Karlo's Reviews > Surface Detail

Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks
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's review
Jan 14, 11

bookshelves: own, scifi
Read in January, 2011

** spoiler alert ** Wow. This definitely marked the return of the Culture / Banks novels I remember so fondly. The back flap blurb made me a little nervous (digital Hells, War therein, Spillage back into the Real[ity]); but in the end it was handled quite nicely.

The characters? Well; I'm just not sure how objective I am on that topic. The two primary characters (to my way of thinking) are the female Led (short form) and that 'evil' Veppers she wants revenge on. Led seems relatively well delineated, but her opponent Veppers is so unredeemable evil that he almost required a Snidely Whiplash-type moustache. Is he evil? Yes. Where did that evil become apparent real for me? {SPOILER) In the callous manner in which his whole plan to kill (or free) trillions of people/souls/constructs in the Hells was only about getting out of a business deal without getting sued. (SPOILER ENDS). Favourite characters? Almost as in every Culture book: it's the Ships. "Falling outside normal moral restraints" stole every scene he was written into.

Complaints? The only risk I ever felt for any character was Chay and Led (albeit only slightly). The power dynamic between Culture and the other species of import to the story is so asymmetric as to be slightly boring.

Lastly, I increasingly feel like these books (though I enjoy them greatly) seem to evoke in me parallels to that of the British Navy at the height of its power. These stories aren't really about the 'Empire' at risk; just the intrigues on its periphery. The locals generally can't rock the boat, but it's still interesting to see how 'the good guys' will solve the problem at hand. Just a thought (or I'm watching to much PBS).
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Terence I couldn't enjoy Surface Detail as much as I wanted to because of the Veppers character - he's just too unremittingly evil to be believable. I much prefer Banks' more ambiguous "enemies" like the Idirans or the Azadi in The Player of Games.

I love Banks and always look forward to a Culture novel but I wish he would get back to the more serious themes he's raised in his earlier books.

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