Howard's Reviews > Matter

Matter by Iain M. Banks
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's review
Jan 22, 2009

liked it
Recommended for: fans of the Culture novels
Read in January, 2009

I enjoyed it and consider it worth reading. In general, I love Bank's sci-fi imagination and the Culture universe. He crafts ancient civilizations and mind-boggling artifacts better than anyone else I've read. In that sense, it did not disappoint. That said, the main characters of the book are not as interesting as some others he's created. Most of the book follows a low-tech, feudal society at war, whose royal machinations and power grabbing schemes were not that interesting to me. The major premise of the book is multi-species management and involvement in an ancient artifact called a shellworld, built by a long-gone race and comprising of a multi-tiered, hollow planet of enormous size. Within the shell world are several low-tech civilizations existing concurrently on different levels. I suppose Banks was exploring how lower tech and higher tech societies can exist side-by-side and whether having a higher technology/more evolved culture is inherently redeemable (which, Banks seems to say, is not). I can't say that theme was enlightening or that gripping to me. I just enjoyed a good Culture yarn with classic Banksian clashes of civilizations and galactic consequences at stake.

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