Either that, or he had an emergency crop up halfway across the galaxy, and the the Mind of the GCU The Infuriating Fragility Of Life In A Pre-Contact Civilisation Displaced him away, leaving a slowly-cooling meat puppet in his place.
If you haven’t read his work you should. The gently posthuman future of Rita’s blue timeline is no doubt influenced by the “Culture” that shows up in about half of his SF books. (And his SF books are only about half of his stuff.)
Everyone has their favorite places to start; I, personally, feel that “Use of Weapons” makes for a really good introduction to his “Culture” universe, since part of it involves the hero being introduced to it as well. (As a bonus, it’s one of the inspirations for some of the tricks I’ll be playing in book 3.)
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While I was drawing this page, I fixed a couple details in the preceding one.