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Consider Phlebas

(Culture #1)

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  77,477 ratings  ·  4,012 reviews
"Dazzlingly original." -- Daily Mail
"Gripping, touching and funny." -- TLS

The war raged across the galaxy. Billions had died, billions more were doomed. Moons, planets, the very stars themselves, faced destruction, cold-blooded, brutal, and worse, random. The Idirans fought for their Faith; the Culture for its moral right to exist. Principles were at stake. There could be
Kindle Edition, 545 pages
Published December 1st 2009 by Orbit (first published April 23rd 1987)
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Ray Palmer There's a scene where a man is eaten alive by a grotesque cannibal. It's basically torture porn. The scene also has nothing to do with the plot and ap…moreThere's a scene where a man is eaten alive by a grotesque cannibal. It's basically torture porn. The scene also has nothing to do with the plot and appears to have been thrown in for exploitative purposes only.(less)
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J.G. Keely
Welcome to another edition of 'Notable Genre Author Fails to Impress Some Guy on the Internet', I'll be your host: some guy.

Like so many highly-lauded authors featured here, Banks has been haunting my shelf for quite some time now. Countless are the times I have passed this book before bed, letting my eyes linger longingly on the spine, relishing the notion that I will actually read this book, some day. There have even been those occasions where I thumbed it down, peering at the cover, carefull

And today, mine is going to be unpopular. But remember the advice from 9th grade Advanced English teacher Mrs. Muench about metaphors. Or maybe I mean false equivalency. Regardless: you are not what you like. If I dislike something you love, I am not disliking you. But you may not want to read my review, friends who love this book.

Consider Phlebas is classic sci-fi that I missed while growing up. Periodically, I try to exercise my genre core, and it was with a bit of ‘read-harder’ spirit that I
Nov 21, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Many discerning readers, even ones who like SF, will reflexively sneer if you say the dreaded words "space opera". One need only think of E.E. Doc Smith, for a long time the unquestioned king of this particular sub-genre. I read Galactic Patrol when I was at primary school; like innumerable other geeky nine year olds, I adored it, and particularly loved the "Helmuth speaking for Boskone" tagline. I also remember how, aged 12 or 13, I picked it up to see if the magic was still there. Oh dear! It ...more
mark monday
Consider Iain M. Banks. an unsentimental, often ruthless writer. his characters are provided robust emotional lives and richly detailed backgrounds... all the better to punish the reader when those characters meet their often bleak fates. his narratives are ornate affairs, elaborately designed, full of small & meaningful moments as well as huge, wide-scale world-building... all the better to deliver a sucker punch directly to the reader's gut when those narratives turn out to be ironic, predeter ...more
Jan 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: faves, sci-fi
I can't really say much, other than Iain Banks has become my #1 favorite Sci-Fi author. I love the way he fleshes out flawed, believable characters in a Space Opera setting. I'm always surprised by his writing, and that keeps me coming back for more. If you're not into the genre, but want to give it a try, pick up this book. You will not regret it! ...more
Kevin Kelsey
Posted at Heradas

In my introductory essay on Iain Banks and the Culture, Caledonian Antisyzygy and the Principle of Charity, I mention that he approached fiction with a certain kind of duality, representing and considering ideologies and viewpoints antagonistic with one another. In Consider Phlebas, his first published novel in the series, he takes this to an extreme, showing us the Culture almost entirely from an antagonistic point of view before giving readers a glimpse of the positives. It we
Mario the lone bookwolf
There are some motives and ideas that pop up in all of Banks' works. In this, his first culture novel, I want to mention some of them.

His background in philosophy and psychology enabled him to combine Sci-Fi with really deep criticism regarding the human past, presence and future. No matter if it was the dark medieval time, the presence or any period of the future, he managed to show the flaws, errors and grievances. He even anticipated problems in detail that might once occur.

The belief in a
Dec 05, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone that thought Spaceballs was a clever SciFi movie.
Recommended to Richard by: Robin Barooah
Two stars is about right.

Voltaire said something like "the best is the enemy of the good" (okay, he actually said le mieux est l'ennemi du bien). But what is really annoying is that the coulda-been-good is more disappointing than the meh.

Banks clearly has a great deal of imagination. If he was able to discipline himself, he'd have some four-star stuff going on here, easily — maybe better.

But he fritters away his energy on irrelevant grotesquerries, like a schoolboy scrawling naughty pictures ins
This is the second Culture book I read but the first one Iain M. Banks wrote. One of us did something wrong, because I liked The Player of Games a lot more, and yet my reasons for not liking Consider Phlebas are almost all about what the book isn't.

It isn't about the Culture, for one thing. Sort of. Not really. The other books in the series are from the perspective of a citizen of the Culture, which is difficult to define succinctly so I will just say, imagine if you lived in a universe where yo
Sep 10, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It’s not you, it’s me.

I’ve got to watch out for space operas. I will either buy in early or … I just won’t. And then I’m staring at 400 pages of … ehh.

It’s too bad, I really liked the idea and Banks’ writing seemed inspired. There was a cool interstellar culture called … The Culture. The post-scarcity confederacy of different races reminded me of Star Trek and there was also some Dune references.

But … it just didn’t take. DNF at 30%, life's too short.

Sorry Iain, I might try again some other time
Manuel Antão
Aug 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1994, 2017
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Post-scarcity Society: "Consider Phlebas" by Iain M. Banks

When Banks died, I was in the process of starting one of my usual re-reads of the Culture novels. I decided it was not the time to start that re-read. I said to myself, “I’ll just wait another couple more years.” It’s now 2017, and I’m not sure I’ll re-read them now in one large gulp. I want to be able to savour the remaining books over time. One of my main attractions to Banks
Nov 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Be warned. This book is hard-core, gateway reading-crack. Science fiction loving readers will be incurably hooked, staying up late, letting their social life decay and cravenly devouring all the Iain M. Banks they can get their hands on in a desperate, sleep-deprived book-orgy. Well, that’s what happened to me anyway.

As is obvious, I loved this book. Consider Phlebas is everything I want in science fiction, and it is where my passionate love of Iain Banks’ work began. This is big concept, spraw
Jun 05, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
I usually like Iain Banks' sf novels, but this is simply a bad book.

It is partly an action novel, with the plot roughly "go to planet X and retrieve an advanced piece of technology." There are a few very exciting action sequences. The major problem is that after setting up the plot by page 4, we have a diversion of about 300 pages before returning to the plot. ??? The vast majority of the in-between chapters feel like a bunch of half-realized short story ideas jammed together, including one chap
I read all of Iain Banks' Culture books in order in which they were written, beginning with Consider Phlebas and ending with the latest, Surface Detail, from 2008 through 2010. Consider Phlebas being the first Culture book Banks wrote, it was the first I read back in the Spring of 2008. I liked it. One might even say I liked it a lot. But I didn't love it. Not yet.

I just re-read Consider Phlebas and I can tell you it’s a whole different book when you have the entire collection under your belt. T
Aug 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
“You’re ruled by your machines. You’re an evolutionary dead end. The trouble is that to take your mind off it you try to drag everybody else down there with you.”

Back to the beginning. Consider Phlebas is the first book of the Culture series (ten volumes in total, I believe), one of the most beloved sci-fi book series ever, written by the late great Iain M. Banks, feel free to confuse him with the equally late and great Iain Banks, who is indeed the same writer but is described as a “literary
Dirk Grobbelaar
Interestingly, while this is the first Culture novel, it is told from the perspective of a somewhat antagonistic protagonist. Bora Horza Gobuchul opposes the Culture. Vehemently.

While the novel, arguably, isn’t quite as sophisticated as later entries in the series, it sucked me right in. It certainly is a lot of fun, and feels more action based than most of the books that came later. It’s no surprise that many reviewers prefer the later entries in the series to this one (they are somewhat more
Feb 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: as a starting point in the Culture series
The opening scene to Iain M. Banks' opening novel in the Culture universe is one of my favourites in sci-fi. How would an ultra-sophisticated artificial intelligence escape certain death at the hands of an enemy? What moves would it make? What sacrifices?

The very next scene, in which we meet our protagonist Horza, is a huge win. Remember when we met Aragorn in Lord of the Rings? There was practically a drum roll. Yeah, well there's none of that here. Horza is being slowly put to death by drownin
Melissa (Mel’s Bookshelf)
I love a good sci-fi. Something to get me out of this world and into the universe for a while. And although this was a solidly good read. I guess I was expecting more from what has been dubbed by many as the best sci-fi series of all time.

I read this one as part of a youtube culture series read-along I am doing with Moid and his followers on Media Death Cult (awesome channel, check it out if you are a sci-fi fan!) and I did a bit of research leading up to this one. Many people say it is the wors
Mar 15, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
I enjoyed The Wasp Factory when I read it a few years back so had fairly high hopes for this sci-fi series of Banks as I loved the premise of the story. The bad news is the story failed to live up to my high expectations and ended up being a total disappointment that even became a bit of a chore to finish!

Consider Phlebas really should have been my sort of book as the ideas behind the world were fantastic, the choice of unique main character was good, and the story had a good mix of political i
I'm not really sure what to say about Consider Phlebas. It was, quite fittingly, the first Culture book I read, though it was my fourth Banks book (preceded by The Wasp Factory, Dead Air, & The Bridge respectively). And now it is the third Banks book I've reread (The Wasp Factory twice, and Use of Weapons once).

I like it very much, so I feel a little sad that many friends I respect don't love it as much as I and a good deal of them just think it is mostly okay.

I love that Horza is an unlikable p
Jamie Collins
Apr 03, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: science-fiction
A frustrating book, perhaps just not my cup of tea. The writing did not click with me - I can't put my finger on it, but I kept being pulled out of the story because the writing felt bland and awkward. Considering the popularity of this series, I'm obviously in the minority in feeling this way.

I think that if I had enjoyed Banks's writing style, I wouldn't have objected to the slow pacing or the meandering storyline, but as it stands I thought most of the book was dull. The story seemed to be c
People love their Iain Banks, and I respect that, though I've yet to read something of his that impresses me much. Of course, I've read only two books, and both seemed like slow, ponderous exercises.

This novel, for example, was recommend as "thinking man's sf adventure." Hey, that's appealing. But this didn't strike me as that sort of book. Instead, it was slow-going, and lacked the giddy joy of invention and play that to my mind the best science fiction always has. I gritted my teeth and pushed
aPriL does feral sometimes
'Consider Phlebas' by Iain M. Banks is the first novel in the Culture series. I loved it! This book is an amazing thrill ride of fast-paced entertainment as well as a fantastically imagined universe full of hard science technology.

The writing is so good it takes awhile before you realize the book's chapters consist of a series of tableaus that are sort of a tour of violence in this galaxy. It's exciting! Ok, that came out wrong. Moving on...

The science is the best part. All the cool body add-ons
Jun 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ivan by: Arhu
Shelves: sci-fi
When my friend Arhu recommended this series to me he said it's basically like 4X games and feline wizard did not lie although in first book we can only see that starting to shape out.

So what does this book have in common with those games. Well imagine session of Galactic Civilizations or Alpha Centauri (you have to be bit older to remember this Civilization 2 spin-off) going into late-game where all habitable places and resources are split among players and there are 2 main powers who try to get
Simon Fay
I'm rather curious what other people think of the Culture: One of the dominant powers at the forefront of a decades-long galactic war, and, more importantly, the side that Horza, the protagonist of Consider Phlebas, has chosen to fight against.

At the outset, Horza has allied himself with a millennia-old alien species that holds little regard for human life. Horza is a shapeshifter, not entirely human himself, but his biology is a heck of a lot closer to folks like you and me than to the three-le
A good-but-not-great SF adventure in a war between two opposing ideologies.
But it's one of those works that never really develops the ideas in an SF sort of way. I feel like the author had a good Alistair MacLean novel in his head, and a can of Super Sci-Fi Paint in the garage, and slapped the paint on the novel and called it science fiction.
But in a well-intentioned way. Like the Star Wars prequels. :D

Monopoly for A.I.
Although the "Mind" artificial intelligence, which was the subject of
Dec 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
This novel was good. The author did an excellent job of building a world and creatively fueling it with philosophy and technology. I like large scale space opera ideas when they involve religion, philosophy and the eventual evolution of materialistic ideas both philosophically and realistically. The developed stages of thought of group that were representative of modern day groups was interesting to me. Most importantly, it was character driven.
The main character, Horza, is a Changer and is abl
Consider Phlebas: The first Culture novel, but later books are better
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature
This is Iain M. Banks’ first novel (1987) set in his now famous CULTURE universe, and although it’s a well-written book with lots of clever ideas, I wouldn’t say it’s the best book in the series. Then again, if like many readers you would have feelings of angst and guilt if you were to read the books of a series out of order, then it makes sense to start with this one.

To be very brief, t
Mar 25, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi, kindle
I had heard good things about the Culture novels but this was not a good start. Meandering plot, unconvincing characters, and oh so very, very wordy.

I think there is a decent book in there somewhere, but its buried under piles of extraneous dialogue and description. There are some cool ideas in play but everything felt so drawn-out and bloated and assembled pretty much at random.

I may give Player of Games a chance, but not for a while. I need to recover.
Barry Cunningham
This is still one of the best opening books to a series from probably the best Sci-Fi writer, I really miss him. I have read this 3 times now, it never loses it's magic. The emergence of 'Minds' is a joy!! ...more
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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

Other books in the series

Culture (10 books)
  • The Player of Games (Culture, #2)
  • Use of Weapons (Culture, #3)
  • The State of the Art (Culture, #4)
  • Excession (Culture, #5)
  • Inversions (Culture, #6)
  • Look to Windward (Culture, #7)
  • Matter (Culture, #8)
  • Surface Detail (Culture #9)
  • The Hydrogen Sonata (Culture #10)

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