Originally by: skye orionis
Consider Phlebas remains my favourite just the intro where the mind's battle and escape is one of the finest literary descriptions of space combat. Look To Windward is a close runner up, and Excession would be third on my list. I know a lot of people love Use Of Weapons and The Player Of Games - and they're wonderful, but not my favourites. I loved reading Matter recently, I'm reserving judgement until I've read it a few more times.
Consider Phlebas was the first of Iain Banks books i read and i was fascinated. But i also liked some of his "darker" works such as wasp factory and the bridge.
Use of weapons looks to me as kind of a link between his culture universe books and his darker works.
for the topic:
Maybe this fractal encryption is a way to track down the original owner in case he sells the ship to some nasty pirates or other enemys of the state.
Just imagine selling a Navy Mega ( which was trusted to you by the Federal Navy)to a state protectorate member who uses it to blow up "real Navy" Navy Megas.
One week later the black eagles knock down your door and you spend several years on some rather unpleasant prison planet somewhere in lowsec.