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Surface Detail (A Culture Novel Book 9) [Kindle Edition]

Iain M. Banks
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (164 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $8.89
You Save: $7.11 (44%)
Sold by: Hachette Book Group

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Book Description

It begins in the realm of the Real, where matter still matters.

It begins with a murder.

And it will not end until the Culture has gone to war with death itself.

Lededje Y'breq is one of the Intagliated, her marked body bearing witness to a family shame, her life belonging to a man whose lust for power is without limit. Prepared to risk everything for her freedom, her release - when it comes - is at a price, and to put things right she will need the help of the Culture.

Benevolent, enlightened and almost infinitely resourceful though it may be, the Culture can only do so much for any individual. With the assistance of one of its most powerful - and arguably deranged - warships, Lededje finds herself heading into a combat zone not even sure which side the Culture is really on. A war - brutal, far-reaching - is already raging within the digital realms that store the souls of the dead, and it's about to erupt into reality.

It started in the realm of the Real and that is where it will end. It will touch countless lives and affect entire civilizations, but at the center of it all is a young woman whose need for revenge masks another motive altogether.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Banks's labyrinthine and devious ninth Culture space opera novel (after 2008's Matter) adeptly shifts perspective between vast concepts and individual passions. The blissfully disorganized, galaxy-spanning Culture has fabulous technology that gives human and alien entities freedom to choose who and what they want to be. When sex slave Lededje Y'breq is murdered by a politician on the planet Sichult, the artificial intelligence running one of the Culture's immense starships resurrects her so she can seek revenge. Meanwhile, the Culture is uneasily watching the conflict over whether to preserve virtual Hells for the souls of "sinners" or give them the release of death. Leaping with jaw-dropping speed from character to character and from reality to virtuality, the narrative swiftly pulls these concerns together. New readers may be taken aback by the rapid pace, but fans will dive right in and won't come up for air until the final page. (Nov.) (c)
Copyright © PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Iain M. Banks’s Culture novels, one suspects, won’t be fully appreciated by any but avid SF readers for quite some time, even if the author routinely reaches beyond classification. His world building is never less than spectacular. The AI components of his stories prompt comparisons to Philip K. Dick; his rich backdrops certainly influenced those of Alastair Reynolds and China Mieville. Yet what separates Banks from the ranks of other SF writers is the human component that thrives postsingularity—after technology has made its creators obsolete. Banks’s trademark—big ideas and equally compelling individual stories mingling seamlessly—is on full display here.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1161 KB
  • Print Length: 627 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit; 1 edition (October 19, 2010)
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0046A9NLC
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #55,830 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
106 of 112 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The battle for Hell October 15, 2010
By Ripple
Format:Hardcover
It is perhaps appropriate for a book that centres around the battle for the afterlife to begin this review with a confession: this was my first encounter with Iain M Banks' Culture series of science fiction novels. At first, I worried that this put me at a significant disadvantage as for the first 100 or so pages, I spend most of the time being completely confused about what was going on. However, as the strands started to come together, it became apparent that this is partly Banks' style and indeed it's one he uses in his non-science fiction books too. Keep going, it does come together.

As in his non-sci fi works, Banks juggles stories and characters with dazzling effect. He takes a number of characters whose stories may or may not ultimately come together and switches between their stories. And just when you think one line of story is not going anywhere in particular, he twists it round and it all makes perfect sense. The confusion is compounded by the fact that he is covering both the `Real' and `virtual' worlds, and particularly in the virtual worlds, characters may take on different roles and identities. Sound confusing? Well, it is at first but it's also highly entertaining, not to mention clever.

To the uninitiated, the Culture is a fictional interstellar enlightened, socialist, and utopian society operating amongst other, less benevolent and lesser civilized civilizations. This is at least the eighth book to feature the Culture, which first started with Consider Phlebas featuring the Culture's religious war against the Idiran Empire. We are told that the events of Surface Detail occur a millennium and a half after this war.
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45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Never Say Die October 19, 2010
Format:Hardcover
If you can create an immersive virtual reality indistinguishable from the Real then you can build Heaven ... or Hell. Inevitably some civilizations will build their own Hells, to punish sinners and encourage the virtuous. Equally inevitably, other civilizations will want to abolish these virtual arenas of unending torment.

In "Surface Detail", Iain M. Banks' new Culture novel, there is a war in progress on this very issue. Waged for decades in virtuality, the losing side is preparing to cheat and move the war into the Real. Suddenly this issue could drag everybody in.

This novel of 627 pages provides plenty of space for a multitude of story lines to develop and coalesce as the big picture comes slowly into focus. We start, in medias res, with the tattooed girl Lededje fleeing her overbearing boss. We cut to the conscript Vatueil, part of a mediaeval army besieging a castle in an opaque war. We cut to an overwhelming `equivalent tech' assault upon a Culture Orbital and meet Yime Nsokyi fighting in the last ditch. Not all of these events are happening in the Real.

It's a challenge to write compelling descriptions of Hell: how many words for torment are there in the language? How many gruesome tortures do you need to describe? How can you get the reader to empathise with suffering? Banks' solution is to apply a paced plot-driven structure to excursions into the netherworld: we encounter agonies from repeatedly unexpected directions.

Towards the end, as battle fleets assemble, the novel picks up pace and Banks has a lot of fun with the Abominator Class General Offensive Unit "Falling Outside The Normal Moral Constraints". This is a ship which could probably destroy a whole galactic spiral arm without really trying and boy, does it waste the bad guys!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
To say that Iain M. Banks opted to forsake modern literary fiction merely to write epic space opera science fiction novels within his acclaimed "Culture" universe, would be making light of him as a writer and criticizing his rationale for abandoning mainstream literary fiction. In plain English, to borrow William Gibson's phrase, Banks felt science fiction had a much better "tool kit" to tell epic tales rooted in morality and philosophy than contemporary mainstream literary fiction. He didn't abandon mainstream literary fiction merely to write genre fiction that would displease many hard-nosed literary critics and writers who remain dismissive of science fiction and fantasy. Instead, he effortlessly combined the convention and style of literary mainstream fiction with the toolkit of science fiction, producing a memorable body of work that will be hailed and remembered as the finest literary space opera science fiction ever written, and demonstrating that, at the time of his death from inoperable cancer on June 9, 2013, he was still among the most important voices in contemporary Anglo-American literature irrespective of genre.

"Surface Detail", one of Banks's last "Culture" novels, is definitely among his best, memorable as a riveting epic tale of revenge and murder played out in the far reaches of Culture-dominated space, replete with ample digressions into faith, philosophy and politics. Banks gives readers a most riveting meditation on the natures of reality and individuality, cloaked in a fast-paced thriller-tinged space opera.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic read, even better the third time
Have read all the Culture novels two to three times. Truly amazing writer, what a great shame it was to lose him. He re-energized my interest and love of Science Fiction.
Published 11 days ago by Brian Keith
4.0 out of 5 stars Bought for friend
Bought for friend. He enjoyed the book
Published 14 days ago by Brandon Rundquist
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointingly disjointed and heavy going
As an enthusiastic follower of modern British sci-fi, I've been reading Iain Bank's Culture novels since the first publication of `Consider Pleabas'. Read more
Published 19 days ago by Willy Eckerslike
4.0 out of 5 stars This Culture novel considers the consequences of digitization of the...
This Culture novel considers the consequences of digitization of the soul; when the mind can be imprisoned in virtual environments outside the scrutiny of responsible society for... Read more
Published 29 days ago by SciFi Kindle
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Sci Fi!
Can't get enough of the "Culture" series from Ian M. Banks.
Published 1 month ago by M. Baer
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent Culture novel - perhaps the most enjoyable for me ...
An excellent Culture novel - perhaps the most enjoyable for me - as good or better than Use of Weapons and Excision. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars I like it.
Gone through.....about a third.....I like it.....Iain Banks is a good sci fy writer....
Published 1 month ago by Jesus Riesco
5.0 out of 5 stars Not every species thinks such a Culture is good. One very advanced...
Go live on an orbital, or travel the galaxy in a GSU. You'll be one of trillions of post gene enhanced humans living a life of luxury and personal freedom. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Ken Brody
4.0 out of 5 stars It also provides a very good look at a new
Surface Detail offers a satisfying dynamic between societies intermingling from different socio-political backgrounds. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Brian Tarver
5.0 out of 5 stars Those who enjoy taking forays into the richly-imagined Culture...
Those who enjoy taking forays into the richly-imagined Culture universe will not be disappointed by this book. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Reid P.
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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.


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Preferred reading order of Culture novels?
There is no chronology to the stories, as far as i'm aware, although Surface Detail links subtlely back to Use of Weapons. You could separate them as pre and post-Idrian war, but it's not necessary. I'd advise reading them in order of publication: The first four on your list are excellent. The... Read More
Jan 31, 2011 by Sera69 |  See all 8 posts
Kindle Version
The american kindle version had no formatting errors.
Jan 27, 2011 by Alexey Malafeev |  See all 3 posts
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