It begins in the realm of the Real, where matter still matters. And it begins with a murder.
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.
©2010 Iain M. Banks (P)2010 Hachette Audio
"Banks's labyrinthine and devious ninth Culture space opera novel adeptly shifts perspective between vast concepts and individual passions....New readers may be taken aback by the rapid pace, but fans will dive right in and won't come up for air until the final page." (Publishers Weekly)
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.
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 :)
An excellent dramatization by Peter Kenny! Such voices and inflection. An excellent story with plenty of "stuck in the driveway still listening to a chapter end" moments.
Like a collection of short stories with different characters that do not overlap, the culmination of the plot brings all characters together in a meaningful way that is enhanced by the disparate nature of their origins and motivations. Ian Bank's brilliance, though shines in his presenting the expected showdown events with turns and points unexpected. Throw in complete surprise elements and you have a riveting story that ends with a bang.
the difference in voices, accents, speed and delivery intonations as different between characters, that's what I love about Peter Kenny's craft.
I struggled to find a good order to read Ian Banks books, having stumbled upon "Use of Weapons" in a list of "best surprise endings with a twist" sci-fi stories ever. They were right, it is an amazingly excellent surprise twist that you have to make sure doesn't get spoiled for you.
That book, Use of Weapons is a great introduction to the Culture novels as it outlines many of the structures and ideas of the Culture. So I would definitely recommend it as a first book to read. This one, "Surface Detail" is another of course, and here is how I would recommend anyone read their first few...
1. Use of Weapons - Introduction to the Culture
2. The Player of Games - Story set in Culture environment
3. Surface Detail - Story that furthers Culture views, values and SC workings
I'm off now to pick my next Culture novel to dive into.
Iain M. Banks is honestly a God among authors, his stories have such complex, logical yet completely out of this world concepts that set him apart from other SciFi authors, these are as much accurate predictions of the distant future as they are fiction.
The uninitiated reader might not find this story quite as compelling due to some reliance on foreknowledge of the Culture and it's ways. But I believe this to be the best Culture book yet. The characters are developed extremely well and the plot is delightful (if not a little twisted). While lacking some of the moral ambiguity typical of Culture series books, this story still manages to captivate the reader on several levels. Political intrigue, murder, and the search for meaning in life are rampant. It feels to me that the author has shown some literary maturity with this outing, as previous stories felt somewhat unfinished or hastily wrapped up. This story, on the other hand, has more of a completeness and soundness. Despite being somewhat convoluted (as all Culture books are), the story coalesced and resolved more succinctly than any that came before. I look forward to reading the next book in the series, as I hope to see further development of story and Culture lore. .
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