed they would, but it was not obvious what would happen. Happily, I didn't get the surprise but when it was revealed I was 'oh yes, of course', which is how I like it.
The ending was amazing. It was Shakespearean in it's death-toll and I was gripped. It was completely absorbing. This is one of my favourite books of 2010 and you must read it!