Chris (The Genre Fiend)'s Reviews > Consider Phlebas

Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks
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I'm all for world-building, taking a novel to largely show us the grand scope of both the author's creativity and the parallels to our own world, past or present. Done properly, an aesthetic or subtextually-descriptive book can make you want to visit a place, or steer clear if it's the kind of hellish setting where one's personal safety is always in question.

Unfortunately, though it was pitched to me as such, Consider Phlebas is not a world-building book. Oh, there's certainly world-building in the book, but it isn't a book about building a world (or, in the case of the Culture, a universe). It isn't a character exploring various corners of fictional creation, nor is it a fish-out-of-water tale regarding the first steps taken in a new world. Instead, it's a book about a protagonist I have little reason to care about (or like), who takes part in a war we barely ever see and only hear mention of in key moments, with a cast of supporting characters in dire need of substantial fleshing out.

Granted, it's still a very good book about those things, and some elements of negativity I can let slide since this was Banks' first foray into the Culture 'verse. The prose is accessible, descriptive and not overly dull. The few settings we visit are genuinely fairly well outlined. The middle portion dealing with protagonist Horza and a clan of religious cannibals is definitely the book's grotesque highlight for me, incongruous as it is to the rest of the narrative.

A number of people recommended I read The Player of Games , the second Culture novel, before Consider Phlebas, and it's a move I'd definitely recommend. The former is brisk, and enough of an orientational foray to the Culture that it made the diving-into-the-deep-end of Consider Phlebas much smoother than it otherwise would've been.

Definitely worth reading, just know what you're getting into.

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Reading Progress

February 11, 2014 – Shelved
February 11, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
March 6, 2014 – Started Reading
March 6, 2014 –
page 24
March 7, 2014 –
page 39
March 8, 2014 –
page 62
March 17, 2014 –
page 103
April 8, 2014 –
page 148
April 17, 2014 –
page 204
April 22, 2014 –
page 239
April 29, 2014 –
page 281
May 26, 2014 –
page 351
May 26, 2014 – Finished Reading

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