I do not read much science fiction. Many years ago I read Asimov's Foundation series when it was still just a trilogy, but I wasn't too impressed, probably because, back in those days science reality (the moon landings, Vikings and Voyagers) was more impressive.
The Algebraist is similar in scale and subject matter to the Foundation books, but Banks is a much better writer than I remember Asimov to have been. He is clever and witty and makes his strange worlds and even stranger life forms, seem quite believable. I particularly liked the ancient, shambolic, laid-back Dwellers, beings who have lived in the atmospheres of gas giant planets for billions of years. I found it gripping while I was reading it but, as with all science fiction, the moment I had finished it, the excitement evaporated like a dream after you wake up.
I could see The Algebraist being made into a film, but it would have to be practically all CGI.