Consider Phlebas (Culture #1)
Within the cosmic conflict, an individual crusade. Deep withi ...more
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Like so many highly-lauded authors featured here, Banks has been haunting my shelf for quite some time now. Countless are the times I have passed this book before bed, letting my eyes linger longingly on the spine, relishing the notion that I will actually read this book, some day. There have even been those occasions where I thumbed it down, peering at the cover, carefull ...more
It isn't about the Culture, for one thing. Sort of. Not really. The other books in the series are from the perspective of a citizen of the Culture, which is difficult to define succinctly so I will just say, imagine if you lived in a universe where yo ...more
Voltaire said something like "the best is the enemy of the good" (okay, he actually said le mieux est l'ennemi du bien). But what is really annoying is that the coulda-been-good is more disappointing than the meh.
Banks clearly has a great deal of imagination. If he was able to discipline himself, he'd have some four-star stuff going on here, easily — maybe better.
But he fritters away his energy on irrelevant grotesquerries, like a schoolboy scrawling naughty pictures ins ...more
I just re-read Consider Phlebas and I can tell you it’s a whole different book when you have the entire collection under your belt. T ...more
The very next scene, in which we meet our protagonist Horza, is a huge win. Remember when we met Aragorn in Lord of the Rings? There was practically a drum roll. Yeah, well there's none of that here. Horza is being slowly put to death by drownin ...more
I like it very much, so I feel a little sad that many friends I respect don't love it as much as I and a good deal of them just think it is mostly okay.
I love that Horza is an unlikab ...more
This novel, for example, was recommend as "thinking man's sf adventure." Hey, that's appealing. But this didn't strike me as that sort of book. Instead, it was slow-going, and lacked the giddy joy of invention and play that to my mind the best science fiction always has. I gritted my teeth and pushed ...more
It is partly an action novel, with the plot roughly "go to planet X and retrieve an advanced piece of technology." There are a few very exciting action sequences. The major problem is that after setting up the plot by page 4, we have a diversion of about 300 pages before returning to the plot. ??? The vast majority of the in-between chapters feel like a bunch of half-realized short story ideas jammed together, including one chap ...more
I think that if I had enjoyed Banks's writing style, I wouldn't have objected to the slow pacing or the meandering storyline, but as it stands I thought most of the book was dull. The story seemed to be c ...more
Good science fiction is VERY hard to find. It takes an author that is not only good at telling a story but, especially in books like Banks writes (that are based on future science as well as current astrophysics), someone who understands ho ...more
“The good is twice described in the Philebus as perfect, self-sufficient and seeked by all conscious beings. And the good does not have a contrary: it is not the one end of a scale whose evil would be the other end; it is a measure on any scale.” - Plato
Consider Phlebas rejects the lone hero, the significant individual and shows the efforts of a society on history and the future's moulding. Yet, he doesn't focus on these struggles. His viewpoint lies in one person, whose part in the sto ...more
So yeah, I really, really enjoyed this. It was maybe a bit too long, but I never got bored. It had lots of action, interesting characters, strong women, and thought-provoking subtext about identity, war, and death. What's no ...more
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature
This is Iain M. Banks’ first novel (1987) set in his now famous CULTURE universe, and although it’s a well-written book with lots of clever ideas, I wouldn’t say it’s the best book in the series. Then again, if like many readers you would have feelings of angst and guilt if you were to read the books of a series out of order, then it makes sense to start with this one.
To be very brief, t ...more
The worst thing you could do is read Consider Phlebas back pages first. Once upon a time I used to take the first and last sentences or first and last words as a brief synopsis of every book. It kinda works for the Bible. "In Amen". But to do so for Iain M. Banks celebrated sci-fi would almost obviate the great adventures contained therein.
Consider Phlebas is a space opera, something of a cowboy story with a trick ending, an amoral tale of the actions of civilizations on conflict down to the dea ...more
This is the second of his books that I've read in the past week or so. The other one I didn't write about but it was called The Game Player, and it was better than this one. It was kind of like Herman Hesse's Glass Bead Game, but kind of cooler with mutilations and stuff like that. Like HH's book though neither author ever really got down to describing what such a complex game would really be like, which I would be interested to know about, but oh well.
This book ...more
I really liked the characters, and I loved Banks's development. I also enjoyed the universe building that this first Culture novel has. I'm definitely curious enough to look into reading others (I've actually read Player of Games, but it's been 20 years and I don't remember much).
This is the first of the Culture novels, but in many ways it is an anti-Culture story, as much of the book is told from the point of view of an agent for the Culture's enemies, the Idirans. Horza is a Shape Changer assassin and spy, sent to a dead world to retrieve a Culture Mind, a sentient machine that normally runs thei ...more
Those expectations were too high but it has to be said that Iain M. Banks (aka Iain Banks) writes infinitely better on a technical level than the vast majority of science fiction writers. There are moments where his talent for precise description make the novel almost filmic.
There are also times where a ...more
The book's beautiful minimalistic cover of a sun streaked blue ocean below, with gorgeous cumulus clouds in the far horizon, and a black star fillled space on top, ranks among my favorite book covers ever. To think that there is an actual explanation for that in this book; a deep analogy between a ship with a thinking conciousness, flying "like a microscopic insect" between real space and a hyperspasic energy grid, with a vista that I can easily see appearing on a travel website to Cancun, is am ...more
As the author's ostensibly first try at science fiction, this book was ok. There are flashes of the awe-inducing imagery and conceptualization that appear in his later Culture books. But the story of Horza, the Changer (or what would be known as a shapeshifter in sff circles,) is much too meandering and ultimately predictable to make this book standout among the others of the same genre and publication era. In some instances, Banks tended towards shock value in depicting graphic scenes of tortur...more
What really fascinated me when I started to reading this book was the absence of the background story. (Actually it really annoyed me at the beginning) Usually I like to get more information about the character and a background story, but it ca ...more
And by favorites. I didn't expect The Culture Series to score so high, or be so loved. After the first few hundred pages though, I can see the appeal.
The writing style's great, and the whole story is cinematic. The reason I didn't give it more stars is that the main characters are, well, not exactly likable or clever. The story sets up the universe for the rest of the saga. I wish it had been written from another perspective.
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
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"Yes," he replied, not taking his eyes away from the screen on the wall above the end of the main mess-room table. "My survival."
"So... your religion dies with you. How sad," Dorolow said, looking back from Horza to the screen. The Changer let the remark pass.”