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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a Culture novel, but well worth your time
t doesn't matter what Banks is about--from metaphysical to mystery, science fiction to horror--he's always good. Feersum Endjinn is no exception, starting off with multiple viewpoints and plotlines that weave about each other before reaching a grand conclusion, similar to his earlier The Bridge, but within the style of adventure SF rather than metaphysical fantasy. Just...
Published on December 17, 2002 by Glen Engel Cox

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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Another tough one from Iain Banks
I am very interested in what Banks has to say and how he says it, but I find several of his books, including this one, to be heavy going.
The stage upon which this tale is set is a phenomenally immense "castle", so large that each room is kilometers across, and a person may live in the eye socket of one of the decorative gargoyles.
In addition to...
Published on January 5, 2001 by Hank Schwartz


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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a Culture novel, but well worth your time, December 17, 2002
By 
This review is from: Feersum Endjinn (Paperback)
t doesn't matter what Banks is about--from metaphysical to mystery, science fiction to horror--he's always good. Feersum Endjinn is no exception, starting off with multiple viewpoints and plotlines that weave about each other before reaching a grand conclusion, similar to his earlier The Bridge, but within the style of adventure SF rather than metaphysical fantasy. Just because it's SF adventure, doesn't mean that it's entirely fluff--one sixthe of the book is entirely in a "Riddley Walker-ish" language as seen in the title (a character "writes" phonetically), which is difficult at times to read but is surprisingly not grating. It's just another in Banks' voluminous bag of tricks, and he pulls it off like Harry Houdini.
Stars are disappearing because the Encroachment--a cloud of space dust thick enough to block starlight--is slowly enveloping the solar system. Earth has lost some of its technical maturity due to complacency in the ruling bureaucracy and the departure of former generations. However, there is a computer hive-mind that exists that may have the answers to the coming crisis, if only someone knew how to access it and if the rulers would allow them to do so. As the stars flicker out, and the time to do something--anything--decreases, the characters engage in a political struggle to determine how the crisis will be met.
I was initially disappointed that this wasn't a "Culture" novel, having grown to love the philosophical fun of those books, but quickly discovered that there was much to love here as well. Feersum Endjinn has that joy of discovery that is the realm of good science fiction, wherein everything is new and different, where nothing is quite as it seems, yet everything is also very familiar. And Banks, that fine purveyor of the trick ending, decides to go for obfusication rather than chicanery, and the result is quite pleasing. Iain Banks continues his winning streak, every recent book a grand slam home run.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Feersumly gd, September 20, 2000
By 
Richard R. Horton (Webster Groves, MO United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Feersum Endjinn (Paperback)
At the time of the action of this intriguing novel (which occurs over a couple of days, or several decades, depending on how you measure it), the Earth of the very far future is inhabited by the descendants of those who stayed when most humans traveled to the stars in the "Diaspora". Earth is dominated by an aristocratic class, based in a huge castle, so large that the highest tower extends into space, and the King`s residence, a large "palace", is contained within a chandelier of the greater castle. Ordinary humans are allowed 8 normal lifespans (copies apparently made of their brains` contents at the time of death), after which they are allowed 8 additional "lives" in a sort of virtual reality maintained in the global computer net, after which their personality becomes a component of the AI complex which "is" the net (or "crypt" as Banks cleverly calls it.) At the time of the action, Earth is threatened both by the Encroachment, a dust cloud which will swallow the Sun in a few centuries, and by a virus which is infecting the Crypt. Possible solutions to these problems were left by the humans of the Diaspora, but the means of access to these solutions has been forgotten.
The story is told in four threads, following four main characters: a mysterious, nameless woman, who is soon revealed as a messenger from the Crypt; the King`s Chief Scientist, Hortis Gadfium, who is part of a conspiracy which has been trying to discover the hidden solution to the problem of the Encroachment; an aristocrat and loyal general of the King`s, Alandre Sessine, who is on the point of discovering that the King and his advisors are obstructing progress towards solving the problem of the Encroachment, apparently because such progress is a threat to the status quo, and who is assassinated multiple times, both in real life and post-death virtual reality, for his pains; and finally, Bascule, a young, innocent "teller", that is, one who communicates with the Crypt as part of his job, who is also "recruited" by the Crypt to help find the solution to the encroachment problem.
These four threads are soon seen to be quests which will converge on each other. Much time is spent exploring both the physical and virtual reality of this far future Earth. The resolution is logical and satisfying, and the last line of the book is marvelous.
The strength of this book is the colorful presentation of a truly strange future world. I also found the "Virtual Reality" of the Crypt internally convincing, in a way I often don`t (i.e. I could never really believe in William Gibson`s visions of Cyberspace.) That isn`t to say that Banks has provided rock solid scientific rationales for the elements of this future world: far from it, but he makes us happily suspend disbelief in a lot of unlikely things, partly simply by setting the story so far in the future. In addition, Banks is an excellent and audacious writer. The Bascule sections of the novel are told in a compressed prose, abbreviating words phonetically (like feersum endjinn for fearsome engine), also using numbers and symbols. This is initially difficult to follow, but I picked up on it pretty quickly, and I thought it was vital to providing Bascule an individual voice (one quite reminiscent of Holden Caulfield`s voice, I thought).
In summary, I loved this book. It is "over the top", but in a good way, and Banks makes it all work.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Another tough one from Iain Banks, January 5, 2001
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This review is from: Feersum Endjinn (Paperback)
I am very interested in what Banks has to say and how he says it, but I find several of his books, including this one, to be heavy going.
The stage upon which this tale is set is a phenomenally immense "castle", so large that each room is kilometers across, and a person may live in the eye socket of one of the decorative gargoyles.
In addition to distorting our sense of space, Banks toys with our sense of time by giving humans 8 + 8 lives; 8 in normal reality, and 8 in a virtual reality. Time in virtual space passes at a much much slower rate than normal time.
The characters of this tale inhabit both the real and virtual spaces and times as they work out their own involvements with the impending "Encroachment", and their attempts to avoid a catastrophic end to all life on Earth.
I stumbled along, enjoying the trip but not the struggle. An interesting trip it was, but now on to lighter fare for a while.
Interesting but not an easy read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A well-written (and well-sounded-out) masterpiece, August 4, 2002
By 
Brian Smith "criacow" (Vancouver, BC, Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Feersum Endjinn (Paperback)
My manager basically forced this book upon me. And I'm glad he did. ;) (It wasn't forced, per sé; but he recommended it over and over, and his eccentric tastes quite often match mine.) So I borrowed it last summer, and forgot about it until just a few weeks ago, when I guiltily picked it up, hoping to finish before moving.
Thank you. This book was awesome.
The story is in ten chapters, each of which is broken down into four points of view -- a confused foreigner, the chief scientist, a count in the military, and a young kid with spelling issues. (Other viewpoints come along from time to time--for example, the king.) The story evolves through these four completely separate personae: the Earth is being approached by the Encroachment, which is this bizarre cloud that threatens to block out the sun; the people in power are doing little, it seems, to stop it. The four main characters must figure out who they are and what they're doing; only then do they have a hope of figuring out what's going on and stopping the end of the world.
At least, that's the basic story. I don't want to go into any more detail because I don't want to give things away. :) It's an amazing book, and I give it my highest recommendation.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Terrific SF for non-SF readers, July 23, 1998
By 
This review is from: Feersum Endjinn (Paperback)
I'm not a sci-fi person generally, but I thought this was a terrific, terrific book. Banks creates a spectacularly complete world in which his separate plot lines bend and weave with authority and certainty. I have rarely encountered an author so creative or a fictional world so comprehensive. He demonstrates his total literary mastery, however, in sekshuns writen fonetily, toled by a ok, nun to brite felo hoo seez mutch more than mosst peepul do. Whereas the same technique drove me bonkers in "Riddley Walker", in "Feersum Endjinn" I found myself looking forward to the phonetic sections and the point of view expressed in them. Amazing experience.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It haunts me still, July 21, 2000
By 
This review is from: Feersum Endjinn (Paperback)
I was lucky enought to read Feersum Endjinn in September of 1995, just after it was released. While it was on loan from a friend, it was one of those books that work a certain magic on the dedicated reader's heart- I wanted to keep it because it meant so much to me. If the key to writing a brilliant and effective novel is to interweave lifelike characters, subtle plotlines and innovative ideas, then Iain Banks is possessed of a rare talent. I had been tring to get my hands on a copy of this book for a couple of years when it appeared on Amazon. For goodness' sake- if you read the blurb, you have some grasp of the plot. Forget it. Just buy this one and read it.
Also- extra points for the great title.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Either Brilliant or Dreadful, September 1, 2004
This review is from: Feersum Endjinn (Paperback)
This is the type of unconventionally constructed novel that will split people into two camps, as you can see here in the customer reviews. Some will think it's an absolutely brilliant powerhouse of creativity, while others will consider it dreadfully self-indulgent drivel. When it comes to this novel by Iain Banks, it appears to me that neither of those extreme opinions is right or wrong and it all depends on the reader's particular mindset. I place myself in the middle because I can see both sides of the argument. On the brilliant side, this novel does have an especially strange doomsday scenario brought on by a slow-moving astronomical disaster. The despots in control are more concerned with keeping power than helping humanity avoid the catastrophe, while those who have plans for salvation are branded as dissidents, and imprisoned and tortured in bizarre virtual planes of existence. In this last regard, Banks has created some great examples of virtual vs. base reality, with strange psychedelic twists on space and time that show a real affinity for the classic mind-expansion SF of the late 1960s.

Unfortunately, there is also a dreadful side to this book, especially when the psychedelic feats of Banks' imagination overwhelm the main plot as described above, and the book gets bogged down in the literary equivalent of jam band noodling. And when it comes to the character who speaks phonetically (and based on a thick Scottish brogue to boot), some readers find this to be brilliant wordplay by Banks. Well I find it especially dreadful. The phonetic "prose" is so thick and inconsistent that it took me forever trying to figure out the words being said, as the plot and characters were buried by the sheer drudgery of trying to read. In the end I had little understanding of what this character really had to do with the rest of the story, and this contributes to an unsatisfying and inconclusive climax to the book. That's what brings this potentially awe-inspiring novel back down to the average level, as the brilliance can't quite shake off the dreadfulness. [~doomsdayer520~]
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars shiny experiment, March 24, 1998
This review is from: Feersum Endjinn (Paperback)
Banks is the first writer to really experiment all the possibilities of cyberspace in novels, testing every aspect of it in its more juicy details: clock lag between simulated and real time (the hero connects himself during an very long fall to have some time to think about what to do), avatars, the endless repetition allowed by simulation, the personalization of our environment allowed in the virtual,... Gibson invented Cyberspace and begun to play with the possibilities, but Banks goes much further here. This novel is as excellent as the others of Banks, Culture or not, but in my opinion, this experimental dimension makes it a masterpiece: this novel will count. P@
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A misfire from Banks, March 1, 2009
This review is from: Feersum Endjinn (Paperback)
The ideas, characters, cultures and Worlds in Iain M. Bank's mind are absolutely fascinating and I consider his work to be some of the best available today. "The Algebraist" was an epic journey into foreign cultures and the characters held your attention throughout the entire book. It was my favorite book of 2007.

Feersum Endjinn is a departure from what made "The Algebraist" a successful and enjoyable book. I will start with the core issue, which is the lack of character development and useful narrative. You are introduced to the major characters at a running start with the plot unfolding on the very first page. This pace continues, jumping across worlds and time scales to touch on each of the characters. I enjoyed this storytelling technique when it was used in the Hyperion series and A Song of Ice and Fire, but the characters in Feersum Enjinn are never fully introduced and eventually lost behind silly gimmicks like Bascule's quasi-phonetic account of the story. Whi didd Iain 1/2 to do thss, I wheel nevar no. Maybe it was a great deal of fun to write and he just had to run with it, but I can tell you that it is tiresome to interpret and does not contribute to the development of the character in any way. I didn't have any problems understanding his message, but each time Bascule's chapter began I had to say "this AGAIN?" Many reviews have congratulated Banks on this feat as if it is a stroke of genius for character development. It is a cheap trick that detracts from the already vague storyline.

The story is told in parts by the major characters. The book carries on about each of these character's and the encroachment-related problems they are forced to face for the majority of the book and finally fizzles out without much more than a few linking sentences of "See, there is some cohesion to the story after all" - but it was an anti-climax compared to the teasing and purposely vague 300-page buildup. I wish that I cared how the characters fared or that the world was on the verge of collapse, but Iain didn't provide much enthusiasm to drive the story, and that came through painfully in this book. Save your time and re-read "The Algebraist"
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Passable fare for Banks fans, August 18, 2000
By 
omarbukka (Chicago, IL USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Feersum Endjinn (Paperback)
Iain M. Banks is one of the best living writers of science fiction. At his best, he offers intricate world-building, exciting intrigue, and strong characters.
This book is not his best, and will certainly disappoint many fans of his Culture series. The plot has lots of fantasy elements and boring anything-goes virtual reality sequences. Although he has built an interesting world here, the plot doesn't move along and the characters are often annoying.
Although worth a read for Banks fans like me, if you haven't read the Culture novels, start there first (but avoid at all costs his story of Scottish hippies, "The Bridge").
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Feersum Endjinn
Feersum Endjinn by Iain M. Banks (Paperback - June 1, 1995)
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