The dazzling new Culture novel from a modern master of science fiction - a tour de force of brilliant storytelling, world-building and imagination.
It begins in the realm of the Real, where matter still matters. It begins with a murder. And it will not end until the Culture has gone to war with death itself.
Lededje Y'breq is one of the Intagliated, her marked body bearing witness to a family shame, her life belonging to a man whose lust for power is without limit. Prepared to risk everything for her freedom, her release, when it comes, is at a price, and to put things right she will need the help of the Culture.
Benevolent, enlightened and almost infinitely resourceful though it may be, the Culture can only do so much for any individual. With the assistance of one of its most powerful - and arguably deranged - warships, Lededje finds herself heading into a combat zone not even sure which side the Culture is really on. A war - brutal, far-reaching - is already raging within the digital realms that store the souls of the dead, and it's about to erupt into reality.
It started in the realm of the Real and that is where it will end. It will touch countless lives and affect entire civilizations, but at the centre of it all is a young woman whose need for revenge masks another motive altogether.
©2010 Iain M. Banks (P)2010 Hachette Digital
Like all of Iain M Banks' Culture novels that I have read, this one was vast, mind blowing and in parts hilariously funny. The best part about Banks in audio is that my mind can wander during detailed descriptions of space (or other) battles, and not have lost the thread when the interesting (to me) stuff starts up again.
The narrator gave a unique voice characterisation to every one of the many major and minor characters, making sections of the story that I think I may have skimmed in print utterly engaging in audio. I'm sure the book has its faults, I've seen other reviewers complain about Veppers being a cardboard cutout pantomime villain, and they're right. I just didn't mind though, so much did I enjoy the personalities of the rest of the characters, especially the ships' Minds.
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.
Playing with the concept of life after death in the advanced Culture we've met in 'Consider Phlebas' Banks brings a new twist to his Culture novels. While his other novels were almost all tragedies, this novel comes over more philosophical and succeeds in making the reader think about concepts like 'soul, consciousness, mind' and 'being.' While the story is most of the time straight forward, Bank's captivates with interesting characters that he bring together in an unexpected way. Peter Kenny's interpretative reading is topnotch. I never opted out and he kept the characters very alive and interesting. This audio book comes highly recommended.
Once again I was completely immersed in the universe of Iain M. Banks: both in the Virtual and the Real, although the lines tend to blur frequently. He does not spare us in his depictions of the virtual hells - even Hieronymus Bosch would feel queasy at times - but his quirky inventiveness shines throughout.
The first-time visitor to the Culture would probably feel overwhelmed by the cornucopia of Minds and intelligent life forms, pan-human and otherwise. I would recommend an introduction through 'Look to Windward' or 'The Player of Games' before attempting this, his greatest work to date. I have read every book of his and this is the first audiobook of the series that I've listened to. I had thought it would be an impossible task for a single narrator to cover the incredible range of characters, but Peter Kenny has done a fantastic job fleshing them out. I did not want it to end. Can't wait for the next one!
I enjoyed revisiting the Culture once again with this almost thriller. Peter Kenny's narration once again makes this a gem.
This is a very pleasant listen. The narration, concepts and language were all excellent. However, I was not enthralled by the plot and I found that I "could put it down". I would still recommend this book to you if you are a SF fan.
Great narration brings Banks’ characters to virtual life in another space epic from Banks who has lost none of his inventiveness. Brilliant and witty as ever...
"A great listen"
I have read all IaIn M Banks' books, this one is near but not at the top of the range. However, I enjoyed this one more than any other of his books because of the quality of the narration. This was a great listening experience. I certainly will read or listen to more of authors books but I will also try to listen to other books narrated by Peter Kenny. I especially liked the Hugh (House) like voice which suited the character perfectly. I would recommend this to anyone who likes SciFi.
It took a little while for me to get into this and at one point I thought the book was going to be one of Iain's more inpenitrable affairs ( I love Banks but have given up listening to a couple of his books because I was clueless as to what was going on). I have to say you need to stick with it and it then opens up to a completely immersive experience. I love the ideas he has woven into the story and the characters are superb. The narration is perfect - one of the best I've heard of any book and I've listened to hundreds!
Long but brilliant - can't praise it highly enough. What are you waiting for?...get it bought!! ;)
A longish, complex but fascinating novel. If you're new to the world of The Culture, best start somewhere else and work your way up to this one. Good quality recording, well read and performed throughout.
"Surface Detail Rocks"
Dear Iain M Banks,
Loved your latest on Audible, hold on to that narrator! Peter Kenny does wonders for your characters and, it does happen , even when you wander into a self-indulgent patch, he adds humour and 'voice' to a not rivetting moment or two. You have a huge imagination and control your plots and dramatis personnae very entertainingly. Thank you, your Constant Reader
This really is brilliant - a master coming into his own. You can almost sense the words flowing effortlessly on to the page. The characters (and particularly the ship minds and the aliens) are interesting and often funny. In contrast, the scenes in the virtual hells are absolutely horrifying. The villain Veppers is a wonderful concoction - unfathomably wicked but somehow close to likeable, and certainly amusing in his foul-mouthed contempt for everyone and everything. If one has to find a fault, the ending is perhaps a little flat and predictable, without the kind of stunning 'twist in the tail' that Iain M often comes up with. And I didn't think the 'dramatis personae' epilogue quite worked. But overall an absolute delight, full of moral and ethical challenges but totally readable/listenable, that rare kind of book where you feel desolate when it's finished. And congratulations to the narrator - the range of distinctive accents, matched perfectly to the characters (machine, human and alien) is truly impressive.
I'll never feel quite the same about hell again.
I'm a great fan of the Culture series and Ian M Banks. Unfortunately I'm not a great fan of multiple separate story lines that slowly wend their way towards unity.
I lost count of how many of these there are as they sometimes split into further tributaries. Inevitably with 6 plus storylines, situations and characters there will be more than one that you can't engage with.
To be honest this comes across as more a series of loosely connected writing exercises undertaken to describe every single happening in excruciating, numbing detail, belatedly thrown together under the loose umbrella of a plot.
This level of descriptive detail sucks the pace from the narrative and consequently each of the many story-lines trudges drearily to the end.
But others opinions may differ. This is the first time I have not enjoyed a Culture novel.
"Best of the series"
This is a great book. It takes the culture series to a new high with humour as well as suspense.
"A Matter of After Life and Death"
A special circumstance happens when a new 'Culture' novel comes out and Surface Detail is no exception.
The narrative returns to a lower tech world grappling with maintaining their own beliefs in the face of vastly superior civilizations. As ever the story exists on a personal level but the actions of a few soon ripple out to impact upon the wider galaxy.
Banks is now so sure of the Culture genre that the story takes the fore and the 'tech' comfortably exists as if it has always been there. I can't imagine it not going that way you think to yourself.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Surface Detail is the deep exploration of what it is to exist even if your personality can be backed up. You can live for real, live in a virtual simulation , have your personality re vented into a new body or die, perchance to dream - ah there's the rub!
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