The war raged across the galaxy. Billions had died, billions more were doomed. Moons, planets, the very stars themselves, faced destruction - cold-blooded, brutal, and worse, random. The Idirans fought for their Faith; the Culture for its moral right to exist. Principles were at stake. There could be no surrender.
Within the cosmic conflict, an individual crusade. Deep within a fabled labyrinth on a barren world, a Planet of the Dead proscribed to mortals, lay a fugitive Mind. Both the Culture and the Idirans sought it. It was the fate of Horza, the Changer, and his motley crew of unpredictable mercenaries, human and machine, actually to find it, and with it their own destruction.
©1987 Iain M. Banks (P)2011 Hachette Audio
"Dazzlingly original." (Daily Mail)
"Gripping, touching and funny." (TLS)
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This is the first novel in the Culture "series". It's told from outside of the Culture, as the main protagonist is actually an agent for the opposing side. As far as the story of his mission & his journey - it's pretty crazy. I thought some parts were completely crazy and had trouble getting into some of the characters. However, it is worth it in the end for the wrap up of the adventure.
In this novel we first meet the huge GSV's of culture's fleet, Special Circumstances agents, AIs, orbitals, and drones - all the pieces of Banks's big crazy world. The middle journey in the book which takes place through an abandoned orbital, so a completely bonkers introduction to them, but gets across the enormity of what it is to you.
The drones in Banks's stories are often my favorite characters but I wasn't a huge fan of the one here. He was a little too whiny and annoying.
Even though this story is "first" you can read the novels in any order as they don't really share characters.
Once you've finished this one, pick up Player Of Games!
Author, Keys to the Coven
I don't know why I'd never heard of Banks or the Culture before. After finally discovering and consuming what little of the series we've got on offer here at Audible, I've started to see references to it everywhere. Go figure. But if you, like me, are into the kind of science fiction that rewards a thinking and speculative approach, then you'd do well not to let this series pass you by. Iain is deathlessly funny in the blackest of black ways, and the narrator's quick and cunning reading really highlights the flippantly grim nature of the galaxy in which the Culture thrives--seriously, tried listening to some other Culture books with another narrator who tried this whole somber style, really didn't work out.
Consider Phlebas is the story of a war between the hyperliberal semi-transcendental post-human Culture civilization, the quintessential 'good guys' of a near-endpoint technological civilization, and a race of near-immortal warrior-poet types spreading their religion to the galaxy. Yeah, yeah, it sounds preachy, but it ain't. Through three or four intertwined narratives (the Culture books almost always do that Charles Stross thing where stories with unclear connections come together to a harmonious narrative), we get to know the civilizations we're looking into and watch as they breach the territory of a genuinely transcendent godlike mega-species, the Culture to rescue one of its own artificial intelligences, their enemies to capture that same mind for the technology it will offer them. But the plot, elegant though it is, isn't even the best part; it's the beautifully flowering exposition of the society of the galaxy, which Banks pulls off with an impossible grace. You'll wanna go there.
Just get it! You won't regret it, swear.
This book was truly a mixed bag, even feeling haphazard at times. It could really have easily been a tour de force, and I kept hoping that it would turn into one. But alas, it comes out feeling like the book needed a decent editor.
The novel starts out quite dense, and I had to struggle not to get lost with all the names and things going on. We get glimpses of the war on a cosmic scale, only to be mired down in drivel and wasted pages. Eventually I listened to the novel at double speed while at work, realizing that I didn't care enough to get that invested and I just wanted to catch the highlights of what happened.
A strong content rating on this one as well, as adult situations and languages abound. A few bright moments, such as the escape through the inside of the massive Culture craft, as well as the high-stakes card game on the eve of a giant space Ring's destruction. Also some of the humor was actually funny. I did not feel like the book ended well at all, however. Up until the end I was lost in useless detail, and a climax that was completely unexpected and underwhelming.
Looking back, I would not have started the series with this book, because now I'm not sure if I want to read any more or not.
A plus note: The narrator did a fantastic job with what he had. His normally British accent, very pleasant to hear in the narration, turned into a plethora of amazing voices with different characters. Alas, if only the characters had been written as well as they'd been narrated!
I was not expecting an action filled, contemporary SciFi adventure but that is what I got. The book will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout. You cannot aford to veg out on even one part of one chapter. It is all relevant and all provative. I found the audio sample a little misleading. If I recall correctly, the sample comes from a section about an individual sentenced to prison and subjected to torture. What happens as the story unfolds is something totally different. The prisoner becomes the protaganist and his jailor plays a very unusual but exciting role in his escapade.
Enjoyable book that is very original. Good guys and bad guys are difficult to distinquish, except when it's a monster, and even then one might just get the feeling that the victim had it coming. Author calls the epilogue "the appendices", and unfortunately you have to sit through them or you'll miss the biggish finish. It's the kind of book you think maybe should be rated a 5, but somehow not.
The use of familiar tropes and archetypes in new and inventive ways
Horza, the Changer. Horza, a chameleon and potential cipher with questionable if any ethics, despite being in ceaseless peril, emerges as a character worthy of caring about.
Banks' frequently changes point of view, in sometimes jarring ways, yet Kenny doesn't miss a beat. One of my peeves that fell by the wayside as I became engrossed in the tale, was the familiar naming of characters convention of using long and overly alien-sounding names, and I was grateful to have Kenny flawlessly take on this task.
The denouement of the relationship between Horza and his principle rival, the Culture Agent.
Consider Phlebas is a wonderful introduction to the Culture series, rich in action, characterization and finally, ideas. Banks' euphoric mastery of his material, whether close-observed or spanning the galaxy, is ultimately irresistible. Banks' prodigious imagination almost obscures his insightful understanding of human nature and motivations. Reading "Consider Phlebas" in 2013, it seems as if it must have been written more recently, after 2001. Banks' writing seems prescient even under that mistaken premise in light of recent events. But then as you read on you realize that in attributing our current fractiousness to the Culture War, with its pre-echoes of the Clash of Civilization, or the Cold War if you are given to looking back, you are missing deeper, transcendent lagers.
Are you kidding?
Similar to the Gridlinked series.
Great voices. Not silly. Cared about characters.
Great series, great story.
I'd recommend this audiobook as a good intro to Bank's Culture series. Peter Kenny does a great job with range of accents - and an even better job handling everyone's name. I'm sure I wouldn't have been up to the task.
The depth of the Culture universe was great and a while there were parts that were a bit slow, the action sequences made up for it.
Yes. Excellent writing.
Inventive world personalized by author.
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