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Excession (Bantam Spectra Book) Mass Market Paperback – February 2, 1998

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Product Details

  • Series: Bantam Spectra Book
  • Mass Market Paperback: 499 pages
  • Publisher: Spectra (February 2, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553575376
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553575378
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.1 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (152 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #75,788 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

It's not easy to disturb a mega-utopia as vast as the one Iain M. Banks has created in his popular Culture series, where life is devoted to fun and ultra-high-tech is de rigueur. But more than two millennia ago the appearance--and disappearance--of a star older than the universe caused quite a stir. Now the mystery is back, and the key to solving it lies in the mind of the person who witnessed the first disturbance 2,500 years ago. But she's dead, and getting her to cooperate may not be altogether easy. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

From versatile Scottish writer Banks, another sf yarn about the tolerant, diverse, far-future Culture (The Player of Games, 1989, etc.). The Culture is subtly controlled by prodigiously intelligent artificial Minds, who, Banks intimates, spend most of their spare time navel-gazing. Here, a huge, enigmatic object referred to as the Excession appears in space and interacts with the Culture's energy grid in ways previously considered impossible. Diplomat Byr Genar-Hofoen of the Department of Special Circumstances is sent to investigate--but, sidetracked by beautiful, talented, spoiled-brat operative Ulver Seich and by old flame Dajeil Gelian, it will be a long time before he draws near the object. Meanwhile, certain Minds occupying a vast array of self-controlled spaceships suspect that still other Minds are involved in a conspiracy--but to what end? With the Culture thus distracted by the Excession, the cruel, dangerously expansionist alien Affront seize the opportunity to hijack a Culture battle fleet and start a war that they only gradually realize they've been suckered into and can't possibly win. Brilliantly inventive and amusing--whole sections read like strings of knowing jokes--but a mess: Chattering spaceships with splendid if confusing names (e.g., Not Invented Here and Shoot Them Later) don't compensate for the absence of real characters. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Iain Banks came to widespread and controversial public notice with the publication of his first novel, The Wasp Factory, in 1984. Consider Phlebas, his first science fiction novel, was published under the name Iain M. Banks in 1987. He is now acclaimed as one of the most powerful, innovative, and exciting writers of his generation. Iain Banks lives in Fife, Scotland. Find out more about him at www.iainbanks.net.

Customer Reviews

I liked the book overall, but it took me 300 pages before it was interesting enough for me to read it for long periods of time.
Amazon Customer
I've read all of the science fiction (and most of the "straight" fiction) by Iain M. Banks, and I think that this is the funniest of them all.
David Faldon
As with most Culture books there are many unique and intriguing aliens and worlds that show off Bank's gift for creating the amazing.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 77 people found the following review helpful By James D. DeWitt VINE VOICE on March 7, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Reading your first Iain Banks novel is like nothing else in literature. It's a little like being in the washing machine on spin cycle. You emerge dizzy but refreshed. Machine gun pacing, vivid characterization, universe-spanning cultures and, of course, The Culture. Smug, self-satisfied, hedonistic and vain, The Culture is also bifurcated between more-or-less humankind and Minds, advanced AI's that are not always tolerant of their "meat-based" co-citizens.
More than any other novel of The Culture, this one involves those Minds and, without spoilers, they turn out to be human, all too human. Banks handles very well the problem of writing dialog for beings who are far, far more intelligent and think millions of times faster than we do. As others have noted, it sometimes makes for dense reading, but it is very believable. In some ways, this is a novel about the psychology and motives of Minds.
As always, Banks laces the story with sly humor, word play and wholly believable aliens. The Affront, the most conspicuous aliens in this tale, are a wonderful invention. As always, the structure of the novel itself with its interlacing of different story lines and physical organization is a part of the story itself, although less obviously so than in the earlier _Consider Phlebas_.
The Excession of the title is the focus of the attention of most of the characters in the story, but Banks is far too gifted a writer to make it the whole story. Readers who complain about the ending may be missing Banks' most important point. Perhaps the story isn't so much about the Excession, but how the characters react to the Excession. And maybe the ending is Banks' way of underscoring that point.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 1, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
On vacation, at an idyllic Thailand beach resort with an unexpected library, I got hooked on Iain Banks. It was this book that did it. As the other reviewers say, it's a tad long (i.e. perfect for long holidays and vacations.) And sure, the story does become tangled at times. But it's unbelievably creative and screamingly funny in a sarcastic and cynical way. Think "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe" on growth hormones. (If one is looking for "hard" science fiction, however, this is likely not your book.)

I would buy the book if only to have the complete listing of all the names Banks employs for his glib and sentient starships. These are a catalog of odd-ball word pairings and acidic aphorisms. My favorites - "Ethics Gradient" and "Fate Amenable to Change."

Throughout Excessions, Banks's writing is persistantly imaginitive, heading off in unexpected directions, creating a novel sweeping universe; and frankly is everything I hope for in science fiction. My only complaint is that after reading this book I bought 9 or 10 more books by Banks, and I found none provided the enjoyment that this one did. While the other books are all excellent, they did not bowl me over. Is that because everything else was not as good, or that a reader tends to favor the first thing he reads of a wonderful writer? Judging from the range of responses from other reviewers as to "the best" Bank's book - I am leaning towards the latter.
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34 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Michael Battaglia on October 31, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Most Iain Banks books are challenging reads, it's a credit to the man that he refuses to write down because he's penning SF novels and not the higher profile "literary" stuff that most of the mainstream probably recognizes him for (is he well read in this country, nobody I know has heard of him . . . what's with that?) so what you basically get with the Culture novels is SF from someone who really knows how to write and doesn't just have a degree and feels the need to share this nifty cool idea he had the other day. This book is full of cool ideas but more importantly it's a dense and slightly elusive work . . . while it's not opaque stuff isn't spelled out explicitly for the reader, there are a lot of dots to connect here. The setup is a large object has appeared from literally nowhere and interacts with the energy grip in a way that is supposed to be impossible. But this isn't the first time this object appeared and the only person who is around from that last appearance is Stored in a ship and has to be convinced to come out. That's how the plot starts. Where it ends is somewhere totally different and if sometimes you think you're reading a totally different book, that's just par for the course with Banks. The focus this time around is more on the Minds in the ships, which is good and bad. The Minds are basically human and their rapid fire conversations that take up a large chunk of the book are highly entertaining . . . however it can be daunting for readers unable to keep track of the dozens of names, especially with little strong personality to back up the Mind and make an impression. You may wish for a recap box at some point to make sure you're still up to speed. Still astute readers are rewarded with a plot that twists almost dizzingly . . .Read more ›
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Giles Gammage on March 29, 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback
To keep themselves amused, the super-AIs known as Minds in Iain M Banks's science fiction universe spend their time runing galaxy-sized simulations, a world of make-believe and might-have-been the Minds call the Land of Infinite Fun.

"Excession" is a bit like spending a few hours in Mr Banks's own Land of Infinite Fun; outlandish, amusing, intriguing, but never quite involving enought to let you forget that it's all just make-believe. Po-faced it certainly is not, it's space opera with a wink and a smile, gently tapping on the fourth wall but never quite breaking it.

"Excession" is the fourth book set in Mr Banks's Culture universe. This universe features technology as ahead of own our as the iPod is to the clay tablet, technology taken to its ultimate extreme, capable of building anything, anywhere, in any quantity desired. As a result, the biological inhabitants have long since given control of space ships and habitats (nobody's so old-fashioned as to live on an actual planet) and pretty much everything else to the Minds, a bunch of computers as pompous as Deep Thought, as twiggy as HAL and as serious as a whoopy cushion at a Shriner convention. They are the perfect security blanket for the cosseted inhabitants of the Culture. Together, they can out-think and out-fight anything the galaxy can throw at them.

Anything? Well, almost anything. The word "excession" you see, means something beyond a civilization's ability to understand, or resist should it prove hostile. The Aztecs would understand the concept. The Culture, as luck would have it, may have discovered an Excession, in the form of an impenetrable black globe which may serve as a link to other universes. As an added complication, it's also rather close to a warlike race called the Affront.
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