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Past Group Book Discussions > Excession - Iain M Banks - Discussions

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message 1: by Simon (Highwayman) (last edited Jan 01, 2013 06:24AM) (new)

Simon (Highwayman) (highwayman) | 4698 comments Excession
by Ian M Banks

Winner of the January Book Selection Competition :


This is my favourite novel I've ever read. For me it epitomises what science fiction is all about.

So why is Excession such a great book?

The first reason is the big idea. Something Banks and other good science fiction authors do is have a big idea at the core of the story. In this case it is an excession event, an object appears that cannot be understood by even the technologically advanced races nearby. The story concerns the effects the event has rather than trying to explore the event itself.

It also has one of the one of the most fun alien races I've encountered - the Affront. Floating gas bags of a cruel disposition they make a fine contrast to the Culture. It also raises some interesting questions about a high technology society that is for the most part peaceful deal with a technologically inferior but much more hostile race. Of course the Culture feature heavily in the story and brings with it some of the more interesting characters - the ship's minds.

Something that struck me as I first read the book is the communications between the ship's minds. To me he really captures the aspects of artificial intelligences as well as making them interesting characters.
Michael


message 2: by Tim (new)

Tim | 9478 comments I tried to read this once before, many years ago. I really don't remember why I didn't finish it. Be good to have another go... :)


message 3: by Elle (new)

Elle (louiselesley) | 7913 comments Lovely choice Michael!


message 4: by Kath (new)

Kath Middleton | 25061 comments I might have a go at this (I've read all the others - comes of being old and reading from age 3!)


Geoff (G. Robbins) (merda constat variat altitudo) (snibborg) | 9052 comments Is this a stand alone novel, Michael? I see it has #5 at the end of it, so am a little puzzled.


message 6: by Michael (new)

Michael Brookes (technohippy) It's part of the Culture series, but they are not sequential books so you can read them in any order. I read Excession before the rest of the series.

I might have to read it again :-)


message 7: by R.M.F. (new)

R.M.F. Brown | 4128 comments Tim wrote: "I tried to read this once before, many years ago. I really don't remember why I didn't finish it. Be good to have another go... :)"

You and me both. Maybe we didn't finish it because it was...bad!


message 8: by Jud (new)

Jud (judibud) | 18537 comments I might give this one a go too.


message 9: by Tim (new)

Tim | 9478 comments Maybe... I'll know when i get to it (chugging through Old Man's War at the mo)


Rosemary (grooving with the Picts) (nosemanny) | 9081 comments I'll give it a go too. It's strange that I love Iain Banks non-Culture novels (in particular The Crow Road which is about as fine a contemporary novel as I have read (and a cracking BBC series with Peter Capaldi and Bill Forsyth!) and The Wasp Factory) but although I enjoy scifi I just cannae hack his books written by the Iain M Banks persona ie the Culture.
Time for another bash at it!


message 11: by Michael (new)

Michael Brookes (technohippy) R.M.F wrote: "Tim wrote: "I tried to read this once before, many years ago. I really don't remember why I didn't finish it. Be good to have another go... :)"

You and me both. Maybe we didn't finish it because i..."


How dare you sir! ;-)


message 12: by R.M.F. (new)

R.M.F. Brown | 4128 comments Michael wrote: "R.M.F wrote: "Tim wrote: "I tried to read this once before, many years ago. I really don't remember why I didn't finish it. Be good to have another go... :)"

You and me both. Maybe we didn't finis..."


I do dare! :) I live in the same part of the world as Iain M Banks, so the threat of an angry knock on the door is always hanging over me!


message 13: by Michael (new)

Michael Brookes (technohippy) So is anyone giving this a try?


message 14: by Jud (new)

Jud (judibud) | 18537 comments I forgot about it!


message 15: by Tim (new)

Tim | 9478 comments It's next on my list, after I finish The Serpent in the Glass (I'm sneaking "our" authors in between other books...)


message 16: by Jud (new)

Jud (judibud) | 18537 comments I've literally just started a book, I don't think it'll take me too long to read so I'll try and remember to read this next.

Excession
Excession
Excession


message 17: by Michael (new)

Michael Brookes (technohippy) Good, good :-)


message 18: by Jud (new)

Jud (judibud) | 18537 comments I started it :o)

the other book I had just started took a lot less time than I expected to finish.


message 19: by Tim (new)

Tim | 9478 comments I get a big chunk of time in the green rom during act 2, so I've managed to get part way trough chapter 3. It all seems a bit random at the moment...

(I do like the ship names - Fate Amenable to Change, Ethics Gradient, Grey Area, Honest Mistake etc.)


message 20: by Jud (new)

Jud (judibud) | 18537 comments I haven't got that far yet. Roll on lunchtime!


message 21: by Jud (new)

Jud (judibud) | 18537 comments I see what you mean tim!


message 22: by Tim (new)

Tim | 9478 comments Another cool ship name in chapter 3: Death And Gravity


message 23: by Steven (new)

Steven | 24 comments I agree with the OP. It's up there as one of my favourite books too, regardless of genre. Banks with the culture manages to encapsulate the expansiveness humanity could potentially achieve if we actually survive long enough to get off this rock better than any author alive or dead. I too think this is his best work either as Iain or Iain M and I've read pretty much all of them. He really nails it with Excession and book is the perfect space opera and has no weak parts.

My recommendation for those that enjoy this would be Player of Games.


message 24: by Jud (new)

Jud (judibud) | 18537 comments I'm finding this a bit hard going, only 20% in. I find myself wanting to do other things than read (which is quite unusual) on the plus side I completed the water temple level in my Twilight Princess Zelda game!

I'll give it a bit longer as it seems to be setting the scene a bit still.


message 25: by R.M.F. (new)

R.M.F. Brown | 4128 comments I've abandoned ship and given up on this book. Not what I was expecting. I wasn't expecting anything, but you get the point!


message 26: by Tim (new)

Tim | 9478 comments I'm nearly halfway through (46%). I can see the strands coming together, and some of the plot threads I'm finding a lot more interesting than others (mainly the ship minds and the drones), but it's holding my interest even if I'm not totally "gripped".

Other places I've read suggest this is not the best/easiest introduction to The Culture, and most recommend The Player of Games as the first book to read.


message 27: by Jud (new)

Jud (judibud) | 18537 comments See, I'm not really in to sci-fi (it must only be certain types of sci-fi cause I liked the Star Trek book I just read but then maybe I only liked that cause I liked the TV show) but I will give it a fair chance. I've only been reading in bits and pieces so maybe just need to sit down and read a good chunk of it in one go


message 28: by Jud (new)

Jud (judibud) | 18537 comments Is one of the ships actually called. 'the anticipation of a new lover's arrival'?


message 29: by Tim (new)

Tim | 9478 comments Almost, it's actually "Anticipation of a new lover's arrival, The". (ie with the 'the' tacked on the wrong end. Some other fun ship names:

I Blame My Mother
I Blame Your Mother
Just passing Through
Serious Callers Only
Full Refund
Not Invented here
What Is The Answer And Why


message 30: by Jud (new)

Jud (judibud) | 18537 comments I think I'm starting to get in to it more now. I like Slein or whatever she is called, the pretty one who is drunk when you meet her


message 31: by R.M.F. (new)

R.M.F. Brown | 4128 comments I'm a massive fan of sci-fi, but I'm struggling with this book.


message 32: by Jud (new)

Jud (judibud) | 18537 comments I'm intrigued by it but it isn't gripping me. I've decided I'll keep going till the 31st (since it's the January book) and then decide if I want to carry on reading or just stop.


message 33: by Tim (new)

Tim | 9478 comments I'm over halfway, so it's downhill from now on! But reading it will get slower as I'm not sat in a green room with nothing else to do...


message 34: by Jud (new)

Jud (judibud) | 18537 comments I don't not like it though, I feel like I should say that


message 35: by Guy (new)

Guy Portman (guyportman) I've never read Excession, I'll put it on my To Read list. Loved The Wasp Factory!


message 36: by Jud (new)

Jud (judibud) | 18537 comments This couldn't be more different to The Wasp Factory, just as prior warning!


message 37: by Tim (new)

Tim | 9478 comments I *really* didn't like The Wasp Factory.


message 38: by Jud (new)

Jud (judibud) | 18537 comments I'm really starting to enjoy excession now. I think it just took me a while to 'get' the ships talking to each other I had no idea what was going on the first time I came across it. I though I had a dud copy and the formatting had gone all squewy.


message 39: by Tim (new)

Tim | 9478 comments I'm really finding the ships to be quite fascinating, and the fact that almost everything has AI, from the drones to the space suits. That aspect is more interesting than the "meat" for me, IYSWIM


message 40: by Michael (new)

Michael Brookes (technohippy) I think Banks does a great job bringing the AI minds to life.


message 41: by R.M.F. (new)

R.M.F. Brown | 4128 comments Tim wrote: "I *really* didn't like The Wasp Factory."

Heretic! :)


message 42: by Tim (new)

Tim | 9478 comments And happy to be so ;)


message 43: by Jud (new)

Jud (judibud) | 18537 comments Tim wrote: "I'm really finding the ships to be quite fascinating, and the fact that almost everything has AI, from the drones to the space suits. That aspect is more interesting than the "meat" for me, IYSWIM"

(IYSWIMTOO!)

Now that I have my head around it, it is really interesting it just took me a while to 'get' that the ships were talking to each other.

I like the way they kind of look on their humans as pets but with next to no purpose. Would be nice to live in times like that if you just get to go round having fun drugging yourself with hormones so you can feel whatever way you want to feel (and, more importantly, wipe out the hangover!)


message 44: by Jud (new)

Jud (judibud) | 18537 comments 82%!

Still getting a bit confused about which ships belong to which group and the odd name and stuff but I think that's more me than anything to do with the book. I'm enjoying it, hopefully finish it today :o)


message 45: by Tim (new)

Tim | 9478 comments You've jumped ahead of me - I'm only at 70%

But I've been editing (that's my excuse...)

It's all hotting up though :)


message 46: by Jud (new)

Jud (judibud) | 18537 comments I'm a pretty quick reader though, which probably explains why I get confused about characters.


message 47: by Jud (new)

Jud (judibud) | 18537 comments I'm finished! Enjoyed it but still a little confused...


message 48: by Michael (new)

Michael Brookes (technohippy) By what out of interest?


message 49: by Tim (new)

Tim | 9478 comments Please, no spoilers - I've not finished yet...


message 50: by Michael (new)

Michael Brookes (technohippy) Fair does - no spoiler tags here :-(


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