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)
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. .
As always, a very good listen with fairly mindboggling changes in storytelling perspective. Somewhat demanding and compex. If you let your attention drop for a while the narrative could litteraly have you transported to an entirely new part of the universe or even another dimension altogether! But to me this is what Iain Banks is all about.
Peter Kennedy is absolutely fantastic. His ability to make up new phrasings, dialects and voicings for the sometimes very disparate character gallery is second to none. His personification of Culture drones, minds and other wierd aliens sometimes make me laugh out loud (not always part of the social contract when commuting to work)...
A solid listen for Culture fans!
Really a huge fan of the series and loved this one as well.. Full of humor and action, this is immensely enjoyable.
Excellent characters, interesting setting. The culture minds/AI have such ridiculous but entertaining personalities which I always looked forward to hearing from again. the book explores digital afterlife possibilities and how they might go horribly wrong.
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!
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!
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!
I thought this story started slowly as it was hard to see how all the story lines were going to relate to each other, but that only made it better once I was invested in the different story lines and they came together in the end.
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