Iain M Banks - 'Culture series' Page 2

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  • Khanivor 18 Mar 2008 18:47:59 41,299 posts
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    So would I but it died in an Win ME HD crash and had no back-up siblings. I always meant to get a copy from the university but never got round to it. Basically it was about how sci-fi allows people to get their heads round things that have changed from being the future to the present. And hence is the most important literary genre in the modern world and really it should be the focus of more attention in the academic world, especially as it is one metric fuckton more interesting and relevant than 17th century English revolutionary pamphletting, (OK, last bit was unwritten subtext :p)

    Got 15/20 for it, which I was chuffed with as I started the draft on Saturday morning and handed the final in on Monday morning. would had it handed in earlier if I hadn't stopped for a spliff for the new episode of the Simpsons on Sunday.
  • otto Moderator 18 Mar 2008 18:52:30 49,335 posts
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    Pity - sounds really interesting. I pretty much agree with that line you've taken there, the only problem with it is that no-one who counts pays SF any attention, unlike 17th pamphleteering... :(

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  • Laserbream 18 Mar 2008 19:06:03 497 posts
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    The Algebraist was good! Worth the price of admission if only for the Dwellers, who were fantastic loonies.

    Against a Dark Background is definitely my favourite though. Damn fine book that.

    I've never read Feersum - sounded a bit gimmicky to me. Is it fairly low-tech or high tech? If it's low-tech like Inversions I don't think I'll bother.
  • otto Moderator 18 Mar 2008 19:18:56 49,335 posts
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    It's not like anything else he's written. It's sort of cyberpunk in a fantastic far future.

    You have to remember it was written back when we were all first getting excited about virtual reality. I think it has dated a bit. Also, there's some writing in dialect which could irritate the fuck out of some people. :D

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  • Carrybagma 18 Mar 2008 19:44:42 3,904 posts
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    Feersum is great fun - one of those books you know he enjoyed writing. Plenty of classic IM.Banksy timeline mischief.

    Beware 'Culture addicts' who want every new book to be Culture-based - or else they call it crap! :o) I'd very much like him to do a post-culture book, where the Culture have gone, leaving artifacts of their civilisation behind. Or something like that.

    I like some of his non-M stuff, but they seem to get worse as they go on. The Bridge is great, and The Crow Road was good enough(?) to get into the Scottish schools curriculum at one point. Not read the latest though. Or 'Matter' for that matter. Arf!
  • Deleted user 2 May 2008 14:12:07
    Dam wrote:
    And I only read Whit when it came out, but remember loving it - may have been something to do with living on the banks of the Forth at the time, the river that the main character sailed down on the river tube.

    Ok you've just freaked me out - where abouts on the banks of the Forth? I lived right on the waterside in North Queensferry until about 3 years ago... still miss it terribly. Used to bump into the Actual Mr Banks of the Forth quite a bit too. ;) reading The Bridge whilst having it in my peripheral vision at all times through my front room window was a bizarre experience i can tell you.

    Not only that but he wrote and based The Wasp Factory 5 miles away from where I grew up in the highlands. I read that not long ago and although it's technically a fictional landscape - it's highly recognisable to a local. Very odd feeling.

    The only reason I was looking through here is because I love the Culture novels. I agree for the most part with Otto - with the exceptions of The Algebraist which ( admittedly on 2nd reading ) i really liked and found quite funny at times, and Matter was great. I loved the way it inverted your view of the Culture.

    Non-culture novels - if you can get into the dialect then Feersum Endjinn is utterly peerless imo.

  • Sorbicol 2 May 2008 14:22:26 591 posts
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    Why does nobody like The Algebraist? I think it's much better than a lot he's written - definitley better than Matter, and much better than Use of Weapons. imo of course ;)

    I'll add to all the voices touting The Player of Games and Feersum Enjinn as his best books, they are certainly my favourites although I agree the langauge in Feersum Engineer does take a bit of getting used to. Great premise for the story though.

    As for his non-culture stuff, his earlier works are the best - Wasp Factory, Crow Road, Complicity. I didn't go a bundle on Whit personally, and The Business was readable but just never went anywhere :(

  • Machiavel 2 May 2008 14:24:38 5,964 posts
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    Matter read like pure fan service to me. The usual motley cast of heroes and villains and a surprisingly action-packed finale. There were also weaker moments when characters sprouted philosophy which was obviously was Iain had been reading recently, rather than it fully fitting the plot.

    Saying that though, it was highly enjoyable to read - just lacked the sweep and subtle sadness of The Algebraist which I feel lingers longer in the memory. As did Looking to Windward.
  • Deleted user 2 May 2008 14:47:35
    otto wrote:

    Algebraist - wtf was he thinking? Diabolical pot boiler, 3/10

    0_o

    Almost finished this and i'm loving it. If that's Banks at 3/10 i can't wait to read his decent stuff!
  • figgis 2 May 2008 14:48:52 7,382 posts
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    The main reveal in 'Feersum' is fantastic.
  • LeoliansBro 2 May 2008 14:52:40 44,966 posts
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    I've read pretty much everything 'M' bar Look to Windward. The Culture as a society is just ... dull.

    Feersum Endjinn is very good indeed though. Player of Games as well, because it sidesteps the problems with a Culture setting.

    LB, you really are a massive geek.

  • GloatingSwine 2 May 2008 14:58:19 2,712 posts
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    Leolian'sBro wrote:
    I've read pretty much everything 'M' bar Look to Windward. The Culture as a society is just ... dull.

    That's largely why the Culture novels all deal with other societies within the 'Verse. Look to Windward is the only one set within the Culture itself, and even that's half about another people and their dealing with the Culture (and the Culture from an outside perspective).

    Almost finished this and i'm loving it. If that's Banks at 3/10 i can't wait to read his decent stuff!

    Read The Player of Games. It's still the best Culture novel.
  • ilmaestro 2 May 2008 15:57:03 32,538 posts
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    I like The Algebraist, too, although I was a touch disappointed with the very end as I thought he was going to end it with a bit of a twist, but he didn't.

    4235

  • StaticKing 7 May 2008 10:29:44 300 posts
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    Shinji wrote:
    And I absolutely loved The Algebraist. How dare you. ACTUALLY how dare you. It's ace!

    Well, maybe not ace, but a solid 7 or 8 :)

    +1
    Loved it, especially the great sense of humour.
  • Psychotext 7 May 2008 10:40:12 55,060 posts
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    I'm finding the latest one quite hard going.
  • Sorbicol 7 May 2008 12:38:50 591 posts
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    Psychotext wrote:
    I'm finding the latest one quite hard going.

    Yeah I didn't get on with it that well either. I normally race through Iain Bank's books when I first read them, then immediately re-read them at a slower pace. I didn;t do that with Matter though. It just seemed a bit tired although I thought the Shellworld concept was very good.
  • glo 7 May 2008 12:51:47 3,438 posts
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    Read all except the latest one. Would join the consensus that Player of Games is best but closely followed by Excession and Use of Weapons. Must have read those three about a dozen times now.

    I actually quite enjoyed the non-culture ones like inversions and feersum endjinn
  • Khanivor 7 May 2008 19:19:09 41,299 posts
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    I loved the Algebraist but found Matter to be somewhat 'meh'

    I enjoyed the reversed perspective on the Culture and the Shellworld was indeed cool but it just din't grab me. At least it did have the standard "Is that fucking the end???" ending :)
  • GloatingSwine 8 May 2008 15:02:06 2,712 posts
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    I thought Matter needed more aggressive editing.

    I mean yes, it's fun when Iain's jumping up and down pointing at things and shouting "Look at this mad shit I've made up", but quite a lot of it really didn't impact the story at all, and saving 200 pages out of the first two thirds of the book would have massively improved the pace.
  • otto Moderator 8 May 2008 15:06:37 49,335 posts
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    Absolutely right there. Plus I still think it had the most disappointing, anticlimactic ending of any book he's written.

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  • LeoliansBro 8 May 2008 15:13:01 44,966 posts
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    otto wrote:
    Absolutely right there. Plus I still think it had the most disappointing, anticlimactic ending of any book he's written.

    What, really? Including Consider Phlebas?

    I thought that was kind of what he did.

    LB, you really are a massive geek.

  • Ginger 8 May 2008 15:14:14 6,922 posts
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    Leolian'sBro wrote:
    otto wrote:
    Absolutely right there. Plus I still think it had the most disappointing, anticlimactic ending of any book he's written.

    What, really? Including Consider Phlebas?

    I thought that was kind of what he did.
    Was going to say the same thing. Just finished CP and because of the appendices thought there was a good 50 pages of close out to go, but nope, it just ends...

    Anyway, on to the next ones!

    London open taekwondo champion

  • GloatingSwine 8 May 2008 17:03:23 2,712 posts
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    otto wrote:
    Absolutely right there. Plus I still think it had the most disappointing, anticlimactic ending of any book he's written.

    I thought the ending was alright, along with everything after about page 400. Bit of a downer maybe, and an epilogue scene with Djan's backup being regrown at SC to see how they'd reacted would have been nice, but there was plenty of cool shit happening.
  • Jos 16 May 2008 12:19:25 709 posts
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    Just read Matter - first Iain M. Banks book I have read (and first book at all in an age).

    I really enjoyed it (and I had had no idea it was part of a larger collection about the Culture as I picked it up on route through an airport).

    It is long and meanders which confused a bit until you realised he was playing around with the time line for different threads of the story. But that was good in it's own way for a holiday read - to let you have the time to meander your own mind around this galaxy he is creating).

    It feels like the whole thing speeds up exponentially from start to end and while I though I had been a bit short changed when I finished it, I did seem to reflect a lot on what would have happened next in the story had it continued to show the aftermath of the climax.

    And there is a general theme of no ends, just lots of beginnings - is that common in the Culture series?

  • LeoliansBro 16 May 2008 12:26:08 44,966 posts
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    Banks seems a bit caught up in how imaginative he can be with these books - all clever concepts and gimmick planets etc. He sometimes forgets to make the people he writes about interesting as a result, and that leaves the actual plots a bit clunky. Plus his ensemble casts are unnecessary. Why bother with Count Sessine, for instance, of half of the Phlebas people? Or the extra floaty aliens and the main character's friends in the Algebraist? Or the seductress in Excession.

    And some plot points are a waste of time. The alien fleet that turned up and then left in The Algebraist, the temple of light in Consider Phlebas, the guy having sex in his ship in Excession. Get an editor mate!

    LB, you really are a massive geek.

  • Psychotext 23 May 2008 21:22:50 55,060 posts
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    Just finished reading it (I've been busy, sue me!). It got a lot better in the last two thirds but WTF @ ending. All 3 pages of it

    Anyone want to try and explain what happened?
  • ilmaestro 23 May 2008 21:31:36 32,538 posts
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    So it's just me who likes all the extra "shit" in Banks' books, then? It's like all the townspeople in an RPG who you can talk to if you like, they don't really impact the game but they're just fun to talk to.

    4235

  • Psychotext 23 May 2008 21:33:15 55,060 posts
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    ilmaestro wrote:
    So it's just me who likes all the extra "shit" in Banks' books, then? It's like all the townspeople in an RPG who you can talk to if you like, they don't really impact the game but they're just fun to talk to.
    No, I'm a big fan of that sort of thing. You pretty much get to know as much about other people as matters in the context of the main narrative.
  • Sorbicol 23 May 2008 22:57:30 591 posts
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    Psychotext wrote:
    Just finished reading it (I've been busy, sue me!). It got a lot better in the last two thirds but WTF @ ending. All 3 pages of it

    Anyone want to try and explain what happened?

    Well it's like this:

    The alien sphere thing the Oct dig out of the waterfall city isn't one of the shellworld builders like they think, but one of the aliens that went around destroying them. It blows everyone up at the city it's dug out of, and then Dejan, her Brother (the prince) and the servant go to the centre of the shellworld to stop it blowing the whole world up. As it's equivalent tech to the culture there's a right old ding dong a of a battle, a supporting culture ships gets blown up (not a common occurance) and the bad alien pretty much wins. The brother and dejan sacrifice themselves so that the servant can get away and warn all the other tech equivalent species around the shellworld what is happening, so they can do something about it. Possibly. However, Dejan being SC has an antimatter implant in her head so that she can power all the embedded weaponry she has, and when the bad alien (I'm sorry I can't remember the name of the species!) comes over to her dismembered head to see if she's dead, she some how manages to make the power implant explode killing her and the bad alien thus saving everyone else.

    Servant survives and goes on, with culture influence, to turn his layer of the shellworld into a thriving democracy instead of a despotic Monarchy (A common theme in Bank's books - the culture will actively interfere with less advanced civilizations to make them nicer to each other)

    Seemed pretty straight forward to me ;)


    If you fancy a really obtuse one page ending, try reading Gridlinked by Neal Asher. Took me ages to work it out!
  • Psychotext 23 May 2008 23:07:30 55,060 posts
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    Sorbicol wrote:
    The brother and dejan sacrifice themselves so that the servant can get away and warn all the other tech equivalent species around the shellworld what is happening, so they can do something about it

    .........

    Servant survives and goes on, with culture influence, to turn his layer of the shellworld into a thriving democracy instead of a despotic Monarchy (A common theme in Bank's books - the culture will actively interfere with less advanced civilizations to make them nicer to each other)

    Seemed pretty straight forward to me ;)
    That's the thing, it was straight forward other than what happened to the servant. It was all so abrupt that you never really got to know that he got away, or how. You could kinda work out that he got off planet... but I'm not sure how he managed to make it to the kid and the kid's protector (I forget their names). Nor really why those two came back with him.

    The cut from ferbin jumping the wall to djan being cut in half felt the same... I really did think for a second that a bit was missing from the book! I'm really surprised that they didn't have the servant meeting up with the re-grown djan in there at the end either.


    Other than that... I did enjoy the last two thirds as I said. =)
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