Ian's Reviews > Surface Detail

Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks
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's review
Dec 10, 11

it was amazing
bookshelves: audiobook, fits-like-a-glove, love-strong-women, religion-spirituality, blew-my-mind, must-read-again, the-culture
Read from February 01 to 16, 2011

When one rates an audiobook, is one rating the quality of the underlying written work, the quality of the audio version, or both? I suppose I'll just clarify that my five-star rating applies to both in this case.

Surface Detail is the latest of the Culture Novels from Iain M. Banks. The wait for this one was worth it. I think I'm ready to say that Use of Weapons has finally been supplanted as the best of the Culture books.

I'll write a proper review of Surface Detail, the book, after I've read the hardcopy. For now I'll make a couple of points.

First, I love how the shock and consequences of the Idiran War continue to resonate across 1,500 years of Culture history. Fascinating stuff. How long will the shock of World War II resonate across our world's history? It seems that, only 65 years after WWII's conclusion, the shock is dissipating fairly rapidly at this point.

Second, this book keeps you going until, literally, the very last word of the epilogue. Obviously, I can't say here what that last word is without hitting the spoiler box. Let's simply say that the last word is worth waiting for, that it imparts a great deal of meaning to the rest of the book, a book already quite full of meaning. Well, maybe I should clarify that the last word imparts meaning to those of us who are Culture fans and have read a certain prior Culture book. Again, I can't say which book, or you might figure out what that last word is, which in turn would spoil some of Surface Detail.

About the audiobook, specifically: Surface Detail is read by my one of my favorite narrators, Peter Kenny. He's a master of voices; at times it seems that each character is being read by a different actor/narrator, but it's all just him. Peter Kenny also read the Transition audiobook, for those interested, and my comments about him in that review apply with equal force here. Peter Kenny's voice and tone sound very much like the book would sound in my head were I reading hardcopy. He and Iain Banks are a match made in heaven. I have since listened to Peter Kenny's readings of Consider Phlebas and Player of Games and, I think, my ears have a man crush.

I suppose, then, I can't recommend Surface Detail, in hardcopy or audio format, strongly enough to those of you who share my love of good sci-fi. Happy listening!
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Reading Progress

50.0% "Freaking awesome. Just love it. Peter Kenny is the perfect narrator."
50.0% "Are we ready to say that Use of Weapons has been supplanted as Best Culture Novel? I think I am."
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Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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message 1: by j (new) - added it

j they aren't available in the u.s. but some creative detective work online can nab you audio for matter, consider phlebas, the player of games and use of weapons as well.

message 2: by j (new) - added it

j oh also look to windward.

message 3: by Ian (last edited Feb 21, 2011 05:01PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Audible US, of which I'm a member, has a sparse selection of Banks material, but I was able to find a ton of Iain Banks (with and without "M") audiobooks on Audible UK. However, it wouldn't let me download them since I'm a US resident. I even tried lying about my residency but eventually it wanted my credit card info and it figured me out :(

Then I was able to find Consider Phlebas and Player of Games on another audiobook website (I think it's called Audio Book World or some crap) that uses Audible for it's downloading and billing. So it sent the books straight to my Audible cart and I was able to purchase and download from there. Go figure. It made no sense to me, either, but I got the two books so I was stoked. Plus I had $20 in Audible credit coming to me so I only ended paying like a buck-fitty for the both of them!

message 4: by j (last edited Feb 21, 2011 05:17PM) (new) - added it

j oh, you did it legally! good for you.

it's mystifying to know that so many other banks titles (including look to windward, algebraist, against a dark background, and matter) are available but no one in the u.s. wants us to buy them.

message 5: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian It is mystifying. The US is full of Banks fans and we seem to be soaking up audiobooks of all types in our society. I would think they stand to make a lot of money by making the rest of Banks' audiobooks available in the US and I don't see what the downside could be. Makes no sense.

message 6: by j (new) - added it

j downside: overflowing money bin.

message 7: by Idiom (new)

Idiom As far as audio books I believe many take into account the narration of the voice actor/s in a slightly elevates regard in relation to the actual writing. A prime example would be that Morgan Freedman can make a dirty limerick sound as well as poorly recited Shakespeare

Hunchback Jack Nice review, sir. Not sure I agree that SD supplants UoW as my favourite Culture novel, but it is excellent nonetheless.

One thing we can agree on is the narration of the audiobook. It is excellent and worthy of the material.


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