I am a big fan of Peter F. Hamilton and Alastair Reynolds and have been interested in discovering Iain M Banks for a while. When I saw this book on Audible I jumped at the chance to finally listen to one of his books. Well worth the wait! Banks has a very engaging style of writing...I like to think of it as Dr. Who meets Douglas Adams but I'm being very simplistic. Suffice to say, if you get the book be prepared to be entertained...my only bit of warning is that his gruesome Hell scenes can be a bit graphic. Don't let that stop you...if you like British Sci Fi, you'll love this guy.
I'll refrain from saying too much about the book itself , as I haven't finished it yet. So far it's classic Banks, that is to say as good as modern Sci-Fi gets. I would like to say that the narration by Peter Kenny is remarkable, subtle and controlled where it needs to be and with a formidable control over his vocal range. He does voices and accents , both male and female, young and old with great assurance. As a result , all the characters were clear and easy to distinguish. This is no small thing in a Banks book where there can be a great number of characters, aliens, humans, A.Is all with very different characters and points of view.
I would seek out Mr Kenny as a narrator now...even if I wasn't sure about the book itself and that's no small thing for me to say.
Iain Banks's Culture novels can sometimes disappoint, but this is one of the better ones, if not up there with a classics like 'The Player of Games'. Despite the complicated use of interweaving multiple plotlines, there's a strong sense of unity centred around the notion that virtual reality could eradicate death, and each of the plotlines tackles a variation on the implications of that idea, even as they all start coalescing into one story. The stories are all interesting, although if the book has a flaw it's that one of the stories - the tale of two academics who choose to enter their civilization's virtual Hell to prove its existence - is so violent, terrifying and heartbreaking that the rest of the book feels a little ho-hum by comparison.
Books with complex, multiple plotlines don't always translate well to the audiobook format, but Peter Denny is an absolute genius who conjures a vast array of different accents for the many characters, meaning that you never lose track of where you are. It's an absolutely superb performance.
Well written. Very interesting characters. Intriguing concepts. Excellent :) I will have to look into MORE by this writer :)
I value intelligent stories with characters I can relate to. I can appreciate good prose, but a captivating plot is way more important.
As in his other books in the Culture series, Banks has really illustrated how artificial intelligences will just completely overshadow humanity, Most sci-fi authors jump through hoops to get away from that notion, because it is difficult to write about. Banks tackles it head on, and as a result, his stories are the smartest in all of modern sci-fi.
Banks did a better job with writing engaging characters here than I've seen in his earlier books. That's a good sign, as it was my primary complaint about him in other reviews.
Banks does little hand-holding in his novels. He throws you in, and you just need to figure out what's going on. I respect him for respecting his readers... but it is representative of Banks's style in general. He isn't concerned with captivating his readers. He wants to tell his story and you can come along if you like.
Witty, complex, excellent.
In sheer worldbuilding and breadth and depth of characters and plot, I'd say it's up there with a lot of epic fantasy, like Wheel of Time, and other sweeping books like Follett's Pillars of the Earth. In its wit, it's got a very Hitchhiker's Guide quality to it. Loved it!
Banks is not an American author, and the voice in my head is American. His narration - especially the myriad of different voices and accents he brought, combined with his ability to truly capture the dry humor in this book, had me laugh out loud in several completely unexpected places that I think I might have missed but for his interpretations.
I can't say enough about the narration, I'm considering additional books from this series simply because he was so fantastic!
This was as good as any of Banks' Culture series. Peter Kenny is as great a narrator as Banks is as a writer.
Absolutely! Peter Kenny gives a brilliant performance of a good story.
The story is good. Its a good for SF in general and a good Culture series book. I find, however, that's its actually narrator that keeps me riveted. There are points where I felt the words were not as good as the delivery. Great job, Peter!
The culture special circumstances warship "Falling Outside The Normal Moral Constraints". All that it does, but especially replaying a battle to his human companion while grinning like a school boy.
I can't remember the name, but the bird-like hyper-active and hyper-polite aliens helping Veppers was hilarious.
The testimony in front of parliament of someone who had experienced one of the hells moved me.
I've heard The Culture novels can be difficult to get into. I started with Excession which really deals with most themes I've found, "backing up", ship minds, drones, avatars, orbitals, special circumstances, displacement, effectors, engines, hyperspace and the grid, the relation to other galactic societies, etc. For someone new to The Culture I might recommend checking out the wikipidia page to see the technologies involved so they don't stumble on certain concepts while reading or listening.
Genre: Sci-Fi, Post-Cyberpunk (computerized consciousness in a developed world; rather than in a dystopia)
Rated: R Very graphic torture and violence, strong sexual themes and abuse
Static or Dynamic: Dynamic! The story entices you along from experience to experience with little time to get bored with any of it. Each setting that is generated is thought provoking and exciting to resume when the story swings back to it.
1st or 3rd Person: 3rd person, there are 8+ characters to follow.
Abstract or Concrete: Mainly abstract. There are very few parts of the book that are strongly mechanical and descriptive. Most of the book is an existential question wandering through the lives of many characters. The argument of "what is real?" comes up a lot sense a main element of the book is virtual existences and virtual people. The book is concept heavy and will require some in depth thought to fully appreciate.
Linear or Non-Linear: Linear; the same story progresses on multiple fronts in radically different situations.
Narrator: OMFG this guy is good. The playful characters with playful and the dark characters were dark. The scope of this guys abilities is splendidly vast.
Plot Outline: If you could live forever in a virtual environment, what becomes the meaning of death? If you die, should you be judged? If you are punished or rewarded, does it mean anything? These are themes that are sewn into the book in a variety of different settings. Because virtual life, or in some cases sufficiently technologically advanced biological life, can render a certain level of immortality, how do people act when they have this option? A large disturbing part of the book goes through a virtual hell, literally, and the concepts of whether or not that fate means anything are highlighted. Other parts are more dubious and political but still settle around the same concept. If you lose your mind in hell, can you still be the same person that needs to be punished? If you live long enough in heaven that you no longer remember the life that you lived, are you still the same person? Fun stuff :) Oh yeah and artificial intelligences are awesome!