To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.
Matter (Culture) Paperback – February 10, 2009
|New from||Used from|
A network of beacons allows ships to travel across the Milky Way at beyond the speed of light. The beacons are built to be robust. They never fail. At least, they aren't supposed to. Learn more
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
More About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
This book has a very complex plot and a huge cast of characters. The Glossary and Cast of Characters alone are nearly 20 pages. To simplify greatly, the story follows three characters: the two sons and single daughter of King Hausk, lord of Sarl, a technologically backwards (approximately 19th century) land inside a "ShellWorld"...an ancient, artifical world of nested levels like Russian dolls, complete with nuclear suns and a variety of unique landscapes. The daughter (Djan) has long been away, adopted into the Culture and recruited into Special Circumstances. When their father is killed, one brother (Ferbin) flees their home looking for help from another SC agent who once helped their family, or failing that, his sister. The other brother (Oramen), unaware of his brother's fate or the great personal danger he is in, stays behind as prince Regent. Meanwhile Djan is travelling home upon hearing of her father's death.
Ferbin travels outward: literally out of the interior of the Shellworld, out into space; and figuratively outward from a cultural backwater into the enormous domain of the Culture. Meanwhile, Djan is following the opposite course, inwards from the expanses of the Culture to her old home. While Banks does an excellent job of developing the unique personalities and backgrounds of the 3 characters, they are primarily used to reflect on the universe he has created.Read more ›
Overall, I enjoyed it a great deal. Structurally, it has a familiar pattern: three journeys, party in space but mostly of self-discovery, that lead up to a singular point of crisis. Sounds a bit like "Lord of the Rings", doesn't it? Unlike "LotR", the protagonists are three siblings, but as in Tolkien's work the journeys are the main point of the tale. The revelation of the true nature of the crisis, and the climactic confrontation, are compressed into the last few pages. The dénouement is crudely perfunctory; a brief epilogue that follows an appendix, and almost seems to parody the close of Tolkien's "Return of the King".
Although the narrative is populated with familiar elements from earlier "Culture" novels, "Matter" keeps scratching some of the itches that affected Banks in "The Algebraist". There is a cynical undercurrent about the illusion of "progress", together with a determined attempt to destroy any comfortable identification that we might make between ourselves and any particular part of his menagerie. Perhaps you remember the wonderful quote by Sir Martin Rees, the British astronomer:
"It will not be humans who witness the demise of the Sun six billion years hence; it will be entities as different from us as we are from bacteria."
Banks confronts us with a universe whose population spans a vast spectrum of capabilities, of intentions, of possibilities.Read more ›
I wish I could tell you that "Matter" is a book that epitomizes everything Banks does best, but in fact it's the opposite: slow-moving, un-focused and just plain sloppy. It really feels like Banks phoned this one in.
The plot revolves around a 'shell-world', an artificially constructed world that is in onion-like layers, each 'level' inhabited by a different race. Way down on the 8th and 9th levels are the Sarl, a pre-industrial, war-like civilization. The book primarily follows the adventures of two princes and one princess of the Sarl. The girl has grown up in the Culture and become an agent of Special Circumstances. She is returning home after hearing their father has died. Meanwhile one of her brothers is on the run after being the sole witness to his father's assassination by his closest friend. The other brother is now the presumptive heir to the throne and must deal the requisite web of politics and intrigue.
First nitpick - if you're a fan of the Culture, you're going to be bored to tears by the Sarl, and they take up at least half the book. Banks has made every alien race that surrounds them fascinating and mysterious, but instead of hearing more about the aliens we get Sarl Sarl Sarl.
Second, the plotting is just sloppy. There is a major subplot about the growing tension between two leaders, one who is virtuous and one who is villainous.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Culture tale intrigue and feudal lords within an alien world composed of shells that are set within each other. This book was a $0.99 special that was worth $15.Published 1 month ago by James M Stiles
This one has one of the more conventional plots of any Culture novel, closer to Player of Games in this respect than the head scratcher of Excession or the temporally odd structure... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Ethanator
Iaim M. banks deserves a listing in the Science Fiction hall of fame "Killer B's". This book was like all of the "Culture" series of books, in so much that there is... Read morePublished 4 months ago by HAL
You can see the increasing complexity and skill of Banks' writing as you go through the Culture series. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Matthew Skau
All the Culture novels are great, but this is by far my favorite because the setting combines the worlds of medieval fantasy with the Culture's hard sci-fi. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Captain