This critical history of Iain M. Banks' Culture novels covers the series from its inception in the 1970s to the The Hydrogen Sonata (2012), published less than a year before Banks' death. It considers Banks' origins as a writer, the development of his politics and ethics, his struggles to become a published author, his eventual success with The Wasp Factory (1984) and the publication of the first Culture novel, Consider Phlebas (1987). His 1994 essay "A Few Notes on the Culture" is included, along with a range of critical responses to the 10 Culture books he published in his lifetime and a discussion of the series' status as utopian literature. Banks was a complex man, both in his everyday life and on the page. This work aims at understanding the Culture series not only as a fundamental contribution to science fiction but also as a product of its creator's responses to the turbulent times he lived in.