Matthew Brown's Reviews > The Algebraist

The Algebraist by Iain M. Banks
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's review
Mar 08, 11

Read in January, 2010

I tried to read this three times. The first two times, I got bogged down a hundred pages or so in. This one's a slow starter; a bit too slow, I think. Banks does this.

The plot starts rolling so slowly, like a great freight train starting off, so imperceptible you scarcely notice it, and slowly picks up to an ambling sort of pace, and it's obvious you're going somewhere, but it doesn't really seem all that important, and you don't really think much of it, and it slowly picks up speed, comfortably, and you think it's not powerful at all, and you forget that it's tens of thousands of tons rolling along. It gets faster, and it starts to get fun; and then it starts to get scary as the speed picks up, the cars start jolting and rocking, and you realize that it's speeding, it's going faster than is safe, it's becoming a wild and then terrifying ride.

And then it crashes head-on into another ten-thousand-ton train coming the opposite direction, and everyone dies in the fireball.

That's kind of how the modern Banks novel plays out.

This is a good one. Stick with it, if you can bear to, through that slow beginning, because it's going to get better. Much better. The beginning will bore you to tears but the ending will bring you to tears.

This is not a Culture novel, so don't expect the tropes of that. This one runs on different rules. It's equivalently good, though.

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