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The Algebraist

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  20,357 ratings  ·  825 reviews
It is 4034. Humanity has made it to the stars. Fassin Taak, a Slow Seer at the Court of the Nasqueron Dwellers, will be fortunate if he makes it to the end of the year. The Nasqueron Dwellers inhabit a gas giant on the outskirts of the galaxy, in a system awaiting its wormhole connection to the rest of civilization. In the meantime, they are dismissed as decadents living i ...more
Paperback, 434 pages
Published June 1st 2006 by Night Shade Books (first published October 2004)
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Rick Jenkins I just emailed Amazon asking this question about two other Iain M. Banks novels. I'll share that answer with you if and when they reply.…moreI just emailed Amazon asking this question about two other Iain M. Banks novels. I'll share that answer with you if and when they reply.(less)

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Average rating 4.02  · 
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 ·  20,357 ratings  ·  825 reviews

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Kevin Kelsey
Aug 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2017
I’ve been reading through all of Banks’ novels these last few years, mostly focusing on The Culture series and working my way outward through his other “M.” novels, and into his “non-M.” writing. This is my fourteenth Banks book, and my second non-culture “M.” novel.

Banks’ had such an interesting way of writing his novels so that the real story unfolds in the background the whole time, mostly hidden. He did this in Consider Phlebas, and again here in The Algebraist. The foreground story is of c
Mario the lone bookwolf
Feb 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: banks-m-iain
The dangers of AI and what the best long-time approach might be is one of the key elements of this novel and an everlasting hot topic that might lead to some interesting real-life events. Of course, in a perfect universe, benevolent AIs would help happily evolving humans and aliens, forever peacefully and symbiotic united. But if any of those parties might be evil it could get exponentially nasty and, let´s face it, nothing beats an AI.

But banning it after it nearly killed everyone damns the ci
Spacefaring Derring-do

Scholarly seer, Fassin Taak, is sent by the Mercatoria’s militia to find a mythical map of hidden wormholes and, if it exists, a way to translate it - a quest that puts him in the middle of inter-galactic war.

Meanwhile, a warlord with the comically evil-sounding name (but no double-letters, unlike almost everyone else), Archimandrite Luseferous of the Starveling Cult, has a self-set mission of his own:.

Power was everything. Money was nothing without it. Even happiness wa
mark monday
Oct 24, 2010 rated it liked it
a non-Culture sci-fi adventure from Banks, one whose intriguing major topic is the relativity of morality. the aliens are pretty much humans in alien form - not much attempt to convey a truly alien viewpoint. but it is all fascinating nonetheless, and many of the characters - alien and otherwise - are sympathetic or fearful creations. expansive world/universe-building, per usual. some real narrative surprises from beginning to end. the novel's Villain with a capital V is almost a parody, as if t ...more
☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣
DNF. Why exactly are we presented right at the start with a villain with diamond teeth and a living head of his enemy (crazy, unable to even to commit suicide) used as a punching bag? Ughhh.... I'm not going to finish this crap. Maybe later? I'd rather not, though. ...more
Sep 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'm of two minds with this novel. I'm tempted to rate it based on all of the novelist's other works and rate it lower just because it isn't the most fascinating out of the bunch. It's also not a Culture novel but I feel like it might ALMOST be. :) Gas giant aliens take the forefront of this novel, although the main character is human. We get a real treat of far future cultures and alien aliens that just happen to take the term "gas-bag" and OWN it. I have NO COMPLAINTS about the world-building i ...more
Jun 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
As I write this review Iain M. Banks has passed away about three weeks ago. It makes me sad that our genre has lost another great writer. So I picked The Algebraist to be my "tribute read", alas I find that prefer his Culture novels. That said The Algebraist is not at all shabby.

The Algebraist (correct me if I'm wrong) is Mr. Banks' only non-Culture sci-fi novel, it does have some of the magnificent madness that you get in his Culture books but after reading it for a while I started wishing the
The Algebraist: Endlessly creative, perhaps overly so
I’ve had The Algebraist on the shelf for quite a few years, patiently waiting its turn in the reading rotation. But since Iain M. Banks is most famous for his post-scarcity AI-dominated Culture space opera series, I suspect his non-Culture novels often get less attention. In particular, The Algebraist is a fairly hefty tome, so I hesitated to tackle it. However, I discovered an audio version on Audible UK (many of his books are strangely unava
Kara Babcock
Warning: This review contains spoilers about the review. Continue reading only if you have already read this review or if you are unconcerned about ruining the ending of this review.

Open with a joke about the size and weight of this book making it good for a number of non-reading-related purposes. Go on to comment on the excessive amounts of esoteric terminology.

That's probably how most reviews of this book begin, and they're probably right in doing so. Of course, plenty of books are justified i
Oct 22, 2014 rated it did not like it
That is hours and hours of my life I will never get back. My experience is that this book is the most boring book on the face of the planet (okay, there are a few that could beat it) and I can't for the life of me imagine why it was nominated for a Hugo. However, I do have friends that like it, so I'm going with this wasn't to my taste.

There was this weird secondary plot too that seemed entirely unnecessary, and in a book that was bloated with confusing flashbacks, lengthy sentences, excessive u
Sep 29, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommended to Richard by: SciFi & Fantasy Group 2009-12 SciFi Selection

Well, better than that — 3½ stars — but not as good as I'd hoped.

There were two major problems. The first I could almost forgive—as simply not being to my taste, the same way I don't enjoy the silliness of Terry Pratchett. The Algebraist tossed together rather high-concept themes (persecution of AIs, morally ambiguous revolution against a powerful hegemon, mass-death tragedy) alongside silliness bordering on stupidity. The major alien race is depicted as bumbling Woosters enjoying the life o
Jan 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
THE ALGEBRAIST by IAIN M. BANKS -- An extremely rewarding though very complex read rating a 10 on all the scales of complexity due to writing style, amount of characters to follow, and the number and variation of cultures and species. The fast-paced action takes place on several planets all around the universe, includes one major character with quite a few other important characters including several totally alien species and several hierarchal structures involving religion and politics. It also ...more
Sep 13, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Detail-oriented grand-sweep SF aficionados
Recommended to Alan by: Previous work
It's all a bit too much, isn't it? I mean, every page—sometimes every paragraph on every page—of The Algebraist throws in the names of new planets, principalities and vast empires; lost races and common aliens of endlessly inventive forms, habitats and abilities; unheard-of technologies, world-sized starships and robots smaller than grains of sand, automated castles, weapons of both mass and intimate destruction... clans, clades and clubs; cross-generational romance... bizarre medicines and food ...more
May 28, 2008 rated it did not like it
I keep hearing about what a great author Iain Banks is. This book was a book of the month last year for a reading group I belong to. I didn't like it. It had so much potential, but it was simultaneously underwritten and overwritten, if that's even possible. Probably my biggest beef with the book was the liberal use of the f-word. Now, I'm not a prude and God knows that the use of the f-word has become very commonplace. When my husband is watching Mafia movies, I always tell him that the over-use ...more
Peter Tillman
Banks returns to widescreen space-opera in this non-Culture standalone, featuring the galaxy-spanning multispecies, oxygen-breathing Mercatoria empire and its interactions with the more-numerous gas-giant Dwellers, who seem to have colonized most of the jovians in the Milky Way. And they're old. Really, really Old. Plus, exploding spaceships!

The Mercatoria power-structure is rococo Raj-in-Space -- there's a fabulous court scene straight out of Victoria and Albert's coronation in India, featuring
Edwin Priest
The Algebraist is my first get together with Iain M. Banks, and boy, does he seem all over the place in this book. It seems that he just can’t decide exactly what he wants to say in here. And it gives me some consternation about his other books.

There was much to like in this book. There were richly imagined aliens and worlds. There was a race of “slow” beings that live billions of years, impacting their culture, morals and interactions with the rest of the universe. There was a rather interestin
Jul 04, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Anna by: Probably Dave?
Shelves: fiction, scifi
I continue to have very mixed experiences with Ian (M.) Banks fiction. ‘The Algebraist’ was recommended to me a couple of years ago and I started reading it under the misapprehension that it was a Culture novel. It is set in the far future, but in a much more unstable and disunited world than the Culture. Possibly an alternate future in which AIs were declared anathema and hunted down, rather than taking charge? The main character, Fassin Taak, is a human trained to communicate with Dwellers. Th ...more
Walking mp3: Tjörn Reserve:

Unabridged. (Clipper Audio) [Audio Cassette]
Geoffrey Annis (Narrator)
Publisher: W F Howes Ltd (2005)
ISBN-10: 1845053079
ISBN-13: 978-1845053079

There is an abridged version read by Anton Lesser out there however don't be tempted with that.

This loses a star because the baddy is such an obvious nasty with the name Archimandrite Luseferous of the Starveling Cult, happily though this is an exciting and busy storyline crammed full of
Feb 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
This novel was:

a) amusing
b) bizarre
c) complicated
d) decadent
e) elaborate
f) freaky
v) versatile
w) weird
x) xenophilic
y) yonder, out
z) zany

If you picked "All of the above," you'd be right. FTL travel and secret wormholes let the main character, Fassin Taak, hopscotch across the known universe in less time than it takes a villain to talk too much and get destroyed. The author takes full advantage of this to introduce Taak to everything from sentient brambles to a species that collects dead other s
Jeffrey P
Mar 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Just when I was struggling with Iain M.Banks and the Culture series, after reading "Consider Phlebas" and "Use of Weapons", I read "The Algebraist". It gripped me from beginning to end and cemented my opinion that Iain M. Banks is an original sci-fi writer in the pantheon of Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and Orson Scott Card. However, unlike the first two, he not only has good ideas he can actually write!

"The Algebraist" is told from the (third-person) perspective of a member of the Quick race
Victor Tanasa
Dec 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Straight to the favourites shelve. 

The Algebraist has all the hallmarks of excellent space opera: great world-building and characters, mystery, fascinating concepts, exciting plot, interesting aliens, lots of reveals and (in this case especially) humour. 

What I liked most about this novel though are the Dwellers. They're an ancient, galaxy-spanning species of aliens that live inside the atmosphere of gas giants. They have a very laissez-faire attitude towards events outside their homeworlds or i
Dec 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing
So Banks seems to ripen with age. Banks earlier titles were wrought with fanciful, min-blowing brain candy yet lacked a certain cerebral edge or literary finesse. I have to admit that he kind of stumbled slightly with Excession but certainly made his mark with the novel in various other ways. Consider Phlebas was a near masterpiece as was the Algebraist. Here, Banks gets a pretty good clip going and his writing even smacks of literature. That, plus set in amazing fantastical settings (futuristic ...more
Nov 29, 2009 rated it it was ok
This is a new genre for me. My first (so far as I can recall) "Space Opera," and I was beginning to think the fat alien would never sing...
Uneven reactions to an uneven book. In the book's favor, the writing is intelligent and challenging, and Banks' imagination is absolutely stunning. That alone is enough to make the book worth reading. However, there was plenty here that was off-putting. The tone of the book is uneven, and one wonders whether Banks can't decide to be Asimov or Douglas Adams. S
Shawn Davies
Mar 31, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whilst the Culture hangs over all Iain M Banks writings, this is a departure to a fully realised place in time and space that lets Banks create and historically delineate another Space Opera reality, and he does this spectacularly well.

The Dwellers have to be one of my favourite creations, insouciant aliens in a galaxy teeming with interstellar life, civilisations, empires and technology. In the midst of this crowded galaxy our hero Fassin Taak must seek the secret of the Dwellers, but his is re
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Iain Banks is one of those authors who just makes you realize that other books are just Not As Good. I love him.
'The Algebraist' takes place in the same universe as other Banks SF novels, but is a fully stand-alone novel. It is the story of Fassin Taak, a Seer (basically, an alien anthropologist), who in his research, unwittingly comes across a clue that seems to indicate that ages-old legends may have some truth to them after all: the seemingly frivolous but enigmatic Dwellers, a widespread ali
Sep 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
There is a lot here. Arguably too much. Banks probably puts a plot thread too many in this book of endlessly inventive but excessive creation. The middle section is one of my favorite things he has ever done. The Dweller culture is more decadent and selfish version of his own Culture, but possibly funnier bringing to mind Moorcock’s end of time adventures and Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. A revenge plot that probably suffers the most for getting lost in the threads, a vast future history, rogue AI ...more
Aug 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sciencefiction, 2010
This is the reason I read science fiction. Banks creates multi-level space opera in a universe filled with humans and aliens. He has put a huge amount of creative imagination and must have had tremendous fun bringing this universe to life.
Jan 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommended to Sandi by: SciFi/Fantasy BkClub
Shelves: sff, sffbclub, lib
This review is rife with spoilers.
First off, I found it fascinating that the method used to control and pacify humans and other ‘alien’ galactic species is to coopt the evolution of those different species. By kidnapping earlier groups of humans, introducing genetic modifications and advanced technology to their societies then waiting for the rest of humanity to make it off Earth on their own, it seriously placed the rhumans at a disadvantage. As a method of taking control of the universe, it i
Erik Graff
Nov 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Banks' fans
Recommended to Erik by: John Elkin
Shelves: sf
My roommate, John, either has good reading habits or knows me very well. In any case, his book recommendations are almost invariably appreciated.

John may have recommended Banks a decade ago, even before he moved in. Being a recovering science fiction addict, I was reluctant, but accepted what I recall (wrongly it seems) as a mass market paperback edition of 'The Algebraist' as a bedtime book. I read it over a period of days and was at once impressed and somewhat off-put by the thing. The writin
Fred Hughes
Mar 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Fassin Taak is a Seer but he is a young Seer and to him it’s all about the exploration and the physical experience of directly meeting with and conversing with the Dwellers. His elders are more comfortable just communing remotely

The Dwellers are an ancient race that populate gas giant planets which are basically an iron core surrounded by a lot of hot toxic gases. Doesn’t sound like much fun, but with the Dwellers having been in the galaxy, and rumoured to be in all other galaxies, for billions
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Iain M. Banks is a pseudonym of Iain Banks which he used to publish his Science Fiction.

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

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