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The Algebraist Paperback – June 1, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Banks (Look to Windward) pulls out all the stops in this gloriously over-the-top, state-of-the-art space opera, a Hugo nominee in its British edition. In a galaxy teeming with intelligent life-forms and dominated by the intensely hierarchical society known as the Mercatoria, the Ulubis system has been cut off from the rest of civilization for over a century as its citizens impatiently await the arrival of a starship carrying an artificial wormhole to replace one destroyed in a previous war. Fassin Taak is a Slow Seer, an anthropologist who studies the Dwellers, the ancient, enigmatic species that inhabits gas giants throughout the galaxy, including Nasqueron in the Ulubis system. Fassin's research contains clues to the existence of a secret wormhole network, one operated by the Dwellers and free from the repressive control of the Mercatoria. Unfortunately, the monstrous ruler of a nearby star system has also learned of this discovery, as has the Mercatoria itself. Now two enormous battle fleets converge on Ulubis, and Fassin must undertake a quest deep into Nasqueron to uncover the Dwellers' secret. This is an enormously enjoyable book, full of wonderful aliens, a sense of wonder and subtle political commentary on current events.
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.


There is now no British SF writer to whose work I look forward with greater keenness The TIMES Confirms Banks as the standard by which the rest of SF is judged The GUARDIAN Explosive Sunday TIMES Gripping, touching and funny T.L.S. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 434 pages
  • Publisher: Night Shade Books; 2 edition (June 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597800449
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597800440
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (108 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #77,921 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

69 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Matt Hausig VINE VOICE on June 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Unlike Iain M. Banks's Culture where machine intelligences are the dominant form of life, the world of The Algebraist has humanity structured as a quasi-religious hierarchy. The various human worlds are connected via gates that permit a limited form of FTL travel, the gates must originate from the same place and be transported at sub-light speeds to their destinations. When a gate is destroyed then the surrounding are is cut off from the rest of the galaxy. It is on just such a system that the story takes place. The protagonist is a part socialogist/explorer/diplomat who is one a chosen few who interacts with the denizens of a local gas giant. The inhabitants of the gas giant have a society far different from humanity, in part due to their lifespans stretching to the millions of years. In this time, numerous empires of the Quick, of which humanity is exemplar, have sprung up and disentegrated. Key among the secrets that the ancients are rumored to possess is a network of gates traversing the galaxy. It is in this setting that the story takes place.
Aside from the adventures of the protagonist within the world of the gas giant dwellers, his home system is threatened by a sociapathic dictator and his invading army. If a weak point had to be listed for this novel it would be that the characterization of the dictator is too over-the-top.
In providing a tour of Banks's new creation The Algebraist does get a bit heavy with exposition. However, exploring the new universe is worth the cost of having a slower story. It is nice to see a fresh environment from the author and hopefully there will be more books in this setting to come.
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46 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Frier on October 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Iain M. Banks is one of the few really gifted writers of sci-fi, and this novel is no exception. The story itself -- a prolonged quest for a secret technology to save an isolated system from a ruthless invader -- seems familiar enough. But, as always with Banks, half the fun is in the telling: the brilliant array of characters whom Fassin Taak (a human "Slow Seer") encounters on his travels. However, as one gradually learns, the actual point of his travels is quite different from what it seems to be at the time, both to us and to Fassin. I won't reveal the secret, of course, but keep your eye on the Dwellers, who understand "the mystery of the universe" far more deeply than the human characters do, and who are, or who at least may be, willing to make a tragic choice in revealing that mystery. See if you can keep up! I have to admit that I was entirely astonished by the ending.

Along the way: the description of the sailboat race on Nasq is simply dazzling. It takes place on the inner wall of the eye of a hurricane! And that's just the premise.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful By dirkman on September 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The Algebraist is an extremely absorbing and enticing novel. Banks writes with a milder style than in his well-known 'Culture' books, but he retains his prodigious imagination, dark humor, and his ability to construct a marvelously complicated landscape without allowing it to obscure the story. Many basic elements and themes of his previous science fiction can be seen in the structure of the work, but the creation is entirely new and original.

Banks' earlier body of work is vibrant, gothic, and faultlessly well written. His crowning achievement 'Use of Weapons' is, IMHO, the greatest science fiction novel ever written (with 'Consider Phlebas' and 'Against a Dark Background' running close behind) and 'Crow Road' is a masterpiece of storytelling. His recent work however, has seemed to stagnate; 'The Business' and 'Look to Windward' were somewhat lackluster even to a Banks-phile like myself.

With 'The Algebraist', Mr. Banks has clearly returned to his groove. He creates a completely new milieu, populated with new characters from his incredible font of imagination, and described with his usual wealth of vocabulary and vision. I highly recommend the book to any fan of well-written fiction (science or no).

I eagerly await his next book which, if protocol holds, will be published by 'Iain Banks' and therefore contain contemporary rather than science fiction. Thank you, Mr. Banks, for another extremely enjoyable journey.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Peter D. Tillman VINE VOICE on December 27, 2006
Format: Paperback
IMB returns to widescreen space-opera in this non-Culture standalone, featuring the galaxy-spanning multispecies, oxygen-breathing Mercatoria empire and its interactions with the more-numerous gas-giant Dwellers, who seem to have colonized most of the jovians in the Milky Way. And they're old. Really, really Old. Plus, exploding spaceships!

The Mercatoria power-structure is rococo Raj-in-Space -- there's a fabulous court scene straight out of Victoria and Albert's coronation in India, featuring the Heirchon Ormilla, the Peregals Tlipelyn and Emoerte, First Secretary Heuypzlagger, and many, many more comic-opera-dressed reps of the Ascendancy, Omnocracy, Navarchy etc etc. Egalitarian Democracy in Space it's not, but looks positively enlightened compared to the Archimandrite Luseferous, warrior-priest of the Starveling Cult of Leseum9, who is Bad. Really, really Bad. And Luseferous is coming to get Ulubis, the detached Mercatorial system which recently lost its wormhole to Enemy Action....

The Algebraist macguffin started out seriously straining my WSOD, but the Dwellers, giant gas-dwelling ammonite-analogs who channel John Cleese (when they're not emulating soccer hooligans), and their party-hearty 'kudo' (= wuffie, reputation) culture, won me right over. OK, they're not particularly Alien-alien, but what the hey? A human Deep-delver is sent to Nasqueron to find an ancient Dweller document, written in alien algebra and revealing a Deep, Dark Dweller Secret. Luseferous got wind of it, too, and Mercatoria Central knows that he knows, and is sending a big-ass fleet to fend him off...

Will the Fleet arrive in time? Will the Secret be found?
Read more ›
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