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The Hydrogen Sonata (Culture Book 10) [Kindle Edition]

Iain M. Banks
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (284 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $17.00
Kindle Price: $9.99
You Save: $7.01 (41%)
Sold by: Hachette Book Group

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Book Description

The New York Times bestselling Culture novel...

The Scavenger species are circling. It is, truly, provably, the End Days for the Gzilt civilization.

An ancient people, organized on military principles and yet almost perversely peaceful, the Gzilt helped set up the Culture ten thousand years earlier and were very nearly one of its founding societies, deciding not to join only at the last moment. Now they've made the collective decision to follow the well-trodden path of millions of other civilizations; they are going to Sublime, elevating themselves to a new and almost infinitely more rich and complex existence.

Amid preparations though, the Regimental High Command is destroyed. Lieutenant Commander (reserve) Vyr Cossont appears to have been involved, and she is now wanted - dead, not alive. Aided only by an ancient, reconditioned android and a suspicious Culture avatar, Cossont must complete her last mission given to her by the High Command. She must find the oldest person in the Culture, a man over nine thousand years old, who might have some idea what really happened all that time ago.

It seems that the final days of the Gzilt civilization are likely to prove its most perilous.


Editorial Reviews

Review

25 years after Banks's first Culture novel he is as exuberant, slyly funny and mind-stretchingly imaginative as ever SUNDAY TIMES Epic in scope, ambitious in its ideas and absorbing in its execution INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY One of the most enduring and endearing visions of the future GUARDIAN Sharply satirical and packed with brilliant action scenes, this space opera proves British SF's big beard still plays the best tunes BBC FOCUS

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.

Product Details

  • File Size: 848 KB
  • Print Length: 518 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: B00EBEYKNY
  • Publisher: Orbit; 1 edition (October 9, 2012)
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0081BU42O
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #36,793 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
76 of 90 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Banks back on form in the Culture 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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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Knife missiles." October 21, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
I spent the Summer re-reading all the Culture novels, so they're fresh in my mind for comparison. There is usually something that resonates long afterward; a character, a concept, a turn of plot, but why does The Hydrogen Sonata leave me empty?

There doesn't seem to be a problem with narrative drive or pacing. The book zips along and there is plenty of action. It could be the characters. While the primary Mind Mistake Not... is the most fleshed out character, the humanoid protagonist is thinly drawn. There certainly isn't a scene stealer like Demeisen or Skaffen-Amtiskaw in this book. What was the point of the familiar other than a lost opportunity? No other Gzilt had a familiar. Then there is the question of motivation. The entire Gzilt society is behaving (appropriately) like a High School senior class in May, but what is the motivation for everyone else?

The book feels quickly written and disconnected. At this point, if Banks writes a culture novel, it will translate to a certain amount of money. I'd hate to think this was his motivation, but it doesn't feel like it was a story he 'had' to get out of his system.

The Hydrogen Sonata has all the elements of a Culture novel that I'm deeply interested in such as an important musical reference, plenty of chatter among Minds, and a setting that allows for the examination of deep philosophical questions. Does it matter? This question comes up multiple times. Arguably, it is the point of the book. It is also how I feel after finishing it.
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40 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Channeling Douglas Adams, but mostly serious 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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A great culmination of the Culture!
Published 18 hours ago by P. Stafford
5.0 out of 5 stars As always ... brilliant!
Having read all of Bank's books over the years, I feel sad that this is the last one I will be able to read. Anyway, it's a finish in beauty!
Published 21 days ago by JST
5.0 out of 5 stars So good it makes me even sadder
I've loved every one of Banks' science fiction novels. His imagination was unlimited. I loved the names he came up with for the space ships that ply the interstellar spaces in... Read more
Published 1 month ago by J. E. Johnson
4.0 out of 5 stars One of my favorite authors
Iain Banks has done it again with interesting plots. He is truly one of my favorite authors.

I highly recommend this and all of his books.
Published 1 month ago by Daniel Delano
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome but bittersweet
The Hydrogen Sonata is one of the last novels of Iain M. Banks before his death last June. It's also the last "Culture novel," one of a series of essentially disconnected... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Filippo A. Salustri
5.0 out of 5 stars My second Culture novel
I loved the first Culture novel I read, Consider Phlebas which was the first in the series, then I saw this in a bookstore and thought it might be nice to see the last in the... Read more
Published 1 month ago by C. J. Nielsen
4.0 out of 5 stars Great fun, Ending... Eh.
I very much enjoyed reading this; I raced through it, in fact, not *quite* unable to put it down, but almost. Better for me than others of Banks' Culture series. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Gregory F. Pfister
4.0 out of 5 stars A bit better than OK but not the best of the series
I really didn't understand why the Gzilt population was motivated to sublime. They were supposedly the most advance race but by their behavior, they seemed much less advanced. Read more
Published 1 month ago by CWR
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun & good Sci-fi.
Great story & a realistic vision of future AI's. Well-paced space opera which involves space ships guided by "Minds" (AI's).
Published 2 months ago by James D.
5.0 out of 5 stars No More Heroes
I'll miss The Culture. I'll miss Mr. Banks and his odd humanistic view of future utopia. I loved it, wanted to live there, and admired his ability to seamlessly combine brutal... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mad Architect
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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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typography complaint for kindle version
This very thing is driving me crazy. Given Banks's predilection for parenthetical asides (but don't worry, David Weber, your crown is still safe) in close proximity to hyphenated compound adjectives, I'm having to spend too much time distinguishing between en-dashes and hyphens, and it's a... Read More
Oct 17, 2012 by Michael J. Stewart |  See all 3 posts
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