Gerhard's Reviews > The Hydrogen Sonata

The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks
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it was amazing
bookshelves: 2012, favorites, sf-f

No disrespect to Mr. Banks, but reading a Culture novel is the literary equivalent of watching a Hollywood SF blockbuster ... only with an infinitely better script, and lots more weirdness, sex and drugs.

One of the reasons why Disney is unlikely to buy the film rights to the Culture novels is that a key character in THS is a sybarite with 60 penises grafted onto his body; he also has four hearts to sustain so much convective tissue; the most number of people he has ever had sex with at one time was about 45 ... Of course, Disney could lose the penises, but then where is the fun in that? And the Culture is about fun, man! ... But I digresss.

You would think that Banks would have little left to say about the Culture after ten novels, or begun recycling ideas. The brilliant conceit of THS is the (legendary) existence of an individual with memories of the original negotiations that lead to the formation of the Culture.

This individual also holds the secret to the Book of Truth, the religious artifact underpinning the civilisation of the Gzilt -- a co-founder of the Culture, but which opted out of the galactic petri dish at the last minute, and which is now Subliming.

However, this not only brings out hidden tensions within Gzilt society, but leads to all sorts of interesting revelations and unexpected consequences ...

THS is actually quite thin on plot, and Banks lets the cat out of the bag quite early as to the Book of Truth. However, the joy and art of this lie in the extraordinary world-building, characterisation, mind-boggling action set-pieces and sheer imaginative chutzpah.

... And it ends with one of the most quietly haunting scenes in any Culture novel to date, a perfect modulation of a pitch-perfect novel.

Superb; one of my best reads this year, in any genre.
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Quotes Gerhard Liked

Iain Banks
“One should never mistake pattern for meaning.”
Iain Banks, The Hydrogen Sonata

Iain M. Banks
“One should never regret one's excesses, only one's failures of nerve.”
Iain M. Banks, The Hydrogen Sonata

Reading Progress

November 14, 2012 – Started Reading
November 14, 2012 – Shelved
November 14, 2012 –
32.0% "Reading a couple of really heavy books at the moment, so needed something lighter to leaven the load: wow, this is so much fun, you kinda read it with a big grin on your face (which can elicit strange glances from people on the metro)."
November 16, 2012 –
November 16, 2012 –
November 16, 2012 –
44.0% "Wow. Love the Last Party on the airship in Girdlecity, described as "a five-year-long Debaucheriad". Ain't the future cool!?"
November 16, 2012 –
65.0% "Weird moment at 55% of the Kindle: Cossant is talking to Berdle, when we switch to Scoaliera talking to the drone -- in the same passage. Was a paragraph break omitted in the formatting? Weird."
November 17, 2012 –
November 17, 2012 – Shelved as: 2012
November 17, 2012 – Finished Reading
July 15, 2013 – Shelved as: favorites
January 1, 2019 – Shelved as: sf-f

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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Barbara Eberhart Nice review, I agree completely. and you're probably right about Disney... ;)

zxvasdf I finished this book right after viewing Jodorowsky's Dune... I highly recommend watching. Jodorowosky's ambition of scope probably doesn't come as near as Banks' but this is probably how a Culture movie would look like, naturally minus all (no, some) of the Jodorowsky weirdness.

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