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Consider Phlebas
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message 1: by Nic, Wormhole Technician (last edited Jan 14, 2017 02:15PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nic Margett (enn_eye_cee) | 336 comments Mod
I'm a huge fan of Iain Banks and I thought this would be a good book for anybody not familiar with his work to ease you into The Culture universe. I'm currently reading a different Banks book but I might re-read this if I get the time.

This was the first science fiction book that I ever read and it made a huge, lasting impression on me. After reading this I went on to devour the rest of his books, and I’ll be re-reading them all for years to come!

Anyway, on to Consider Phlebas! This is the first book from The Culture series, but it’s somewhat different to the rest of them, being set over 500 years before any of the other books, during the Idiran War. This book differs from the other Culture books in that it is primarily told from the viewpoint of somebody from outside the culture, namely Horza. I really enjoyed Horza as a protagonist, typical of Banks’ books, he’s a far-from-perfect lovable rogue with the added bonus of being a shape-shifter, too. I really enjoyed following Horza through his various antics, particularly chapter 6, ‘The Eaters’, which is typical of Banks’ macabre imagination.


message 2: by Paul, A wanderer in unknown realms (new)

Paul | 3334 comments Mod
At Gollancz fest this year on eof the more intereating discussions was on Utopia in the Culture novels and a lot of stuff on how great this book and series is.
I will try remember what I can from the discussion .


Ryan I'm on this.


message 4: by Nic, Wormhole Technician (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nic Margett (enn_eye_cee) | 336 comments Mod
I suppose it's worth noting that Banks' books can be quite difficult to get into; he just loves the slow reveal! He has a habit of starting off books with a whole load of stuff that might make you feel like you've missed something. Just hold on! All will be revealed!


message 5: by Sandy (last edited Jan 07, 2017 06:49AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sandy | 978 comments Well Nic you are absolutely right about that slow reveal thing. Not sure I really like any of these characters yet. Although the girl thinking about mountains seems to be an interesting character. Can't remember her name because I am listening to a recording of the book.

Had to slow it down to below normal speed because the reader was reading so fast I couldn't keep things straight. Had to restart again. ;-) Much better now at least I know who the characters are.


Shawnie | 1171 comments I really like Horza. I like the parts where he is exploring his thoughts on the various women in his life. It seems that as he's in deep sh*t and pondering, he realizes the ladies in his life were a bit more important to him than he thought. lol Yesterday I read Ch 6, The Eaters. Wow, that was quite creative and gross. I was picturing Jaba as the super fat leader. When he falls off his litter and squishes First, and First's skinny legs were twitching, I was laughing. Now I'm on to the "Danger" game.

I'm reading this as an ebook, but I do listen to a lot of audio books. I've had to cut out the more complicated SciFi from audio. I found I lose a lot of details in the more complicated stories.


message 7: by Nic, Wormhole Technician (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nic Margett (enn_eye_cee) | 336 comments Mod
I've never listened to an audiobook before, but I imagine it would be quite difficult to follow a lot of complex SF books, especially because of the names of characters.


Ryan Damn this guy can write action scenes.


Sandy | 978 comments Nic wrote: "I've never listened to an audiobook before, but I imagine it would be quite difficult to follow a lot of complex SF books, especially because of the names of characters."

You know I am beginning to think the same thing.

Although the action scene in Chapter 5 was read so fast, even on a slower speed - really could see everything. Ryan totally agree with you.


message 10: by Nic, Wormhole Technician (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nic Margett (enn_eye_cee) | 336 comments Mod
Ryan wrote: "Damn this guy can write action scenes."

Yeah, that whole section on the orbital is just brilliant.


message 11: by Ryan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ryan 'Your threatened cruelty has convinced me, human.'

Haha excellent.


Shawnie | 1171 comments I just finished. Oh my gosh!!! This book is the SciFi equivalent to Game of Thrones. The last fight scenes with the trains, the Idirans, Horza... wow. He writes so I can visualize the whole thing and feel the stress. My adrenaline is still up. HAHA

I was in shock over Yalson. And felt some relief when Balveda was able to get Horza and Unaha-Closp back to the ship. And then devastation. I sat and stared at my book for a couple minutes to digest it.

I liked the files at the end. It was great to know the war motives and how everyone "ended." I had a sneak peek at the next book and will definitely read it.


message 13: by Ryan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ryan I just finished too Shawnie, and my thoughts mirrored yours. Extremely intelligent scifi.


message 14: by Nic, Wormhole Technician (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nic Margett (enn_eye_cee) | 336 comments Mod
Glad you both liked it!

I'd say that if Banks had a fault, it would be his endings. I think, if anything, it was Banks' books that taught me a book is about the whole journey, not just the ending! Consider Phlebas is definitely one of the better endings, though.


Sandy | 978 comments I too just finished and I had the same thoughts as Ryan and Shawnie. I just didn't get the motivation of the Idirans though. They both were trying to get the same results - the mind away from the culture. Very very well written, but not my favorite ending - exciting though it was. The author can certainly write a good battle scene. I very much liked Horza but thought that scene with his lady and himself seemed a bit off where he was told the good news. She rang a bit odd to me, not the hard nosed fighter she was supposed to be.


Shawnie | 1171 comments True, Sandy. Both Yalson and Horza unexpectedly turned a bit giddy after the good news. In my mind I explained it away as both of them being thrown and excited because it was the last thing they thought possible. I enjoyed the brief time that Horza had thinking he would no longer be alone in life. That's a big part of why the ending was so devastating for me. I wanted a Happy Ever After for Horza and his new family.

I was also really hoping that Horza would somehow have a reunion with Xoralundra (sp? his old Idiran general "friend").

Easy in, easy out!! ;P


message 17: by Lel (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lel (LelSpear) | 1167 comments Nic wrote: "I suppose it's worth noting that Banks' books can be quite difficult to get into; he just loves the slow reveal! He has a habit of starting off books with a whole load of stuff that might make you ..."

Im glad you said that, im about 20% through and feel like I have no real clue who is who and whats happening so far.


message 18: by Lel (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lel (LelSpear) | 1167 comments Im going against the flow with everyone on this one. I didnt really get it I have to say. The characters did not appeal to me in the slightest, I know you dont have to like all the characters but there wasn't one that I thought 'your an ok person'.

I'm also not a fan of books that take well over half of it for me to catch on to what is happening. I understand the need for a slow build up in a ten book series but it just seemed all over the place until I got to about 60%.

However, I did like the action and the big train scene. I could imagine that making an amazing film that may be a better way for me to get into this particular series.

If the second book came up as a group read I would read it, but not cause I have picked it out as something to read on my own.

I dont know if I just had too higher expectations after loving The Wasp Factory and it seeming to be well received. But not a book for me i'm afraid.


message 19: by Roger, Knight Radiant (new) - rated it 3 stars

Roger | 1791 comments Mod
Lel wrote: "Im going against the flow with everyone on this one. I didnt really get it I have to say. The characters did not appeal to me in the slightest, I know you dont have to like all the characters but t..."

I'm with Lel on this one, I kept waiting for it to get good, but it never did for me. The biggest annoyance for me was that the entire beginning to get to Schar's World was almost just filler, it starts out as a book talking about a big war between the Culture and the Idirans and then it's 400 pages of space voyage that seems unnecessary...and then we get 5 pages at the end explaining the entire war.


message 20: by Lel (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lel (LelSpear) | 1167 comments Roger wrote: "Lel wrote: "Im going against the flow with everyone on this one. I didnt really get it I have to say."

Yeah! not on my own! that makes me feel a whole lot better!


Sandy | 978 comments Shawnie wrote: "True, Sandy. Both Yalson and Horza unexpectedly turned a bit giddy after the good news. In my mind I explained it away as both of them being thrown and excited because it was the last thing they th..."

Wasn't Horza reunited with this old girlfriend on that icy planet? I thought that was part of the reason he was so ticked with the Idirans.

And I too wanted a happy ever after ending.


message 22: by Roger, Knight Radiant (new) - rated it 3 stars

Roger | 1791 comments Mod
Sandy wrote: "Shawnie wrote: "True, Sandy. Both Yalson and Horza unexpectedly turned a bit giddy after the good news. In my mind I explained it away as both of them being thrown and excited because it was the la..."

Yes, his old girlfriend was one of the dead changers they find.


message 23: by Roger, Knight Radiant (new) - rated it 3 stars

Roger | 1791 comments Mod
Lel wrote: "Roger wrote: "Lel wrote: "Im going against the flow with everyone on this one. I didnt really get it I have to say."

Yeah! not on my own! that makes me feel a whole lot better!"


I'm not sure if I want to read the next book since it is quite a bit different (from what others have said here).


message 24: by Rick (last edited Jan 25, 2017 09:56AM) (new)

Rick | 102 comments For those for whom Phlebas didn't resonate... I get you. Read The Player of Games.

I've read the entire Culture series and while I see the appeal of the first book it is, I think, a hard introduction to the series. Player is a much better intro book - in many cases I've had people come back to me and say things like "I wasn't going to read more of the series because of Phlebas, but you're right, Player was very different..."

Something to know is that the Culture books are NOT a series in the standard fashion. They're stories told in the world of the Culture, but they do not form an overall arc nor are there sub-arcs with trilogies etc. I do think you'll get a better experience reading roughly in order of publication but it's not required with a couple of exceptions (you won't understand a reveal in Surface Detail without having read Use of Weapons for example). Some concepts reappear in several books (the ideas of drones, the concept of Minds, etc) and there are some characters that appear in more than one book, but it's not a series in any meaningful way, so if you don't like a given book, you might like others.

To me, the Culture books are one of the preeminent SF works in the last generation. Try Player if you didn't like Phlebas.


message 25: by Roger, Knight Radiant (new) - rated it 3 stars

Roger | 1791 comments Mod
Rick wrote: "For those for whom Phlebas didn't resonate... I get you. Read The Player of Games.

I've read the entire Culture series and while I see the appeal of the first book it is, I think, a ..."


I'm trusting you here.....


message 26: by Rick (new)

Rick | 102 comments Try Player. If you don't like it then you're unlikely to like the Culture stuff in general which is fine (PHILISTINE!! :) ) As an unabashed fan of the Culture novels, Phlebas is my least favorite read even though I understand the appeal... I know others for whom it's their fave.


message 27: by Ryan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ryan How would you say Consider Phlebas differs from the others?


message 28: by Rick (last edited Jan 25, 2017 12:58PM) (new)

Rick | 102 comments Phlebas focuses on Horza and others in a very small, very contained section of the Idiran/Culture war. You don't really have a sense of the larger Culture at work. In Player, we're exposed to several aspects of the Culture right off (that they casually design and build orbitals, effectively habitats like Niven's Ringworld), that the Minds really run things but that there's a hierarchy and interdependency with drones and humans, that the Culture is involved in a more complex galactic society with varying civilizations at widely varying stages... and more. For example, what's life about when you can have anything?

The books are all quite different, though. Some themes run through several... Use of Weapons for example looks at the issue of how, when and whether to interfere with other civilizations, Look To Windward looks at the effects when things don't go right, etc.

Player, though, is a good representation of them. If someone liked Player I'd continue. If they really disliked it, probably not.

Common to many of the books is a look at what life means and how we give it meaning, at the responsibility of the strong toward the weak and at the limits of power.


message 29: by Roger, Knight Radiant (new) - rated it 3 stars

Roger | 1791 comments Mod
Rick wrote: "Phlebas focuses on Horza and others in a very small, very contained section of the Idiran/Culture war. You don't really have a sense of the larger Culture at work. In Player, we're exposed to sever..."

THanks for the info Rick, it is appreciated.


message 30: by Ryan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ryan Yeah thanks Rick. I'm keen to continue this series. Or 'series'.


message 31: by Rick (last edited Jan 26, 2017 10:12AM) (new)

Rick | 102 comments Happy to help. I think you'll find that it's best to read in rough publication order even though it's not a single story told over the series and while I like all of the books, I do have favorites - it's a pretty diverse set of stories so don't feel like "oh, I didn't like that one, perhaps the series isn't for me" - feel free to simply try another book. As I noted, I think people who don't like Phlebas OR Player might not like the series, but if you like one of those, continue on.

PS: a note on Use of Weapons specifically as the structure of that confuses some people. Banks is telling two stories in that book and the chapters switch back and forth. BUT... one story is told in regular time from the past to the future of that story. The other story is told in reverse, from its future to its past. It sets up a reveal in the last chapter and is a really nifty literary device but it helps to know what's up as you read it.


Shawnie | 1171 comments Thanks for the info! I really liked Phlebas and plan to continue on.


message 33: by Rick (new)

Rick | 102 comments You all have corrupted me. I don't have the early Culture books in ebook form and now I'm forced (FORCED I SAY) to buy them since I've decided to do a full re-read of the series.


Efrat | 78 comments I liked the book, and I have Player. Who's going to read with me?


message 35: by Nic, Wormhole Technician (last edited Jan 31, 2017 05:58AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nic Margett (enn_eye_cee) | 336 comments Mod
Roger wrote: I'm with Lel on this one, I kept waiting for it to get good, but it never did for me. The biggest annoyance for me was that the entire beginning to get to Schar's World was almost just filler, it starts out as a book talking about a big war ..."

Obviously we all have our own opinion about books, but I'm not sure exactly why you thought this, Roger. The war is just the setting, the book is about Horza's part in it. I see you still gave it 3 stars though, you must have at least liked some of it!

I'd echo Rick's sentiments, though, in that Player of Games is a better book, and not to give up on the Culture until you've sampled its delights! I would also suggest reading them in roughly published order - pretty much why I suggested reading this one first. Even the people here who liked it mostly gave it 4 stars - so far, anyway - but I love this book. Banks' books are the yardstick by which I measure all sci-fi, and probably always will be.

I'm really hoping another author will continue to write Culture books. When I first read Jack Glass I thought that Adam Roberts could possibly write in Banks' style.


message 36: by Roger, Knight Radiant (new) - rated it 3 stars

Roger | 1791 comments Mod
Nic wrote: "Roger wrote: I'm with Lel on this one, I kept waiting for it to get good, but it never did for me. The biggest annoyance for me was that the entire beginning to get to Schar's World was almost just..."

I thought that because of the prologue where it explains the Mind getting free and then it goes to Horza who is embroiled in a mission for the war and the first action scene is a battle scene. So that got me geared up for a war book where there would be action of two parties racing to get to the Mind. Then the segments that cut to the genius of the Culture figuring out what Horza was going to do reinforced that.

That wasn't what you got at all, it's more along the lines of A Long Way to A Small Angry Planet, but with characters that aren't anywhere as interesting as the ones in that story.

I gave the story a three because that's my usually rating for a story that I am indifferent about, I don't care enough to actively dislike it which would give it a 2 and I didn't DNF which is an automatic 1 for me. I came real close to DNFing it so maybe a more appropriate rating for me would have been a 2.


message 37: by Rick (new)

Rick | 102 comments Just to be clear on the war thing... none of the Culture books are action SF. Some of them HAVE action, but they're all about deeper issues than "our side good, their side bad, let's fight in space!" - when there are space battles Banks right points out that humans and our reaction times aren't cutting it - the Minds do the fighting at microsecond timescales.

The Idiran war is, in many ways, an event that rallies the Culture out of its complacency and challenges it at its core. The Culture is fine with AI, with easy modification of base humans, group minds etc. AI Minds in fact run the Culture. The Idirans find this abhorrent and utterly reject it. Thus, though the Culture is by nature pacifist, they're forced to defend themselves not only because they're physical survival is being threatened, but their very reason for existing, who they are and their deepest beliefs are also under attack.


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