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Excession (Culture, #5)
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Excession (Culture #5)

4.15 of 5 stars 4.15  ·  rating details  ·  11,970 ratings  ·  474 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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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
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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Simeon
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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Apatt

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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Nikki
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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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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Tyan
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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Erik Graff
Jun 29, 2011 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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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Alan
Jan 01, 2012 Alan rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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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Tom
This book is not even half as clever as it thinks it is. Poorly written characters and tedious AI chatter.
Zach
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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Psychophant
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lori (Hellian)
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
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
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
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
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.
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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Andrea McDowell
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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Gemma Thomson
I would be hard-pressed to call this my favourite 'Culture' book, but it is a 'Culture' book nevertheless and thus presents us with a universe just as likeable. Taking a different format to the norm, the book actually deals just as much with its cast of Minds and ships as the humans wrapped up in proceedings. We could perhaps have done without so many, mind you, as it is hard enough to follow names like those of the various Culture ships. In a cast of what may be a dozen ships, trying to remembe ...more
Peter
I've been reading books from Banks for just over a year now, and Excession was my fourth dip into the Culture, his ultimate Utopia. Previously, I've been impressed by both Consider Phlebas and The Player of Games, whilst also being left underwhelmed by Matter.

I found Excession to veer towards Matter rather than the standards of either of the others. Like Matter, it has an ensemble cast of characters, grandiose ideas not present in the earlier books and cunning, subtle plot-lines and shifts. Cert
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Forrest
The more I read of Banks, the more I am in awe of his ability to write in many different styles. Even within the brackets of his ever expanding Culture setting, the individual stories range from traditional epic Sci-Fi to thriller to detective story. Excession reads like a love story welded to a political conspiracy and is remarkably un-centered on any particular character or plot. Rather, the narrative is like a tapestry that being woven as you watch; dozens of divergent threads coming together ...more
James Quirk
It's rare that I have to give a one-star rating to a book I didn't actually hate, but Banks is a paradoxical writer. The writing is always good and the characters - even when they're sentient ships built on a massive scale - tend to be compelling. "Excession" suffers from a number of fatal flaws, however, and I can't say I would recommend this book even to a fan of Banks' sci fi stuff (unless you really want to get a snapshot into how the Mind ships work). The plot is disjointed, there are too m ...more
Eldan Goldenberg
Not the best of the Culture books by a long shot, though it's an interesting addition. I enjoyed the atmosphere of menace and mistrust that builds through the book, and the focus given to all the non-human minds fleshes the Culture out nicely, but the story felt overambitious and overloaded. At times it was seriously hard to follow which of the amusingly-named ships were doing what, with whom, under which pretenses, and after a well-paced build-up for about 3/4 of the book, the last few chapters ...more
Kernos
I had problems with this novel, the first Banks I have not liked. It rather bored me. To be fair I read this during a busy and work stressful period and kept falling asleep while reading, so may have lost continuity. Still, I found the characters and the plot confusing. I typically like complex books requiring a good bit of reader input, but either could not or would not put in the effort for this Culture novel. I dont even fell compelled to put in much time in this review. Moving on...
Sally Melia
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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John
God damn do I love a good space opera! My hat is off to Iain M. Banks for the Culture series. I read my first Culture novel a while back when my good buddy Jesse gave me "Consider Phlebas" (the first novel in the Culture series) and I read it and it was good. But this book, the fourth in the series (I think), is just incredible. It's one of those books with a million characters that you can't keep track of doing a hundred things that don't have any real impact on the actual plot but is just awes ...more
Arthur
Sep 22, 2011 Arthur rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who have read at least once Culture novel and are on the fence about reading another one.
So far this one is hands down the best Culture novel. If you've been at all interested in checking one out, this could be it. If you think you might check out more than one, it may behoove you to start with an earlier book just to get the baseline that Excession does such a great job of shattering, but if it's just to be one, let it be Excession (and maybe a wikipedia article or two for background). It relies on some Culture series in-jokes, or anyway benefits greatly from an understanding of th ...more
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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...
Consider Phlebas (Culture, #1) The Player of Games (Culture, #2) Use of Weapons (Culture, #3) Surface Detail (Culture, #9) Matter (Culture, #8)

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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.” 17 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.” 5 likes
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