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Matter (Culture #8)

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  13,966 ratings  ·  659 reviews
In a world renowned even within a galaxy full of wonders, a crime within a war. For one man it means a desperate flight, and a search for the one - maybe two - people who could clear his name. For his brother it means a life lived under constant threat of treachery and murder. And for their sister, even without knowing the full truth, it means returning to a place she'd th ...more
ebook, 620 pages
Published February 10th 2009 by Orbit (first published January 2008)
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[Swirling patterns. Weird, vaguely familiar, futuristic music. Is it the Doctor Who theme tune? Slowly the camera pulls back to show the title

Celebrity Death Match Special: Blackadder versus The Culture

and we realize it's an unusual setting of the Blackadder song.

Dissolve to ROWAN ATKINSON and HUGH LAURIE, who looks rather unhappy]

ATKINSON: Is everything alright, sir?

LAURIE: Oh yes, rather, absolutely spiffing, top hole, couldn't be better. Except for one little thing.

The rest of this review is
This is a book I really wanted to like, and failed. I like Iain M. Banks style, I like his willingness to run risks, to give you the whole punch. And in this book, he barely delivers.

The book are 500 pages of set-up, and forty pages of resolution, and not a very satisfying one.

Too many characters doing not very interesting things in utmost detail, and then the interesting parts are just glossed over. Add wooden (and not very new in his books) characters, when part of his magic is making great in
Matter starts out with some baroque steampunk fantasia with grim political dealings that reminds me of Jack Vance, George R.R. Martin, and Mervyn Peake. Than it switches to a wide screen galactic romp and winds ups as a apocalyptic high-tech thriller with more than couple elements from Alastair Reynold’s Revelation Space. There is three pronged story moving through these stages involving three siblings. The relation between Ferbin and his servant Holse is filled with odd couple comedy like Cerva ...more
I'd go as far as saying that this is the 3rd best novel in the series so far, after "The Player of Games" and "Use of Weapons" in that order. I was blown away by the quality of the story, the interesting and well-developed characters, and the sheer scale of the novel. Four stars, highly recommended. but if you haven't read Culture novels before, I recommend just starting at the beginning. "Consider Phlebas" is still the weakest novel in the series, but it is the first one and sort of a rite of p ...more
Jan 30, 2008 Jo rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of intelligent entertainment
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nick Wellings
Where sprawling becomes a bad kind of sprawling, like, sprawling in the street after passing out from a night on the razz, only with less sodium lights and more dragon-type creatures floating around your mind, no wait, floating around your mind in a concentric kind of world within a world complete with medieval peasant types, futuristic warrior types and fey castle kingdoms, and flying dragon type things and WAR (always WAR! Yaargh!!) - but sprawling in that needy grasping way that only that som ...more
Peter Tieryas
2/1/15-I really wanted to love this. It began in a very fascinating way, a revenge story that I was really looking forward to. By the end, it reminded me of Star Trek V, and unfortunately, not in a good way. Still, even with the flaws, Matter is an incredible book with incredible ideas. I'll write a full review at some point.

"Wisdom is silence." These Shellworlds are absolutely fascinating, especially their connection to the planets of the dead (and Consider Phlebas). Damn, am so happy to be rea
Joseph Michael Owens
4.5 stars

Even pressing on into the final chapter and closing pages, I was going to originally go with a somewhat nebulous ~4+ because I couldn't decide how I felt about the book overall. There is some truly brilliant pieces of fiction at work here and Banks's concept of the shellworld Sursamen — where the vast majority of the book is set — was marvelously executed.

However, as the man who introduced me to the Culture series noted (Kyle Muntz), the book sort of takes ~300 pages to get rolling; a
There is an interview at the back of this book in which Banks says he was thinking of giving up writing SF but he set himself the task of creating a completely new context for a novel; The Algebraist, Banks' best novel for years resulted.
With Matter Banks returns to the Culture - and that is a mistake. Every worthwhile idea relating to the Culture has been expounded multiple times already - there has been no need for a new Culture novel since Use of Weapons and the quality of them has been deter
This novel is a wild ride. It starts off chiefly explaining the Sarl people who live in a society that reminded me of the wild west, complete with cattle rustling (weird space cattle), saloon fights, and the omnipresent question of who's gonna run the ranch (or be the king). It is one of Banks's "Culture" novels and it does quite a lot to explain more about The Culture, for a princess of the royal family of the Sarl was given to The Culture, that conglomerate of "mongrel-utopians", to act in the ...more
This book is a fractal -- no matter how you zoom in or out, the basic structure remains the same. It starts incredibly zoomed in on the three (maybe four) main characters, then proceeds to zoom out. . . and out. . . and out. . . until the story encompasses issues as large as the destruction of a world and the resurrection of a long-thought-dead alien society. But, (I think purposefully) to emphasize its fractal nature, the climax comes in an instant and then the whole story comes crashing back d ...more
Michael David Cobb

I just completed Iain Banks' latest Culture novel 'Matter'. He is something less of a yarn spinner in this one and I was stalled at page 20 for a while, but by the time I got to page 120, I could tell it was going to be a great story.

Unlike 'Phlebas' which was the second Banks book I read (after the Algebraist), Matter was a bit more predictable. The intrigue from this book comes from knowing in some detail what Culture SC operatives and their technology are capable of. So the drama builds in th
Dec 20, 2010 Richard rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Richard by:
Much better than I’d expected, based on the two other Iain Banks’ scifi stories I’d read ( Consider Phlebas and The Algebraist ). Matter is in the "Culture" universe, as was Consider Phlebas, but the twenty-one years between the two has greatly increased Banks’ skill.

Specifically, in the earlier work his explosive innovation splashed out in undisciplined and often grotesque ways. In this novel, most of that is reined in. He is still a bit to exuberant in showing off, but the effort is no longe
Kyle Muntz
This book wasn't really impressing me until about page 300 (which would usually be unforgivable, but I've learned to trust Iain Banks by now), and then it suddenly became brilliant--the beginning was sort of a slow burn, still flawed, but segueing into some of the best setpieces I've ever seen in SF, with a strong conceptual underpinning as well. The narrative sort of blossoms out from a semi-standard story in the beginning into being one of the most interesting Culture novels. Bank's prose was ...more
Is it really the first Culture novel for seven years? Where does the time go? While 2004's The Algebraist was full of the verve and invention that we nowadays simply expect by right from Banks' science fiction, somehow the absence of the Culture also left it lacking the ideological thrill – the politics of utopia, as it were – that gives a Banks' novel its heart. Hence the cover of my preview copy simply says, 'The Culture is back. Nothing else matters.' A statement I didn't entirely disagree wi ...more
I love Bank's ideas - his pantropic/transhumanist far-future socialist utopian society called the Culture; the AI Minds in ships with crazy names; the baroque alien civillizations and ancient artifacts of fearsome power; the big ideas about contact between cultures of vastly different technology levels.

This book seemed to be a lot more setup than necessary - a lot was familiar to anyone who'd read a Culture novel before, so I suppose useful to anyone who hadn't, but certain flights of over-descr
When people used to ask me who my favorite science fiction authors are, my answer was always "William Gibson and Neal Stephenson." I've read everything they've written, and even when the plot becomes convoluted, or the characters are not well-realized, the sheer force of imagination and excitement about the new ideas on each page always leaves me with a big smile on my face.

That list is going to have to grow to three now, because Iain Banks has made me more excited as a reader of sci-fi than I'
David Hughes
Apr 04, 2008 David Hughes rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Banks fans, science-fiction buffs
Shelves: scifi, fiction
Iain M. Banks is the lion of contemporary British science-fiction, and this book fully displays his craft, his style and his unbridled imagination. Like most of Banks's science fiction, it involves his utopian Culture of benevolent hyper-intelligent machines, but the story itself is that of a low-technology society being manipulated to its own destruction by advanced civilisations whose aims it finds incomprehensible -- but which may themselves be only the pawns of some ancient and malign intell ...more
First thoughts: I was disappointed by the latest Culture book. It is too long for the story Banks is telling. Said story has interesting points, but doesn't cover much new ground. Banks has created a lot of mysteries about the Culture, and I was hoping that he would dispel some of these and provide some crazy answers. At times, he hints at doing so, such as when he introduces the idea of Culture citizens who have been around since its inception. Now that's a story I really want to read!

After the
Thomas Walsh
This is part of Iain "M" Banks' (the "M" means he's writing as a SciFi/Fantasy author)"Culture" novels. The nice aspect of this writing is you don't have read the books in sequence. Each one is a view of a galaxy with no money, where material things are willed into matter, where machines control most of the universe. But, of course, human nature is still predictable, and evil is present. This particular novel starts with a plot to take-over a kingdom. His writing, to me, is absolutely electric! ...more
I feel almost churlish complaining about this but like it just... ends? It's a pretty long book and then the ending just comes with no explanation, leaving a decent amount unresolved. It reminds me most of the first book in the series, I think.

The lead up to it is interesting - the drama on a small section of a giant world and how that's connected to the greater alien species and the various machinations etc. And the ending is sort of appropriate and kind of resolves stuff and it's not quite as
See an expanded version of this review on my blog:

In my quest to read all the Culture novels in publication order, here I am at book eight, one of the latter day installments. I may be too far gone into Banks fandom to conceive of giving this anything less than five stars, but I can honestly say that I loved it.

This one has one of the more conventional plots of any Culture novel, closer to Player of Games in this respect than the head scratcher of Excessi
Roy Elmer
Matter is now my favourite of Iain M Banks's Culture novels. I liked Consider Phlebas, I loved Use of Weapons and The Hydrogen Sonata, but Matter has a little something that the other entries in the series don't appear to have.

What Banks did here was to create worlds, not one world, not one system, not one approach to telling a sci-fi tale, but a whole series of worlds that nest on top of each other and define the process through which an entire galaxy of his own devising is governed. This tale
Far future scifi in his Culture universe. One of those books that cross-sections a story down civilizations, from the nearly sublimed galactic empire to the tiny steam-powered local monarchy. I keep running across those types of books (Vinge, some others I'm not thinking of) and going 'meh.' This one also got a 'feh' for the 500 pages of ponderous, bloated setup, followed by a totally weaksauce punch. I can see that Banks had something here – the background texture of this universe with the smug ...more
For the first time in a long, long time I went and Bought Books. Diving into an old, charity supporting book store first set up in the 70s, I pretty much cleared out a shelf of theirs or two. Matter was amongst the spoils of this haul, and carried a recommendation from Gibson amongst the praise on the jacket.

A work set in a universe previously described in a quite large, but not continuous series, it did take a 100+ pages to settle into its pace, but once established, the other 80% flew by. I ca
Tras ocho años desde la publicación de ‘A barlovento’, Banks retornó con ‘Materia’ al particular universo de La Cultura (cuyas novelas son de lectura independiente y conclusiva), una de las space opera más exitosas de todos los tiempos. No cabe duda de que el subgénero que más y mejor ha perdurado dentro de la ciencia ficción es el de la Space Opera, es decir, y muy sucintamente, esa literatura de temática aventurera ambientada en lejanas galaxias.

Desde un principio, Banks deja claro su saber ha
Mike Hankins
This is my first experience with Ian Banks' famed "Culture" setting, whose books don't function the way a normal book series does, but rather, as simply a shared setting that many of his books take place in. Order is not important, as I understand it, as the universe he creates is so vast that a huge myriad of diverse stories can be told within it, without a need for the linear development of a series. Indeed, Banks' world-building skill is definitely the draw for this novel.

Within the first thi
Keith Stevenson
If you haven’t read a Culture Novel, where the hell have you been for the last twenty years? I have to admit I’m a fan. Banks writes galaxy-sized space opera effortlessly, has a wicked sense of humour and a nasty streak. The Culture is the ultimate human society: space-faring, endlessly modified, and wise enough to know not to interfere with other species. Unless it’s a job for the euphemistically named Special Circumstances division who are not above political murder-squads, coups, and the usua ...more
Feb 21, 2010 Kristin rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kristin by: bkgrp selection
Matter is set in the Culture Universe, which I find to be absolutely fascinating. The background of this book is, Sursamen is a Shellworld, a multi-level world created by beings long since gone and populated by a mixture of humans and aliens. At it's core resides the World God, and ancient being that just hangs out.

Prince Ferbin is dragged off to war against the Ninth by his father, King Holse. The battle goes badly and Ferbin flees only to witness the brutal death of his Father at the hands of
Simon Mcleish
Originally published on my blog here in January 2010.

Like several of its predecessors, Iain Banks' latest Culture novel begins on a comparatively primitive world which is not part of that galactic civilisation. There, traitorous plotters have murdered the warlord of the burgeoning empire of the Sarl, proclaimed the death of his eldest surviving son, and set their leader as regent for the younger son. The elder brother, Ferbin, is the central character of the novel, which is about his journey to
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Iain Banks / Iain...: Matter 2 27 Apr 20, 2015 03:41PM  
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Iain M. Banks is a pseudonym of Iain Banks which he used to publish his Science Fiction.

Banks's father was an officer in the Admiralty and his mother was once a professional ice skater. Iain Banks was educated at the University of Stirling where he studied English Literature, Philosophy and Psychology. He moved to London and lived in the south of England until 1988 when he returned to Scotland, li
More about Iain M. Banks...

Other Books in the Series

Culture (10 books)
  • Consider Phlebas (Culture, #1)
  • The Player of Games (Culture, #2)
  • Use of Weapons (Culture, #3)
  • The State of the Art (Culture, #4)
  • Excession (Culture, #5)
  • Inversions (Culture, #6)
  • Look to Windward (Culture, #7)
  • Surface Detail (Culture, #9)
  • The Hydrogen Sonata (Culture, #10)

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“Even galaxy-spanning anarchist utopias of stupefying full-spectrum civilisational power have turf wars within their unacknowledged militaries.” 16 likes
“In life you hoped to do what you could but mostly you did what you were told and that was the end of it.” 3 likes
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