Chris's Reviews > Matter

Matter by Iain M. Banks
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Aug 22, 11

Read from August 19 to 21, 2011

When people used to ask me who my favorite science fiction authors are, my answer was always "William Gibson and Neal Stephenson." I've read everything they've written, and even when the plot becomes convoluted, or the characters are not well-realized, the sheer force of imagination and excitement about the new ideas on each page always leaves me with a big smile on my face.

That list is going to have to grow to three now, because Iain Banks has made me more excited as a reader of sci-fi than I've been in a while. Unlike, Gibson and Stephenson, who have each carved out their own niche with new subgenres (Gibson with cyberpunk, Stephenson starting with that and going off into a bunch of different directions, including a unique brand of historical fiction), Banks' Culture series uses the well-worn "space opera" with its spaceships and myriad alien races as a jumping-off point (probably best-known in the public consciousness for its adaptation to movies and TV...think Star Wars, Star Trek, and Battlestar Galactica). That's where similarities with other writers ends, though. Banks has created such a vivid, fully-realized, and unique universe to play with here, it can be hard to pull yourself away.

Matter, one of his more recent entries in the series, starts with a bitter conflict and political intrigue on a war-torn planet, and gradually zooms out until you realize far greater forces are at work manipulating the events. One of Banks' gifts as a writer is the ability to take a reader from a very narrow focus on a single character one moment, and pull out to show how that character's actions affect a much larger set of events the next...and have each be equally interesting and engaging.

Anyway, in case it wasn't clear, I'm in love with this guy, and recommend him to any sci-fi fan...the books in the series all stand alone for the most part...and I'd recommend "The Player of Games" as the most accessible in the series for a newbie.

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