Sleeper Service (ex-Quietly Confident)
First appearance Excession
Latest appearance Excession
Fate Left the galaxy
Affiliation Eccentric (officially, no affiliation) / The Culture
General characteristics
Class General Systems Vehicle (GSV)
Auxiliary craft

512 Abominator OU
2,048 Torturer ROU
2,048 Inquisitor OU
12,288 Killer ROU

24,576 Thug ROU
49,152 Scree LCU
Armaments Specifics unknown
Defenses Shields, specifics unknown
Propulsion Warp drive
Power Unknown, reached 233,500 x lightspeed[2]
Length 90 km
Width 60 km
Height 20 km (all lengths include fields)[3]

The Plate-class General Systems Vehicle (GSV) Sleeper Service was introduced in the Culture novel Excession by Iain M. Banks. The Sleeper Service features as a reclusive Eccentric which had separated from the Culture proper over 4 decades previously, wandering in Eccentricity. Later on, it investigates the titular Excession, and, in the words of one literary critic, adopts the role of an 'amateur gumshoe', complete with a changed style of speech employed by Banks to offset it against that of other characters.[4]

The character was also noted in the context of how honour plays a central role in the space opera genre, with the ships instigating a complicated plot solely to reconcile two former lovers in whose violent split the ship played a role.[5]


As is the case with all GSVs, the Sleeper Service started out with a standard 3-Mind grouping, and was known as the Quietly Confident. In this form, it was a part of the earlier lives of Byr Genar-Hofoen, and Dajeil Gelian, before they went to the water-planet of Telaturier; however, by the time the GSV was seen in Excession, it was ruled by a lone Mind. The common understanding was that after a dissent, the other two Minds had unusually agreed to abandon control of the GSV to the lone Mind and take smaller crafts for themselves. However, a popular story was that after said dissent, the lone Mind defeated the other two, wresting control from them and declaring Eccentricity.

The Sleeper Service was somewhat renowned for its odd penchant for using its stored passengers in tableaux and set-pieces to match artworks, scenes from history, etc. This became something of a cult phenomenon, with many wanting to be Stored aboard the Sleeper simply to have been part of its work.

In Excession[]

The Sleeper Service was home to a variety of flora and fauna from different parts of the galaxy, hosting all within an approximation of their natural habitats; the only two sentient beings aboard were Dajeil Gelian, ex-Contact officer and recluse, and Gravious, a sentient bird planted as a spy within the Sleeper Service two decades before the story starts, coding its messages on bacteria left on Stored bodies that were due to be offloaded. However, its spying was unsuccessful - the Sleeper was aware of the messages, and allowed only those to pass that would not pose any threat to itself.

Whilst it appeared that the Sleeper Service had been Eccentric for 4 decades, it had in fact been a dedicated, if secret, military resource acting on behalf of a sub-set of Special Circumstances Minds known as the Interesting Times Gang, to be drawn upon in the event The Culture was ever seriously threatened. To facilitate this, the Sleeper Service made preparations such that it could, on very short notice, fill all its General Bays, a large part of its internal space, with additional engine capacity, making it able to outrun any ship in the Culture, as well as creating a fleet of approximately 112,000 semi-slaved Offensive Units of varying types based on standard Culture models. A sub-group of the Interesting Times Gang intended the Sleeper Service to be the main (and utterly overwhelming) weapon in the war they manufactured between The Culture and The Affront. However, upon becoming aware of this conspiracy, the Sleeper Service declined to play its part and used its resources to bring the war to an end and expose the conspirators. The Sleeper Service then left the Culture and headed out of the Milky Way intending to travel to Leo II.


  1. Excession - Banks, Iain M., 2003, Page 437
  2. Excession - Banks, Iain M., 2003, Page 247
  3. Excession - Banks, Iain M., 2003, Page 239
  4. A Companion to Science Fiction - Seed, David, Blackwell Publishing, 2005, Page 563
  5. A Companion to Science Fiction - Seed, David, Blackwell Publishing, 2005, Page 564