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Previous BotM--DISCUSSIONS > 2009-08 Other books by Iain (M.) Banks

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message 1: by Ron (new)

Ron (ronbacardi) | 302 comments Have you read other novels by Iain Banks? What did you think of them?


message 2: by Kathi, Moderator & Book Lover (new)

Kathi | 3088 comments Mod
This is my first and I didn't realize that there were so many "Culture" novels! I thought there were 3 but I think there are 7... I'll be looking for more at the used books stores I frequent.


message 3: by Chris (new)

Chris  (haughtc) I read The Player Of Games several years ago. I remember that I enjoyed it, but that it was a lot of work...


message 4: by Stefan, Group Founder + Moderator (Retired) (new)

Stefan (sraets) | 1667 comments Mod
I've read every Culture novel, some of which are on my all-time favorite list - especially The Player of Games and Use of Weapons. The most recent one, "Matter", was also excellent. Also read the stand-alone "The Algebraist", which I wasn't that fond of, and the non-SF books "The Bridge" and "The Wasp Factory". It's ironic (and frustrating) that my two least favorite of his books, The Algebraist and Consider Phlebas, are the two books we've had as Book of the Month here! I'd really recommend to anyone who didn't enjoy those books to try "The Player of Games" and "Use of Weapons".


message 5: by William (new)

William (williamjm) I've read most of the Culture books (except for Matter).

Use of Weapons is one of the best Science Fiction novels I've read. The quality of the writing is very high and the unusual structure of the flashback chapters is done very well. There's a very effective sense of foreboding, you just know something terrible is going to happen at the end of the novel, but I still wasn't expecting the ending. It is very fast-paced with a lot of great scenes. Zakalwe is a very memorable protagonist.

The Player of Games is probably the second-best book in the series, an entertaining and intelligent novel with an unusual focus on the psychology of playing games.

Excession was also good, although marred a bit by an uninteresting sub-plot. It's probably the best novel for really exploring the full potential of the Science Fiction setting.

Inversions was fairly good, although only loosely connected to the Culture. In many ways, it feels more like an Epic Fantasy novel than an SF novel. Another very intelligent novel, although maybe not quite as entertaining as the best Culture novels.

Look to Windward was also intelligent, but maybe slightly dull at times although it did have its good moments.

I wasn't too keen on The State of the Art, I didn't think there was much of interest beyond the novelty of the Culture encountering 1970s Earth.


message 6: by Stefan, Group Founder + Moderator (Retired) (new)

Stefan (sraets) | 1667 comments Mod
William, I definitely recommend Matter. IMO, it's the third best book in the series (after The Player of Games and Use of Weapons). I was so relieved to read that book - I was worrying that he'd lost his touch after The Algebraist.

I just realize I never read The State of the Art. I wasn't even aware it's a Culture novel!


message 7: by Ron (new)

Ron (ronbacardi) | 302 comments State of the Art is a collection of short stories. I believe only the title novella is a Culture story. Of the other stories, some are sf, some are more horror.


message 8: by Nick (new)

Nick (doily) | 966 comments I have only read "The Wasp Factory" and "Complicity" which are horror/thrillers, and "The Bridge" which is strange, but I guess could be considered sci-fi. I liked the idea of the universe as an endless Bridge coming from nowhere and goin to nowhere. It reminded me of the "Labyrinths" of Borges and how Umberto Eco uses the idea of the world as an endless labyrinth to create encyclopedic works in the mystery genre. I thought perhaps Banks was doing the same thing in a quasi-si-fi genre. But the ending of that book almost worked against its sci-fi nature, questioning the reality (scientific reality?) of what was going on.

I don't know the Culture novels at all. Reading "Consider Phlebas" is being plopped down in the middle of a space opera midstream. (Which is okay, in a Star Wars kind of way.)


message 9: by Lori (new)

Lori I've read most of Banks' work, I love the Culture books even the ones that fall below his par. Player of Games and Use of Weapons are also my favorites, but because I find the Culture fascinating I enjoy all of them and can easily lose myself in that world.

Note I HAVEN'T read his horror books, I've heard The Wasp Factory is excellent but I'm much too susceptible to any creepy factor!


message 10: by DivaDiane (new)

DivaDiane | 172 comments The only one of Banks' novels I've read is the Wasp Factory which amazed me. I've always wanted to read some of his SF and I have Consider Phlebas on my shelf, as well as Matter, neither of which I've gotten around to yet. I hope to read Consider Phlebas before the discussion ends. I forgot that it was up and chose to read something else... Arrgh.


message 11: by Brad (new)

Brad (judekyle) I am a big fan of Banks and I've liked, at least, everything I've read, and some of them I have truly loved. Consider Phlebas isn't his best, but I did really enjoy it. It seems most all of us agree that Player of Games and Use of Weapons are the best.


message 12: by William (new)

William (williamjm) Stefan wrote: "William, I definitely recommend Matter. IMO, it's the third best book in the series "

I do have it on my to-be-read pile (and the non-Culture SF novel Against A Dark Background), will probably read it sometime in the next few months.

State of the Art is a collection of short stories. I believe only the title novella is a Culture story.

IIRC there was at least one other Culture story, called A Gift from the Culture


message 13: by Barb (new)

Barb | 4 comments I read my first Banks novel (The Player of Games) a few weeks ago and loved it. I loved the premise and was intrigued enough by the Culture to give another book a try. I picked up Consider Phlebas (just prior to its selection here) thinking it best to start at the beginning now that I've decided to pursue this series further.

I also read The Wasp Factory recently because I was interested in reading something of Banks outside of the science fiction genre. I have mixed feelings about this one. I think it's well written, but I found it so disturbing I could barely continue reading to the end.


message 14: by Ron (new)

Ron (ronbacardi) | 302 comments Yes, "The Wasp Factory" is really "out there"; I remember being about equally fascinated and disturbed by it. "Walking on Glass" has more of a science fiction feel to at least half of it, but has a fair shocker of an ending; Banks' books often do (like "Use of Weapons"). The writer he seems closest to, to me, at least in his non-SF fiction, is Martin Amis. My own favourites besides those already mentioned are "The Crow Road", "Espedair Street" and "Dead Air".

William, of course you're right, I had forgotten "A Gift from the Culture".


message 15: by Ron (new)

Ron (ronbacardi) | 302 comments Stefan, I agree that "Matter" is an excellent addition to the series. In fact I think "Matter" might be just as good a starting point for someone new to the series, if they're willing to give up chronological order. It gives such a nice overview of the Culture and its place among the various civilizations of the galaxy, while still being a rousing story, that I think it is an ideal entry-point, whereas with "Look to Windward" or even "Use of Weapons" a little foreknowledge helps a lot.


message 16: by Kathi, Moderator & Book Lover (new)

Kathi | 3088 comments Mod
OK, I'm not quite done with _Consider Phlebas_ and have not read any other books by this author. Can someone explain why this book is considered one of his weakest? Plot? Characters?

I'm asking because I think this book is excellent, but as I have said many times, I am not a very "critical" reader, so I'm looking for some insight.



message 17: by Stefan, Group Founder + Moderator (Retired) (new)

Stefan (sraets) | 1667 comments Mod
Well, it's not so much that Consider Phlebas is a bad book --- it's more that some of his others are brilliant, so CP pales a bit in comparison. I read CP a long time ago and don't remember all of the details, but I remember feeling the same way, wondering why so many people said this is his worst book. Then I read "The Player of Games" and "Use of Weapons", and I agreed - CP isn't bad per se, just not as good as some of the others.

It's similar in a way to the Vorkosigan books. I thought the first 2 books were okay, not bad but not great - but then compared to the later books, it's clear how much better Bujold became as a writer.


message 18: by Nick (new)

Nick (doily) | 966 comments Even though I have not read any other "Culture" novels, I agree with Stefan about the quality of "Consider Phlebas." I am only halfway through with it now, and I find it a good book, even an exciting one. But it doesn't have quite the same level of intrigue as the other Banks books I've read. I hate to hear that these stories from the first half of the book end up being sidelines of a sort to the major thrust (if that's what the previous commentators meant). Even though the characters come and go rather fast, I find them interesting, fully formed with only short descriptions, and yet still able to surprise you.


message 19: by Ken (new)

Ken (ogi8745) | 1348 comments Sounds like I wasnt the only one not impressed with The Algebraist. I tried reading that a couple times now and just couldn't get into it.
I have all the Culture books but I have not gotten Matter yet. I have only read Consider Phlebas which I really enjoyed at the time.


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