Only the sister is not what she once was. Djan Seriy Anaplian has changed almost beyond recognition to become an agent of the Culture's Special Circumstances section, charged with high-level interference in civilisations throughout the greater galaxy. Concealing her new identity, and her particular set of abilities, might be a dangerous strategy, however. In the world to which Anaplian returns, nothing is quite as it seems; and determining the appropriate level of interference in someone else's war is never a simple matter.
©2008 Iain M. Banks; (P)2008 Hachette Audio
I listen to my audiobooks as I commute (1.5 hours a day). It's amazing I'm still alive having been so engrossed in this book.
The story has all the wonder of Ian M Bank's vivid imagination. He conjours up fantastical species and worlds that require no effort on my part to suspend disbelief. A beautiful story that tries to describe the problems that might face species as they reache their full potential through scientific discovery. The author does so without coming off as pretentious, trite, or belittling the audience's intelligence. More than once he made my life seem very trivial when held against the vastness of existance. A tragic story, but captivating the whole way through.
Toby Longworth's narration is a credit to the story and Toby himself. Toby imbues each character with his/her/it's own personality without sounding at all ridiculous. You always know who's talking and get an incredible sense of who they are. I'd like to wax lyrically about Toby's performance, but to save you the pain of my inelloquant banter, I'll just say that it was superb.
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
Iain M. Banks' Matter is an entertaining and intelligent space opera, using galactic civilizations of various humanoid and non-humanoid species at various stages of technological and cultural development, impressive artifacts (like giant shellworlds that house concentric, inhabited levels; intelligent battle suits that talk to you, shoot for you, and turn your urine into water; and AI spaceships who give themselves droll names like Don't Try This at Home), and exciting action and battle scenes to explore themes about matter, culture, power, freedom, growth, love, and human nature. The ending is shocking, fitting, and moving. The characters are compelling. The story is humorous, horrifying, awe-inspiring, and thought-provoking.
And the reader, Toby Longworth, is fantastic. His voice is appealingly gravelly but clear, he understands the story, and he reads it perfectly, effectively changing his voice for different characters, among them power-hungry lords, foppish princes, grizzled generals, cold killers, rustic and wise servants, strong women, drugged prostitutes, fanatic insectoid aliens, cool, caring, or inimical AIs, and more, all sounding just right for their personalities and situations. He even talks like a mild American for this amoral ex-Culture agent who's running an endless war (by recycling soldiers) on some planet for the vicarious pleasure of his alien employers.
All in all a great listen.
A little slow to start, but most longish sci-fi books are. All back story is paid off sooner or later. Iain Banks' perfectly timed, but not over used, and rather scottish use of profainity and toilet humor are conveyed hilariously by the narrator and help to keep things interesting and enjoyable, even when the topic is some what darker.
Ending is unexpected, emotionally charged and satisfying but leaves you feeling that everything will be all right after abilities noted earlier in the story.
Back story never feels empty and all that seems excessively detailed at first, comes to a head toward the end.
When I drive, I read... uhm listen. I like SciFi, Fantasy, some Detective and Espionage novels and Religion. Now and then I will also listen to something else.
It seems Ian M Banks is modern writer of tragedy. In the advanced, everything is possible, Culture where machine and human has merged in ways which you cannot imagine, he succeeds to bring a tragic element in, that leaves you with more questions than answers.
I am struggling to listen to Toby Longworth. From time to time my mind just opts out, which meant that I had to relisten certain parts of the story.
All in all, it is a good book, but I would suggest that you read/ listen "Consider Phlebas" and "Player of Games" if you haven't yet been introduced to the Banks' Culture novels.
Still, this is a worthwhile listen!
Such is the draw to a Culture novel that I was compelled to purchase as soon as the title became available.
As has been the way with recent Banks work, the story takes place on a number of levels. Matter, takes this one stage further and locates the narrative inside a shell world which itself is made up of a number of levels - cleaver.
Imagine a heraldic prince, not unlike Hamlet who stumbles upon his fathers murder and the action spirals out to threaten the whole world, drawing the attention of the Cultures elite soldiers, SC.
At it's heart, the story contemplates the very meaning of life, but don't expect Banks to answer that, if the best Minds of the Culture can't. If however, life really is all just a game, what does it really Matter!
If you are a fan then tell your loved ones you will be away for 21 hours and when you return you will be suffering from withdrawal symptoms.
Let's hope it isn't another 8 years until the next one, but however long it takes it will be on My Next Listen list.
I usually ration my listening to when I cycle to work or am sewing, but this was one book that I kept on far longer when I came through the door.
I was prepared for the abrupt ending, having read a previous review, but agree it was disappointing, particularly for someone like me who likes to have explanations. Even so, that didn't spoil my enjoyment of an engrossing book.
"Interesting foray into Banks world"
Excellent listen if you like Sci-Fi tinged with fantasy. The missing star is because of the ending of the book and not anything to do with the recording, which was exemplary.
The book seemed to screech to a halt a bit and there seems to be a chunk missing that would naturally flow from the end of the last chapter to the epilogue. I actually had to rewind and check that I had not missed something, and when this didn't reveal anything, I went into a bookshop and read the last couple of pages.
The ending does not detract from a thoroughly enjoyable listen, and don't let it put you off. I appreciate films/books where they leave the end open for interpretation, but this just seemed to have a little bit missing, nothing major.
"Brilliant and highly recommended"
My first Culture Novel which I thought was brilliant. Mixes galaxy spanning adventure with a very personal, touching family story set against the epic backdrop of the Culture galaxy. Occasionally difficult to follow due to the frequent weird and wonderful alien names it is non the less engrossing and thoroughly recommended for any sci-fi fans
"Solid Culture Novel"
This is a book of travel, archeology, hi-tech, low-tech and exploration. It is focused around the sons and daughters of an assasinated king of a shell world. The sons, after the kings death, have very different paths to take and the daughter, who is ex-SC, comes back to help them, initially at least. The book is essentially the charting of the 3 main characters journeys, 2 of which are in the shell world itslef (journeying between the levels) and one, the daughters perepective, from within the Culture. The stories are all of course linked and come together albeit in quite an abrupt fashion at the end of the book. Iain Banks describes the shell world, the Culture, the ships and all the smart AI in his usual style and penache. It is a very descriptive book in that a lot of the time you are treated to explanations of the worlds, the levels and environments the characters exists in. The story itself is solid, the human/AI/alien characters are great and you do get a great broad sci-fi novel, with its split between the world of the Culture and the shell-world with it's medievel tech. It is pretty solid, but, and my only gripe, is that it does climax very quickly at the end, you kind of blink and it's over. Matter does bring everything together at the end which is great, but it just does it a bit too quick in my opinion, would have liked a bit more meat in the end game. But niggle aside, I'd recommend this book as another good, solid Culture novel. Very enjoyable. The narration was great as well.
"Difficult to put down."
One of my most enjoyable and addictive listens. Toby Longworth's narration is quite simply the best I have ever heard in an audio book and really helped to distinguish between the numerous characters. It was hard to think that Iain M. Banks could have imagined them sounding otherwise. I was sorry to finish the book and, unlike some other reviewers, rather liked the ending.
I'm a little bit disappointed that 'Surface Detail' has a different narrator but I'll give that a go too.
I was gripped by this book from the very start. It was as much Toby Longworth's reading of it as the story. The story itself starts off very strongly but it looses momentum towards the end. It's like there's a few chapters missing. Still a really really good listen. I have now bought the next book in the series but decided to have another Toby Longworth book before I start it.
"An excellent book and a fantastic reader"
This is a fantastic book, and easily my favourite Culture novel to date. The characters are great, he setting fantastic, and the story romps along at a great old pace. I recommend it. The story does end a bit abruptly, but it is a fitting end and very much in keeping with the author's style.
I must say something about the Reader, as the quality of the reading can make a huge difference to your enjoyment of an audio book. I thought this was the best reading of any audio book I have ever heard. Exemplary.
"Frankly astonishing imagination"
A wonderfully immersive, moreish, page-turner without all the frustration of all that page turning !
Loved it. Book of the year 2008
"The best narrator I've heard"
This narrator was the best I've heard from an audio book. He mastered the dark comedy of these books and each character was totally different and full of colour. As for the story - this was also top notch. The sheer imagination at play here is staggering. The time scales, the different worlds, the Culture and the rules and politics within the Culture all add up to make something that stays with you a long time after you've finished reading.
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