26 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Another Banks' spin on the meaning of life.,
This review is from: Against A Dark Background (Mass Market Paperback)Vicious stuff; the kind of thing you expect from Banks.
The man is just amazing, an imagination more fecund than anything else I've ever encountered. Like _Use of Weapons_ we have the destructive sibling rivalry, like _Consider Phlebas_ we have a grand tour meeting strange and marvellous things along the way.
But most important, in the background we have the *large* theme. In the end, like the culture novels, this is a book about the point of life. The setting is a planetary system millions of light years from any other star and thus incapable of expanding beyond a very finite space. Given this limitation, civilizations have risen and fallen countless times.
The current system is an extreme version of the 20th century west mixed with medieval times --- wealthy corporations as more powerful than states, excessive bureaucracy and legalism --- but the specific details are not that important. The important issue is the question of should it be changed? And if so, too what? If it should be changed, how much suffering is justified in doing so? And what's the point of change, anyway; the new system will be just one more regime like countless regimes that have gone before.
What makes Banks so interesting (and so unpalatable to many readers) is, of course, that he has no answers to these questions, and that he doesn't have much faith in the stock answers society provides. The bulk of his books, including this one, is essentially, IMHO, arguments by example against the happy pat ways in which society answers these questions when they arise.
What makes this book so upsetting is perhaps that he doesn't even provide up the hedonistic comfort of the culture books, the idea that man is optimized for pleasure and might as well concentrate on that. All we get is a very Buddhist endless cycle of suffering with no escape.
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Initial post: Oct 7, 2012 12:59:35 AM PDT
Kevin Murphy says:
I would ask you to delete this review, or edit it to kill the *major spoiler*. If the thing you mention had been known to me before I read it, my enjoyment would have been significantly reduced.
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