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Excession

(Culture #5)

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  22,094 ratings  ·  895 reviews
The international sensation Iain M. Banks offers readers a deeply imaginative, wittily satirical tale, proving once again that he is "a talent to be reckoned with" ("Locus"). In "Excession", the Culture's espionage and dirty tricks section orders Diplomat Byr Gen-Hofoen to steal the soul of a long-dead starship captain. By accepting the mission, Byr irrevocably plunges him ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 499 pages
Published February 2nd 1998 by Bantam Spectra (NY) (first published 1996)
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Darren No. Not ALL four, certainly. But I wouldn't start the Culture series here. While technically a discrete story, it does assume a basic knowledge of the…moreNo. Not ALL four, certainly. But I wouldn't start the Culture series here. While technically a discrete story, it does assume a basic knowledge of the Culture. (less)
Donald Parish I bought a paperback copy at Barnes & Noble this week. I’d read the first two and noticed Excession not on Kindle. I like it so far.

Community Reviews

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4.20  · 
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 ·  22,094 ratings  ·  895 reviews


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Manny
/1324089739734 SILLYINTRO 289534953457 MOREOFTHISTHANYOUNEED 826563495 ANOTHERRANDOMDIGITSEQUENCE 290735723 OHPLEASEGETTOTHEPOINT/

- Hello? This is Kinda Disappointed, do you read me?

- Hello Disappointed, this is Still Plenty of Good Bits. I'm another superintelligent AI entity...

- Well of course you are, Bits! Let's skip the background and assume the reader knows all about the Culture universe. So, what did you think of "Excession"?

- Um, not too bad, considering the obvious problems. I mean, how
...more
mark monday
ATTENTION CULTURE SHOPPERS

this weekend's special is an Outside Context Problem! this amazing special is so unique, most shoppers will only encounter it once - in a millenium! please look for the infinity symbol tagged on our specially-marked OCP items.

on aisle 1, back by popular demand, we are excited to present faction upon faction of Culture Minds, as embodied physically by their glorious Mind Ships!!! shoppers, we have read your suggestions and we respond! you will find very few examples of t
...more
Bradley
Mar 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This happens to be exactly what I wanted when I wanted it. I wanted intelligent galaxy-spanning space opera with a handful of baseline humans getting caught up in an existential conundrum that the far-superior AI Ships (and Main Characters) had to face.

And we even get a BDO to spark an enormous intergalactic war. Woo Woo! Of course, the BDO (big dumb object) is nothing of the sort. In fact, it might be smarter than all of them combined. Who knows? I loved the speculation.

Life, love, sex, conspir
...more
Apatt
Oct 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi

The Culture series is one of the most beloved among today's sf readers, possibly the most beloved but I don't have any hard figures to back it up so I'll leave that hyperbole out for now. Certainly some entries in the series are more popular than others, based on the average ratings and online discussions The Player of Games and Use of Weapons are generally held in high regard, Inversions and Matter less so. As for Excession, it is one of the more popular ones, top 4 I think, and I can see why.
...more
Dirk Grobbelaar
Foolish child!
Make all haste.


A BDO novel taking place in the Culture universe? Will the law of diminishing returns apply? There is so much weirdness and wonder in the Culture already, how much value can an artefact add to the heady mix?

Possibility: Culture universe not well suited for BDO sense of wonder stories.
Possibility: Dilution of impact.

Let’s try and review this thing.

The drone felt calm, thinking as coldly and detachedly as it could for those few moments on the background to its curren
...more
7jane
Aug 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Music: something from Slowdive, like "Souvlaki Space Station"

Like putting my feet back into the river, this felt like I had not taken any break from reading this series. This one was fun to read, that can be said :)

So, there's a mysterious ship that apparead many years before - now it is back, and *everybody* seems to want to check it out, prod it, talk to it, see if there's anything new and benefitting in its secrets and even attempt to destroy it. There's also a conspiracy going on...

This nove
...more
Peter Tieryas
May 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
http://www.tor.com/blogs/2015/03/on-i...

The connection between literature and video games is one of my favorite topics. I was thrilled to get to write for Tor.com about one of the best science fiction books I've read, Excession by Iain M. Banks, and its connection to Sid Meier’s Civilization which, along with Romance of the Three Kingdoms, was one of the most addicting games of my life.

____

"If Use of Weapons was a psychological investigation into the world of the Culture, Excession is a philosop
...more
Stuart
Excession: Too complex for meat-based life forms to understand
Excession is the fourth book in Iain M. Banks’ CULTURE series. I’ll assume you already know the far-future decadent post-scarcity intergalactic empire of the Culture, dominated by its (mostly) benign AIs, known as Minds, and its trillions of citizens, some human and others more exotic. It’s a great invention, a vast and limitless space for Banks to explore via the Culture’s Contact and Special Circumstances divisions, especially the i
...more
Brad
Mar 28, 2008 rated it liked it
Early on it felt like there were too many characters, too many plot threads, too many settings, and that Excession was too damn convoluted to be good.

Iain M. Banks’ Excession was living up to the definition of its title:
"Excession; something excessive. Excessively aggressive, excessively powerful, excessively expansionist; whatever. Such things turned up or were created now and again. Encountering an example of was one of the risks you ran when you went a-wandering."
It was a true slog to get i
...more
Simeon
Oct 10, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: literature, sci-fi
I love these books, but if you don't, I understand. The series' uniqueness is both awesome and offputting; the sort of stuff you wish people would write, but then you find excuses not to read.

Reading the Culture novels is rarely the funnest thing you could be doing; but, when you're done, it can mean a whole paradigm shift - steps toward permanently dismantling whatever version of reality is currently trolling your existence.
Ben Babcock
Finally, the Culture novel I’ve been waiting to read since I started the series. Everyone told me not to start with Excession, so I didn’t—and honestly that was pretty good advice. I can see why people wouldn’t enjoy this novel, and even though I think I would have liked it with no previous Culture experience, reading other books has given me a deeper appreciation for what is happening here.

Excession reminds me of children’s books where the main characters are all animals, and humans have very l
...more
Andrea McDowell
Aug 13, 2013 rated it did not like it
I gave up at about page 50.

After being introduced to a woman character who had chosen to be pregnant for 40 years, and then an emissary for a nearby alien civilization where the all-male representatives publicly brag about how many females they've impregnated through rape, I was seriously put off.

Every woman I've ever met has been dying to be un-pregnant by the 8th month. A woman who chooses to be pregnant for 40 years? No swollen ankles, no sore back, no heartburn, no weird skin issues? Did Iai
...more
Alan
Jan 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Spacecraft with Minds of their own, and those who like reading about same
Recommended to Alan by: A body of work; Daniel
What sort of gift can you get for the Culture that has everything?

That is, how on Earth (or, rather, off) do you make Utopia interesting, when all society's ills have been resolved, and all misery is at worst optional?

That is the central conundrum with which Iain M. Banks has been grappling in all of his Culture novels, and Excession is perhaps his most explicit examination of that question to date, even though it came out 'way back in 1996. An "excession," in Banks' parlance, is something that
...more
Nicholas Karpuk
Terry Pratchett once said that horses take longer to get up to full speed because they had more legs to sort out. Under those conditions, Excession has about a dozen damn legs, because this book takes half its length to feel like it's gaining any momentum.

The cast of thousands approach doesn't really help. By the time the narrative returned to some characters I had trouble remember who they were or what exactly they wanted. And the ridiculous names of the machine minds, avatars, and drones didn'
...more
Nikki
Jan 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
First book of this spring's readathon! It took me ages to read, but it's well worth it. I think I'll take a little break now from the Culture: not only do I want to ration it out a bit, but there's a sameness to the cleverness at the heart of these novels, so that reading three in quick succession makes me more able to figure out the plot -- and I actually like feeling that Banks is smarter than me, so I'll give it a rest before my next one...

Anyway, I don't know how to talk about Excession, rea
...more
Kostas
8.5/10

After five years time-off from the Culture universe, taking the time to develop ideas and stories and in other novels, Iain M. Banks returns with Excession, the fifth following installment in the series, with a story of grand scope and imagination; a space opera that takes us deep into the unknown of the galaxy - revealing wonders and dimensions through its vastness - but also into an epic adventure of conspiracy and war, paranoia and cruelty, and love and betrayal, using his scientificall
...more
Kevin
Mar 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, heavy-duty
The thing with Iain Bank's Culture series of science-fiction books is their quasi-pseudo-sometimes humorous details. This is the fifth one I have read, released originally in 1996 (I do not read that fast, honestly) and Excession probably is one of the most deepest, confusing and complex novels I have ever encountered from him, and that also includes his more contemporary works as well. I started reading him in the very early 1990's (starting with the seminal Wasp Factory), and over the years I ...more
Michael David Cobb
Jan 15, 2009 rated it liked it
Excession is Iain Banks' clunkiest book so far. It is certainly enjoyable as it introduces us to Infinite Fun, but it just had too many distractions and too many characters, with far too many of them Minds whose personalities and loyalties simply didn't make quite enough sense through 400 pages. It might have helped if I had the full sized paperback, but I had the airport sized one and.. it just got tedious. It could not have felt like a page-turner otherwise.

On the whole however, Excession is a
...more
Tyan
Oct 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
In this book a strange phenomenon is observed. The story revolves around how the Culture and it's neighbors try to deal with this particular event. Is it a weapon? Is it a message from a vastly superior race or culture? Is it a natural event? Add onto that tragic love stories, sadistic aliens, and revenge and you get one densely written, fantastically entertaining story.

This is quite possibly one of my all time favorite books. The conversations between the sentient ships alone could sustain me.
...more
Erik Graff
Jun 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Banks fans
Recommended to Erik by: John Elkin
Shelves: sf
Taking a break from reading dry-as-dust books for journal review, I asked a friend for fiction recommendations and was given two of Iain M. Banks' "Culture" novels: Look to Windward and this one, Excession.

I'd read two Culture novels and several short stories set in that far-future context prior to this, beginning with Use of Weapons and The Algebraist. I have found myself appreciating each one more than the last, presumably as the result of coming to feel ever more at home in the Culture.

This
...more
Sally Melia
Feb 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I have read all the novels of Iain M Banks and I read Excession first in the year it was published in paperback in 1997, and I have reread this book several times since.

This is a Culture book, for those of you who may not be familiar with Iain M Banks, he created a great civilisation called The Culture. And though he never set put to write a Trilogy or a series, the universe he created was so popular he returned to it again and again. The full list counts ten titles: Consider Phlebas, 1987; The
...more
Lori
Oct 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
The problem with getting older and facing mortality is that you realize you won't be able to read all the books you want to. I love the Culture books so much that I'd love to reread them in the order written. One of the reasons being a desire to track the Minds through the series, do any reappear?

The most appealing aspect of Excession is that it's pretty the Minds, with the humans and a new alien species on the sidelines, altho they are part of the plot. I love the Minds! The names they choose a
...more
Maggie K
Dec 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Really good input into the Culture world. A little different mindset here...while we do have a couple human points of view, most of the maneuvering, backstory and action in with some of the Ship AI minds...some of them so Elder and powerful they have become eccentric (basically doing whatever they want)....this is a new perspective!
Stevie Kincade
Jul 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobooks, reviewed
After falling in love with Peter Kenny's performance in The Player of Games I knew I was going to read the entire Culture series in Audiobook form. This has been a great decision up until "Excession".

Banks is a great writer and Kenny is a great narrator so the failing is mostly on me but I really struggled to stay focused on this story for a variety of reasons.

This is the first Culture book that does not have a main point of view character, it is more of an ensemble piece. Granted we spent mor
...more
Zach
Feb 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
I skipped The State of the Art to read this fifth book in the Culture series, since the former is a collection of short stories. After having been burned by the likes of The Martians, I decided not to sully my opinion of the series so early on.

The titular Excession is another name for what the Culture calls an Outside Context Problem (OCP), which is an encounter with an alien civilization so much more advanced than your own that you have no way of conceptualizing their technology within your cul
...more
Max
Sep 26, 2016 added it
Really sharp interesting SF, full of eyekicks and Banks' occasional signature turn to the darker, messier side of human emotions even within cyberutopia. Can't get better than the Culture novels as far as worked-through attempts to realize postscarcity Star Trek style political economy in literary space opera form.

*Occasionally* says one thing three ways, and the timeline's presented in Order Of Most Human Interest rather than any logical sequence—but given some aspects of the novel, I'm not ent
...more
imyril
Feb 13, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh, Excession. I've hated you, I've loved you, and I've been wildly frustrated by you. I guess the best I can say is that every reread brings me something new.

I think it's fair to say that I love the plot line with the Minds - finally getting to see how they interact, plot, rationalise and manoeuvre - and could cheerfully do without most of the humans, in spite of a lingering respect for the broad strokes of the Dajeil / Byr subtext.

Full thoughts.
Tom
Jun 03, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: sf
This book is not even half as clever as it thinks it is. Poorly written characters and tedious AI chatter.
James
Another few months and another book in my complete re-read of Iain M. Banks's Culture series. This time it's his novel Excession. The story of what Banks refers to as an 'Outside Context Problem' – something unexpected; something a civilisation can't, by definition, plan for; something that will likely end up destroying them if they react incorrectly to it. What Donald Rumsfeld would call an "unknown unknown".

It's a return to previous heights I think, as Banks gives us is a sort of Culture novel
...more
Julien
Feb 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
WOW. I'm still reeling from how good this book was. This is the fourth Culture series novel I've read (skipping The State of the Art) by the late Ian M. Banks, and it surpassed the others in terms of content, writing style, and sheer imagination on a grand scale.

Certain portions of this book are awe-inspiring-- you'll know what I'm talking about after reading. Banks describes technologies and ideologies in his imagined future with a lucidity that amazes. In particular, the first three pages of a
...more
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3,934 followers
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
...more

Other books in the series

Culture (10 books)
  • Consider Phlebas
  • The Player of Games (Culture, #2)
  • Use of Weapons
  • The State of the Art (Culture, #4)
  • Inversions (Culture, #6)
  • Look to Windward (Culture, #7)
  • Matter (Culture, #8)
  • Surface Detail (Culture #9)
  • The Hydrogen Sonata (Culture #10)
“An Outside Context Problem was the sort of thing most civilisations encountered just once, and which they tended to encounter rather in the same way a sentence encountered a full stop.” 42 likes
“It was a warship, after all. It was built, designed to glory in destruction, when it was considered appropriate. It found, as it was rightly and properly supposed to, an awful beauty in both the weaponry of war and the violence and devastation which that weaponry was capable of inflicting, and yet it knew that attractiveness stemmed from a kind of insecurity, a sort of childishness. It could see that—by some criteria—a warship, just by the perfectly articulated purity of its purpose, was the most beautiful single artifact the Culture was capable of producing, and at the same time understand the paucity of moral vision such a judgment implied. To fully appreciate the beauty of the weapon was to admit to a kind of shortsightedness close to blindness, to confess to a sort of stupidity. The weapon was not itself; nothing was solely itself. The weapon, like anything else, could only finally be judged by the effect it had on others, by the consequences it produced in some outside context, by its place in the rest of the universe. By this measure the love, or just the appreciation, of weapons was a kind of tragedy.” 24 likes
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