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The Hydrogen Sonata (Culture) Hardcover – October 9, 2012


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Product Details

  • Series: Culture
  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit; 1 edition (October 9, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780316212373
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316212373
  • ASIN: 0316212377
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (286 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #381,262 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"This rich, sweeping panorama of heroism and folly celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Culture, Banks's far-future semi-utopian society.... The action tumbles along at a dizzying pace, bouncing among a fascinating array of characters and locales. It's easy to see why Banks's fertile, cheerfully nihilistic imagination and vivid prose have made the Culture space operas bestsellers and award favorites."—Publishers Weekly

"One of Banks' best Culture novels to date."—Booklist on The Hydrogen Sonata

"It's fantastically good fun that throws in some big ideas about life, the universe and everything, and like the unabashed leftie that he is, Banks manages to get in there a few sizable shots at unthinking, dogmatic religiosity for good measure."—SciFi Now

"Banks's charming prose and the scale of his imagination continue to delight Culture vultures."—SFX

"The Culture, the post-scarcity, hedonistic, Machiavellian, libertarian, arse-kicking science-fiction society created by the late Iain M. Banks...one of the most enduring and endearing visions of the future."—The Guardian

"Incomparable entertainment, with fascinating and highly original characters, challenging ideas and extrapolations, and dazzling action...sheer delight."—Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Iain Banks came to 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 widely acclaimed as one of the most powerful, innovative and exciting writers of his generation.

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

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  • "Writing" 52
  • "Depth" 39
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  • "Funny" 19
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

76 of 90 people found the following review helpful By Keris Nine TOP 500 REVIEWER on September 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The Culture series can always be counted on for showing Iain Banks' writing at its best and the Hydrogen Sonata proves to be no exception to the rule. If we haven't really had the full-on science-fiction ideas combined with explosive action experience since Excession, the series thereafter has shown a certain maturity, slowing down the pace to consider philosophical and metaphysical questions brought up in that book relating to the Other Side, on questions of Life, Death, Oblivion and the nature of what lies beyond the material world. Those questions are to the fore again in The Hydrogen Sonata, thoughtfully considered and brilliantly interweaved into the whole culture of the Culture, but happily Banks' writing and the plot surrounding the story is once again at a dazzling level of wit and brilliance that we haven't seen from this author for a long time indeed.

You might not expect that from the initial premise, where yet another civilisation, the Gzilt, have reached that stage in their evolution where, tired of existing with the mundane realm of matter and energy, they've made the collective decision to Sublime, crossing over to that indefinable place (between the seventh and eleventh dimensions we discover here) where all advanced cultures and civilisations eventually accede and effectively retire. Some are surprised that the Gzilt have decided to make the big jump at this stage in their development, but with only 23 days left until the Instigation, many have already crossed over, leaving only a small remainder of their people to take care of the final ceremonies and housekeeping formalities, fending off Scavenger races and generally dealing with any last minute business that might crop up. Inevitably, one ship turns up with a big surprise for the Gzilt, and suddenly chaos erupts.
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40 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Baslim the Beggar on September 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I do love the "Culture" novels. They represent interesting ways of looking at interactions of alien civilizations. And, of course, they feature the Minds... those AIs who make up the real power of the Culture. I have had many a good snicker or outright laugh at Banks names for the Minds (check Wikipedia for a list). The keen intellects have a taste for whimsy, but a very, very serious side as enforcers for the Culture, especially those associated with Special Circumstances. I am pleased that Banks spends more time now with the Minds. His earlier stories are quite good, but he really has been taking off in the last few books.

My title refers to the fact that when I read some of the text, I hear the narrator from "Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy," especially when Banks capitalizes words in sentences. For example I might write that the story revolves around A Really Big Secret, but when Banks writes something like that, you grin. (Well, I do.) Probably also has to do with Brit phrases creeping in now and then. All good with me. There is definitely a lot of humor in the book. Remember, Luke, Leia & Han in the garbage compartment? Banks goes one better (or should I say worse?) here, and it is perfectly plausible.

The truth about composer's intent for the piece of music called "The Hydrogen Sonata" has such irony as to be both sad and terribly funny. Banks has a lot of nice touches in the book. But the book is, as my title indicates, mostly serious. The humor is secondary or tertiary.

The book is a minor travelogue. Some very interesting places are visited. Imagine a race like McDevitt's Monument Builders, but building on a planetary scale. We visit an Orbital (a Ringworld type object), where in a remote desert section, an AI is building an analog to a waterworks...
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35 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Gabriel Manjarrez on November 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have followed Mr. Banks faithfully since his first book and have never before found him quite so lacking in ideas and character development. Feels like he was on a tight deadline so a lot of the things he was developing in the book get truncated at very awkward, disconcerting or simply silly ways. This book, unlike his others, is almost not at all about humans (or non-AI aliens). It is all about the Minds (his notation for the uber-developed AI's that embody the ships of the Culture) and other AI-like entities. The problem with making it about the AIs is that it feels a lot like a cheat. They are all-seeing, all-powerful and when all else fails they cannot die since they just transmit their Mind elsewhere. Mr. Banks' naming convention around the Minds was an interesting construct for communicating how the Minds are so awesome they don't have to take themselves seriously. Unfortunately in this book he takes it way way farther than what is reasonable and you end up skipping pages and pages of 'email' headers with a long list of nonsensical or tongue-in-cheek names whose Minds then only appear for one or two sentences.

The core (and really only) story line: a super advanced civilization has voted to be Sublimed, passing into the mysterious beyond where high-tech folks go when they are bored of the 'real'. No spoiler here that just days before this event that has been planned for 2 generations is to take place, it is suddenly put in jeopardy because it turns out their main religion was possibly a farce. Big ho-hum. The Minds involved ask themselves "why are we even getting involved?" (I echo the question, though my answer would have been different: 'don't').
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