The Scavenger species are circling. It is, truly, the End Days for the Gzilt civilization. An ancient people, organized on military principles and yet almost perversely peaceful, the Gzilt helped set up the Culture 10,000 years earlier and were very nearly one of its founding societies, deciding not to join only at the last moment. Now they've made the collective decision to follow the well-trodden path of millions of other civilizations: They are going to Sublime, elevating themselves to a new and almost infinitely more rich and complex existence.
Amid preparations though, the Regimental High Command is destroyed. Lieutenant Commander (reserve) Vyr Cossont appears to have been involved, and she is now wanted - dead, not alive. Aided only by an ancient, reconditioned android and a suspicious Culture avatar, Cossont must complete her last mission given to her by the High Command. She must find the oldest person in the Culture, a man over 9,000 years old, who might have some idea what really happened all that time ago. It seems that the final days of the Gzilt civilization are likely to prove its most perilous.
©2012 Iain M. Banks (P)2012 Hachette Digital
"Nobody does it better." (Sunday Times)
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"What a way to say goodbye"
I have the paperback but I find the small print a strain these days, so the audiobook was a much more relaxing way to enjoy the story.
It's maybe not the pinnacle of Iain Banks' Culture novels but it's certainly up there among his best. It has all the right ingredients for a classic Culture novel - intrigue, plot twists, humour, great dialogue, exotic tech and wonderfully developed characters, organic and AI. Perhaps these ingredients aren't as impeccably mixed as Banks in his pomp, but nevertheless it's still an artfully constructed and engaging story and I was hooked from start to finish.
Peter Kenny brings the book alive with an astoundingly good performance. I can't imagine anyone doing better. The way he slips effortlessly between the different voices, especially those of the ship AIs bantering with each other, giving them each a unique personality, is a joy. Clear, well-paced and engaging.
It made me laugh and it made me cry. Whilst there's some great moments of humour, this book is primarily about closure on multiple levels. It's the last Culture book of course, which brings its own sadness that there will be no more. But the over-arching themes of the book are mortality / immortality, closure and spirituality, expressed via the plot mechanism of 'subliming'. It's a thought-provoking and appropriate goodbye, both to the Culture and to Banks himself. It's also a wonderful celebration of the rich imaginary universe that Banks created, his imagination and invention will be sorely missed.
If you've never read any of Iain Banks' Culture novels, whatever you do please don't start here. It's a fine book, but it's a finale of sorts and a farewell. Pick one of the earlier novels, Consider Phlebas being the obvious place to start.
"Easy listen, great Culture ship, average story."
The ending was built to be a revelation, but was telegraphed from about halfway through the story. The 'Mistake, not' is a typically brilliant character. The culture ships are almost always the highlights of culture stories.
I enjoyed the audiobook - the performance was great, but they're are better books in the series.
"Ship fun story"
Good Culture book, but does drag on a little story-wise. Had to listen 3 times over as kept having my attention drift or falling asleep. Liked the ship characters and their banter though.
"A great farewell to the Culture & well performed"
In what was to be Banks final culture novel we follow a great quest in the days leading up to the subliming of a species. In this well written space opera, Banks delivers some great moments of spectacle, action and humour all excellently narrated by Peter Kenny. Whilst this wasn't my no.1 Culture novel, it was certainly an enjoyable adventure. You will be sadly missed Iain Banks :-(
"Anticlimactic but still worth it."
Great book, I always look forward to Culture novels. A little disappointed with the end, as it was a bit of an anticlimax! Nevertheless a great piece of work.
Iain M Banks is a master story teller. I'm glad that this did not take the most predictable path. It made it a great listen!
"by far my most favourite "
well read by the Narrator Peter with great use of accent and emphasis, describing and illustrating each of the characters
"Love Iain Banks"
I like some of the clever ideas like the 'sim problem' makes me smile at Banks' genius.
"An enjoyable read"
This was as always for Iain Banks an enjoyable read. It seemed a little more tongue in cheek than some of the previous Culture books but I'm not sure whether this is because I was listening to someone else rather than reading the book myself.
"Iain Banks at his best"
The Hydrogen Sonata is another imaginative master piece from Iain Banks. The plot is rich and multilayered. The characterisations are stunning. I highly recommend this Culture Novel to both existing fans and to first time readers of Banks.
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