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Excession (Culture #5)

4.18  ·  Rating Details  ·  15,948 Ratings  ·  606 Reviews
Two and a half millennia ago, the artifact appeared in a remote corner of space, beside a trillion-year-old dying sun from a different universe. It was a perfect black-body sphere, and it did nothing. Then it disappeared.

Now it is back.
ebook, 490 pages
Published September 4th 2008 by Orbit (first published 1996)
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Billy You will appreciate it more if you do read the first four books first. The reasons for this are because the world of the Culture is built up over…moreYou will appreciate it more if you do read the first four books first. The reasons for this are because the world of the Culture is built up over these novels- you are introduced to a major war in the first novel, and the ramifications of events in Excession relate to that war in a kind of way. Ships, droids, habitats and worlds become more complex as the novels progress and Banks' imagination deepens. Also, as the novels progress, more philosophical elements come across the page. Excession is filled with philosophical science fiction ideas, more so than the previous novels. His characters are familiar across the novels yet in Excession their stories are a little less deep, presumably in order to make room for other parts of the story. You will appreciate the characters stories more if you have already read the stories of Horza Gorbuchul from Consider Phlebas, Cheradinine from Use Of Weapons (the novel in which he really manages to meld science fiction with emotive drama).(less)
Travis New answer: This was just added to amazon kindle a few weeks ago. Don't know why it took so long to make it to the kindle store...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Manny
/1324089739734 SILLYINTRO 289534953457 MOREOFTHISTHANYOUNEED 826563495 ANOTHERRANDOMDIGITSEQUENCE 290735723 OHPLEASEGETTOTHEPOINT/

- Hello? This is Kinda Disappointed, do you read me?

- Hello Disappointed, this is Still Plenty of Good Bits. I'm another superintelligent AI entity...

- Well of course you are, Bits! Let's skip the background and assume the reader knows all about the Culture universe. So, what did you think of "Excession"?

- Um, not too bad, considering the obvious problems. I mean, how
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mark monday
ATTENTION CULTURE SHOPPERS

this weekend's special is an Outside Context Problem! this amazing special is so unique, most shoppers will only encounter it once - in a millenium! please look for the infinity symbol tagged on our specially-marked OCP items.

on aisle 1, back by popular demand, we are excited to present faction upon faction of Culture Minds, as embodied physically by their glorious Mind Ships!!! shoppers, we have read your suggestions and we respond! you will find very few examples of t
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Brad
This happens to be exactly what I wanted when I wanted it. I wanted intelligent galaxy-spanning space opera with a handful of baseline humans getting caught up in an existential conundrum that the far-superior AI Ships (and Main Characters) had to face.

And we even get a BDO to spark an enormous intergalactic war. Woo Woo! Of course, the BDO (big dumb object) is nothing of the sort. In fact, it might be smarter than all of them combined. Who knows? I loved the speculation.

Life, love, sex, conspir
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Apatt
Aug 15, 2015 Apatt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi

The Culture series is one of the most beloved among today's sf readers, possibly the most beloved but I don't have any hard figures to back it up so I'll leave that hyperbole out for now. Certainly some entries in the series are more popular than others, based on the average ratings and online discussions The Player of Games and Use of Weapons are generally held in high regard, Inversions and Matter less so. As for Excession, it is one of the more popular ones, top 4 I think, and I can see why.
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7jane
Aug 14, 2015 7jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Music: something from Slowdive, like "Souvlaki Space Station"

Like putting my feet back into the river, this felt like I had not taken any break from reading this series. This one was fun to read, that can be said :)

So, there's a mysterious ship that apparead many years before - now it is back, and *everybody* seems to want to check it out, prod it, talk to it, see if there's anything new and benefitting in its secrets and even attempt to destroy it. There's also a conspiracy going on...

This nove
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Brad
Early on it felt like there were too many characters, too many plot threads, too many settings, and that Excession was too damn convoluted to be good.

Iain M. Banks’ Excession was living up to the definition of its title:
"Excession; something excessive. Excessively aggressive, excessively powerful, excessively expansionist; whatever. Such things turned up or were created now and again. Encountering an example of was one of the risks you ran when you went a-wandering."
It was a true slog to get i
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Stuart
Excession: Too complex for meat-based life forms to understand
Excession is the fourth book in Iain M. Banks’ CULTURE series. I’ll assume you already know the far-future decadent post-scarcity intergalactic empire of the Culture, dominated by its (mostly) benign AIs, known as Minds, and its trillions of citizens, some human and others more exotic. It’s a great invention, a vast and limitless space for Banks to explore via the Culture’s Contact and Special Circumstances divisions, especially the i
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Simeon
Feb 23, 2012 Simeon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, literature
I love these books, but if you don't, I would totally commiserate. The series' uniqueness is both awesome and offputting; the sort of stuff you wish people would write, but then you find excuses not to read.

You know how ordinary books tend to be enjoyable, but leave you pretty much where you began? Well, the Culture is the exact opposite. Reading these novels is rarely the funnest thing you could be doing, but when you're done, it's a whole bloody paradigm shift; perspective and ideas towards p
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Peter Tieryas
Mar 06, 2015 Peter Tieryas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
http://www.tor.com/blogs/2015/03/on-i...

The connection between literature and video games is one of my favorite topics. I was thrilled to get to write for Tor.com about one of the best science fiction books I've read, Excession by Iain M. Banks, and its connection to Sid Meier’s Civilization which was one of the most addicting games of my life.

____

"If Use of Weapons was a psychological investigation into the world of the Culture, Excession is a philosophical excavation, featuring the AI Minds go
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Nikki
Apr 27, 2013 Nikki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First book of this spring's readathon! It took me ages to read, but it's well worth it. I think I'll take a little break now from the Culture: not only do I want to ration it out a bit, but there's a sameness to the cleverness at the heart of these novels, so that reading three in quick succession makes me more able to figure out the plot -- and I actually like feeling that Banks is smarter than me, so I'll give it a rest before my next one...

Anyway, I don't know how to talk about Excession, rea
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Tyan
Oct 15, 2008 Tyan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In this book a strange phenomenon is observed. The story revolves around how the Culture and it's neighbors try to deal with this particular event. Is it a weapon? Is it a message from a vastly superior race or culture? Is it a natural event? Add onto that tragic love stories, sadistic aliens, and revenge and you get one densely written, fantastically entertaining story.

This is quite possibly one of my all time favorite books. The conversations between the sentient ships alone could sustain me.
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Michael David Cobb
Excession is Iain Banks' clunkiest book so far. It is certainly enjoyable as it introduces us to Infinite Fun, but it just had too many distractions and too many characters, with far too many of them Minds whose personalities and loyalties simply didn't make quite enough sense through 400 pages. It might have helped if I had the full sized paperback, but I had the airport sized one and.. it just got tedious. It could not have felt like a page-turner otherwise.

On the whole however, Excession is a
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Andrea McDowell
Aug 13, 2013 Andrea McDowell rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I gave up at about page 50.

After being introduced to a woman character who had chosen to be pregnant for 40 years, and then an emissary for a nearby alien civilization where the all-male representatives publicly brag about how many females they've impregnated through rape, I was seriously put off.

Every woman I've ever met has been dying to be un-pregnant by the 8th month. A woman who chooses to be pregnant for 40 years? No swollen ankles, no sore back, no heartburn, no weird skin issues? Did Iai
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Maggie K
Sep 16, 2015 Maggie K rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really good input into the Culture world. A little different mindset here...while we do have a couple human points of view, most of the maneuvering, backstory and action in with some of the Ship AI minds...some of them so Elder and powerful they have become eccentric (basically doing whatever they want)....this is a new perspective!
Zach
Feb 24, 2012 Zach rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I skipped The State of the Art to read this fifth book in the Culture series, since the former is a collection of short stories. After having been burned by the likes of The Martians, I decided not to sully my opinion of the series so early on.

The titular Excession is another name for what the Culture calls an Outside Context Problem (OCP), which is an encounter with an alien civilization so much more advanced than your own that you have no way of conceptualizing their technology within your cul
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Erik Graff
Jun 29, 2011 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Banks fans
Recommended to Erik by: John Elkin
Shelves: sf
Taking a break from reading dry-as-dust books for journal review, I asked a friend for fiction recommendations and was given two of Iain M. Banks' "Culture" novels: Look to Windward and this one, Excession.

I'd read two Culture novels and several short stories set in that far-future context prior to this, beginning with Use of Weapons and The Algebraist. I have found myself appreciating each one more than the last, presumably as the result of coming to feel ever more at home in the Culture.

This
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Psychophant
Feb 19, 2010 Psychophant rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: far-future, reviewed
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alan
Jan 01, 2012 Alan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Spacecraft with Minds of their own, and those who like reading about same
Recommended to Alan by: A body of work; Daniel
What sort of gift can you get for the Culture that has everything?

That is, how on Earth (or, rather, off) do you make Utopia interesting, when all society's ills have been resolved, and all misery is at worst optional?

That is the central conundrum with which Iain M. Banks has been grappling in all of his Culture novels, and Excession is perhaps his most explicit examination of that question to date, even though it came out 'way back in 1996. An "excession," in Banks' parlance, is something that
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Sumant
Jul 02, 2015 Sumant rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, culture
The 5th book in the culture series Excession is by far the most confusing book I have read so far.I think this book could have been split into two parts instead of compressing all the different plot lines in a single part.Although the book has a decent story but Banks starts a new plot in a middle of another another plot and it starts becoming fuzzy and really hard to distinguish who is doing what.I am going to start with the shortcomings of the book first this time and then focus on its stronge ...more
Tom
Jun 14, 2007 Tom rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
This book is not even half as clever as it thinks it is. Poorly written characters and tedious AI chatter.
Bill
Aug 19, 2015 Bill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
This is the 3rd book in the Culture series I've read and once again, it didn't disappoint. I will say that at times I had no idea what was going on, but even then it didn't seem to matter. Basically the premise is that an unknown entity has been discovered somewhere in the known universe; has done something with the ship that discovered it and set a course of action that might result in a full-scale galactic war. That's the big picture, but also on the smaller scale, and these events might also ...more
Sally Melia
Jul 27, 2014 Sally Melia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have read all the novels of Iain M Banks and I read Excession first in the year it was published in paperback in 1997, and I have reread this book several times since.

This is a Culture book, for those of you who may not be familiar with Iain M Banks, he created a great civilisation called The Culture. And though he never set put to write a Trilogy or a series, the universe he created was so popular he returned to it again and again. The full list counts ten titles: Consider Phlebas, 1987; The
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James
Another few months and another book in my complete re-read of Iain M. Banks's Culture series. This time it's his novel Excession. The story of what Banks refers to as an 'Outside Context Problem' – something unexpected; something a civilisation can't, by definition, plan for; something that will likely end up destroying them if they react incorrectly to it. What Donald Rumsfeld would call an "unknown unknown".

It's a return to previous heights I think, as Banks gives us is a sort of Culture novel
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Lori
Oct 19, 2013 Lori rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The problem with getting older and facing mortality is that you realize you won't be able to read all the books you want to. I love the Culture books so much that I'd love to reread them in the order written. One of the reasons being a desire to track the Minds through the series, do any reappear?

The most appealing aspect of Excession is that it's pretty the Minds, with the humans and a new alien species on the sidelines, altho they are part of the plot. I love the Minds! The names they choose a
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Chanda
Feb 28, 2008 Chanda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well, I now see that I jumped into the middle of the books about the Culture, never having read any others. But that didn't detract from my enjoyment of Excession in the least.

This post-scarcity universe is dominated by the Culture, and the Culture is run by Minds, who are hyper-intelligent AI entities, and seem to be most often found animating massive ships. They look after whole swaths of the humanoid Culture as though they were ant farms, but ant farms where you knew everything about each ant
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Bruce Freedancer
Apr 04, 2013 Bruce Freedancer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After struggling through Use of Weapons a few pages at a time, determined not to let it beat me, this book was a breath of fresh air. I love SF and Banks is surely one of the best there has ever been, and even better, he is still actively writing. I am trying to read through his collection of "culture" themed books roughly in their chronological order, meaning this is still one of his earlier works.

This book made me laugh out loud on many occasions in pure delight of the staggering and almost b
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Julien
Mar 03, 2016 Julien rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
WOW. I'm still reeling from how good this book was. This is the fourth Culture series novel I've read (skipping The State of the Art) by the venerable Ian M. Banks, and it unarguably surpassed the others in terms of content, writing style, and sheer imagination on a grand scale.

Certain portions of this book, and even certain paragraphs, made me literally gasp. Banks describes technologies and ideologies in his imagined future with a lucidity that amazes. In particular, the first three pages of a
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Spencer
Aug 09, 2007 Spencer rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
As somebody's already commented, "not even half as clever as it thinks it is." Irritatingly one dimensional characters and very little actual plot. The concept of conspiracy and internal politics among the very powerful AI "minds" that run The Culture is mildly interesting. Unfortunately, every time I picked this up to read I couldn't help but imagine Banks sitting in front of his word processor and rubbing his hands together in self-satisfaction.
Alan
Jan 07, 2016 Alan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
This was a much better experience for me as a reader than Consider Phelbas. My main issue with Phelbas wasn't Banks' writing, it was that Horza, the main character, was so unlikable and one of my flaws as a reader is that I want one character I like at least a little bit in the story. However, Phelbas was so well written I knew at some point I would want to try Banks again, and sought out some recommendations.

Banks writing is again very good, if not outstanding. He manages to make his exposition
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Nicholas Karpuk
Terry Pratchett once said that horses take longer to get up to full speed because they had more legs to sort out. Under those conditions, Excession has about a dozen damn legs, because this book takes half its length to feel like it's gaining any momentum.

The cast of thousands approach doesn't really help. By the time the narrative returned to some characters I had trouble remember who they were or what exactly they wanted. And the ridiculous names of the machine minds, avatars, and drones didn'
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Science Fiction A...: * Book 5: Excession 9 25 Sep 15, 2015 01:50PM  
SciFi and Fantasy...: Excession may finally be coming to Kindle in US 1 17 Oct 31, 2013 12:59PM  
Iain Banks / Iain...: Excession 5 65 Feb 19, 2013 03:27AM  
Joseph Beth Sci-F...: Excession by Iain M. Banks 1 12 Sep 09, 2011 09:13AM  
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5807106
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
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)
  • Inversions (Culture, #6)
  • Look to Windward (Culture, #7)
  • Matter (Culture, #8)
  • Surface Detail (Culture, #9)
  • The Hydrogen Sonata (Culture, #10)

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“An Outside Context Problem was the sort of thing most civilisations encountered just once, and which they tended to encounter rather in the same way a sentence encountered a full stop.” 25 likes
“It was a warship, after all. It was built, designed to glory in destruction, when it was considered appropriate. It found, as it was rightly and properly supposed to, an awful beauty in both the weaponry of war and the violence and devastation which that weaponry was capable of inflicting, and yet it knew that attractiveness stemmed from a kind of insecurity, a sort of childishness. It could see that—by some criteria—a warship, just by the perfectly articulated purity of its purpose, was the most beautiful single artifact the Culture was capable of producing, and at the same time understand the paucity of moral vision such a judgment implied. To fully appreciate the beauty of the weapon was to admit to a kind of shortsightedness close to blindness, to confess to a sort of stupidity. The weapon was not itself; nothing was solely itself. The weapon, like anything else, could only finally be judged by the effect it had on others, by the consequences it produced in some outside context, by its place in the rest of the universe. By this measure the love, or just the appreciation, of weapons was a kind of tragedy.” 12 likes
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