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Matter (Culture, #8)
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(Culture #8)

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  25,011 ratings  ·  979 reviews
In a world renowned within a galaxy full of wonders, a crime within a war. For one brother it means a desperate flight, and a search for the one - maybe two - people who could clear his name. For his brother it means a life lived under constant threat of treachery and murder. And for their sister, it means returning to a place she'd thought abandoned forever.

Only the siste
Paperback, 593 pages
Published January 31st 2008 by Orbit
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R.E. McCready This was the first culture novel I read, and I really enjoyed it. I'm sure I'd have got more out of it had I read others in the series, but I didn't f…moreThis was the first culture novel I read, and I really enjoyed it. I'm sure I'd have got more out of it had I read others in the series, but I didn't feel like it suffered to much because of this factor. Hope you liked it!(less)

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Average rating 4.08  · 
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 ·  25,011 ratings  ·  979 reviews

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Mario the lone bookwolf
Jan 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: banks-m-iain
Like an onion or a profound human, the many layers of shellworlds and similar superstructures may give living space to trillion of human or whatever beings in the future.

One of the most stunning features may be to mix different physics, geology, biology, mentality, and prosperity in each shell, open the gates from time to time to let them fight or cuddle and interbreed with each other and to manage everything with an AI-controlled, almighty, self-replicating, permanently morphing infrastructure
Sep 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is one of those horribly complicated books that is simultaneously strong and weak in the same exact areas at the same time. *groan*

I mean, it starts off strongly with fantasy-type trials and tribulations in the empire, a king dying and his son being supplanted by the king's best friend, taking over the kingdom. Pretty standard... but then the whole other part of this novel is chock-full of purely wonderful heavy SF ideas that isn't entirely obvious at first but then becomes an infodump mast
Kevin Kelsey
The eighth book in the culture series. If you're reading this, you're familiar with the Culture, and you don't need yet another review telling you how fantastic this particular entry is. All I'll say is that it's no exception, and stands right up there with all the others.

Two quotes that really stood out for me from this fantastic book:

“Behave honourably and wish for a good death. He’d always dismissed it as self-serving bullshit, frankly; most of the people he’d been told were his betters were
[Swirling patterns. Weird, vaguely familiar, futuristic music. Is it the Doctor Who theme tune? Slowly the camera pulls back to show the title

Celebrity Death Match Special: Blackadder versus The Culture

and we realize it's an unusual setting of the Blackadder song.

Dissolve to ROWAN ATKINSON and HUGH LAURIE, who looks rather unhappy]

ATKINSON: Is everything alright, sir?

LAURIE: Oh yes, rather, absolutely spiffing, top hole, couldn't be better. Except for one little thing.

ATKINSON: And that is?

Feb 25, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: far-future, reviewed
This is a book I really wanted to like, and failed. I like Iain M. Banks style, I like his willingness to run risks, to give you the whole punch. And in this book, he barely delivers.

The book are 500 pages of set-up, and forty pages of resolution, and not a very satisfying one.

Too many characters doing not very interesting things in utmost detail, and then the interesting parts are just glossed over. Add wooden (and not very new in his books) characters, when part of his magic is making great in
Jun 03, 2014 rated it liked it
I originally read this novel a number of years ago but am posting this review having just “read” it again, or more accurately listened to it on audiobook.

I’ve read all of the books in Iain Banks’ Culture series. For me two of the early novels, “The Player of Games”, and “Use of Weapons”, stand out above the others. Most of the remaining books tend to merge into one in my memory. When I saw this was available in my local library as an audiobook, I realised that all I could remember of it was the
Aug 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Matter starts out with some baroque steampunk fantasia with grim political dealings that reminds me of Jack Vance, George R.R. Martin, and Mervyn Peake. Than it switches to a wide screen galactic romp and winds ups as a apocalyptic high-tech thriller with more than couple elements from Alastair Reynold’s Revelation Space. There is three pronged story moving through these stages involving three siblings. The relation between Ferbin and his servant Holse is filled with odd couple comedy like Cerva ...more
Nov 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Matter is the 8th volume in Iain M. Banks’ “Culture” series and my favorite so far. It is the story of a seemingly unimportant far-future medieval coups attempt that takes on much larger proportions as the story progresses.

Most of Matter’s events are either set on or revolve around a “shell world” named Sursamen. Shell worlds are artificial planets constructed by an ancient race called “the Involucra,” ostensibly as components of a galactic force-field of unknown purpose. They are composed of pr
Dec 25, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, culture
The 8th book in The Culture series i.e. Matter was a big let down for me,
because it had pretty interesting ideas like Shell word and Nest world but Banks spends so much time exploring those ideas, and giving you info dumps regarding those ideas that the story of the book takes a back seat in the whole book. Also he uses a lot of complex names for his characters which after some time becomes quite irritating as you do not have index on audio book to remember all the characters.

Some of the strong
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Another superb Culture story, and in fact one of the finest. Banks' usual themes of galactic inter-civilization intrigue, war, the dilemma of interference/non-interference in alien civilizations, etc are on display, and as usual we mostly observe the Culture from the outside looking in. This story adds the perspective of a technologically underdeveloped civilization and introduces the fascinating concept of "Shell worlds" - enormous, ancient and artificially constructed planets which are essenti ...more
I'd go as far as saying that this is the 3rd best novel in the series so far, after "The Player of Games" and "Use of Weapons" in that order. I was blown away by the quality of the story, the interesting and well-developed characters, and the sheer scale of the novel. Four stars, highly recommended. but if you haven't read Culture novels before, I recommend just starting at the beginning. "Consider Phlebas" is still the weakest novel in the series, but it is the first one and sort of a rite of p ...more
Nick Wellings
Feb 15, 2013 rated it it was ok
Where sprawling becomes a bad kind of sprawling, like, sprawling in the street after passing out from a night on the razz, only with less sodium lights and more dragon-type creatures floating around your mind, no wait, floating around your mind in a concentric kind of world within a world complete with medieval peasant types, futuristic warrior types and fey castle kingdoms, and flying dragon type things and WAR (always WAR! Yaargh!!) - but sprawling in that needy grasping way that only that som ...more
Jan 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: lovers of intelligent entertainment
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 15, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sf
There is an interview at the back of this book in which Banks says he was thinking of giving up writing SF but he set himself the task of creating a completely new context for a novel; The Algebraist, Banks' best novel for years resulted.
With Matter Banks returns to the Culture - and that is a mistake. Every worthwhile idea relating to the Culture has been expounded multiple times already - there has been no need for a new Culture novel since Use of Weapons and the quality of them has been deter
Peter Tieryas
Sep 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
2/1/15-I really wanted to love this. It began in a very fascinating way, a revenge story that I was really looking forward to. By the end, it reminded me of Star Trek V, and unfortunately, not in a good way. Still, even with the flaws, Matter is an incredible book with incredible ideas. I'll write a full review at some point.

"Wisdom is silence." These Shellworlds are absolutely fascinating, especially their connection to the planets of the dead (and Consider Phlebas). Damn, am so happy to be rea
Jeremy Szal
Feb 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
When I became indoctrinated into science-fiction literature back in 2013, on reading up on Banks and discovering that his books were exactly my kind of thing, I pledged to read the entire Culture series. I tried and failed with Consider Phlebas (the world-building was too steep for me at the time), and it wasn't until 2016 that I succeeded with finishing the Player of Games. The journey had started.

Now, it's with a bittersweet feeling that I've turned the final page of my final Culture book, an
Jan 25, 2009 rated it liked it
Rosado mp3. Round the lake.

Thinking of Mr Banks and his sad news.

Love the ship named 'Do Not Try This At Home'

#83 TBR Busting 2013

TR Consider Phlebas
TR The Player
3* The State of Art
4* Look to Winward
3' Matter
4* The Algebraist

As Iain No Em Banks

3* The Wasp Factory
1* The Steep Approach to Garbadale aka The Steep Descent to Garbage
2* Stonemouth

Dec 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Matter, like most of the Culture novels I have read, contains within it the most powerful usage of raw imagination that I have been presented with in any format, written or otherwise.
The sheer scope and scale of the story being told and the creativity used to flesh out the space in which it is performed is unparalleled.

Matter is book number 8 in the Culture series.
Each book in the series can be read separately from each other and in almost any order, there only being very minor overlaps of presu
This book is a fractal -- no matter how you zoom in or out, the basic structure remains the same. It starts incredibly zoomed in on the three (maybe four) main characters, then proceeds to zoom out. . . and out. . . and out. . . until the story encompasses issues as large as the destruction of a world and the resurrection of a long-thought-dead alien society. But, (I think purposefully) to emphasize its fractal nature, the climax comes in an instant and then the whole story comes crashing back d ...more
Aug 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This novel is a wild ride. It starts off chiefly explaining the Sarl people who live in a society that reminded me of the wild west, complete with cattle rustling (weird space cattle), saloon fights, and the omnipresent question of who's gonna run the ranch (or be the king). It is one of Banks's "Culture" novels and it does quite a lot to explain more about The Culture, for a princess of the royal family of the Sarl was given to The Culture, that conglomerate of "mongrel-utopians", to act in the ...more
Feb 14, 2021 rated it really liked it
Iain Banks, science fiction 🤩. The best word to describe this book is expansive: there are mind boggling alien constructions and Galactic scale history, and of course Banks' visceral characters and fantastic dialogue glue it all together.

The book has two elements that really stood out to me. The first is civilisational progression: young/undeveloped civilisations within the context of a spectrum of more developed ones, and all within the legacy of past civilisations, and Banks does a great job o
Jun 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
Is it really the first Culture novel for seven years? Where does the time go? While 2004's The Algebraist was full of the verve and invention that we nowadays simply expect by right from Banks' science fiction, somehow the absence of the Culture also left it lacking the ideological thrill – the politics of utopia, as it were – that gives a Banks' novel its heart. Hence the cover of my preview copy simply says, 'The Culture is back. Nothing else matters.' A statement I didn't entirely disagree wi ...more
Oct 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
The story is told in linear fashion, which is somewhat unusual for Banks. And it is an old plot, worthy of the Elizabethan Stage, with elements that are somewhat reminiscent of the works of Frank Baum and Tolkien. Does not get five stars from me due to the author's consistent failure to adhere to the laws of grammar and his often self-indulgent descriptions and diversions into matters that add nothing to the plot. But...still a good read.
Storyline: 3/5
Characters: 3/5
Writing Style: 3/5
World: 4/5

Iain M. Banks.... You did it again. The Culture is my favorite sci fi series to date. There's not even a close second-place contender.

Matter is a representative Culture book. That means a far future science fiction universe with species of varying forms and abilities. A universe where historical events billions of years ago are referenced in the same way we now discuss the events of classical Greek history. A time of overlapping technolog
Ian Mond
Jan 23, 2019 rated it liked it
That was a slog.

After eight years of waiting for Banks to write a new Culture novel, I’m sure fans were ecstatic when Matter came out and it was so weighty, the longest ever Culture novel to that point (I believe Surface Detail, the next one, is a little longer). As a fan of Stephen King you’d think I’d be comfortable with door-stoppers, but as I’ve become older, wiser and increasingly impatient, any book that exceeds 80,000 words makes my heart sink a little.

Matter is 180,000 words.

Of course,
Leah Bayer
Jul 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars

I have so many conflicting emotions about this book! Probably because, at least to me, it felt like two books: one with crazy space antics and another featuring political intrigue on a low-tech world. Usually the contrast between high- and low-tech societies is something I enjoy in books (The Dreaming Void, A Fire Upon the Deep) but I am generally not a fan of Iain Banks' more politically driven, almost-fantasy stuff: Inversions is the only Culture book I actively didn't love, for examp
Michael David Cobb
Jan 15, 2009 rated it really liked it

I just completed Iain Banks' latest Culture novel 'Matter'. He is something less of a yarn spinner in this one and I was stalled at page 20 for a while, but by the time I got to page 120, I could tell it was going to be a great story.

Unlike 'Phlebas' which was the second Banks book I read (after the Algebraist), Matter was a bit more predictable. The intrigue from this book comes from knowing in some detail what Culture SC operatives and their technology are capable of. So the drama builds in th
Joseph Michael Owens
4.5 stars

Even pressing on into the final chapter and closing pages, I was going to originally go with a somewhat nebulous ~4+ because I couldn't decide how I felt about the book overall. There is some truly brilliant pieces of fiction at work here and Banks's concept of the shellworld Sursamen — where the vast majority of the book is set — was marvelously executed.

However, as the man who introduced me to the Culture series noted (Kyle Muntz), the book sort of takes ~300 pages to get rolling; a
Chris Infanti
Aug 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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'
David Hughes
Apr 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Banks fans, science-fiction buffs
Shelves: fiction, scifi
Iain M. Banks is the lion of contemporary British science-fiction, and this book fully displays his craft, his style and his unbridled imagination. Like most of Banks's science fiction, it involves his utopian Culture of benevolent hyper-intelligent machines, but the story itself is that of a low-technology society being manipulated to its own destruction by advanced civilisations whose aims it finds incomprehensible -- but which may themselves be only the pawns of some ancient and malign intell ...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)
  • Consider Phlebas (Culture, #1)
  • 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)
  • Surface Detail (Culture #9)
  • The Hydrogen Sonata (Culture #10)

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