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The Algebraist Paperback – June 1, 2006

4.0 out of 5 stars 119 customer reviews

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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 (119 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #338,035 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was moved to get this book after my eldest son suggested it to me. Not having read a novel since I reviewed a Hanif Kurehi novel for Vine (Something to Tell You: A Novel I was a little reluctant but once I took it up I felt it hard to put down.

It is offputting to have something charaterised as science fiction when essentially it is a mystery novel set in a distant time and even more distant space. Having said that I was beguiled by the backdrop that Banks set.

The picture he paints is one of a single focal point at the outset, where intricate details are added as in a jigsaw puzzle, adding to, yet not completing the picture. This technique is a powerful one for stimulating one's imagination. I must confess to having the greatest diffulty trying to imagine the appearance of the Dwellers for instance.

Slowly, but surely and relentless, the author continues to add his brushstrokes, causing speculation upon the reader's part as to the possible twists and turns which may be imminent while managing to keep the conclusion hidden behind a veil of ignorance.

This is definitely the stuff of space opera. A gigantic backdrop stretching across light years. Fearsome and loathsome villains and bad guys who cast long and dark shadows, a historical apect stretching back millenia, trechary and duplicity, oppressive governments and cronyism abound.

What is wonderful about this though is how the author keeps the reader enthralled so much that the conclusion still leaps out of the pages of the novel causing the reader to exclaim' "of course" at the end.

I would highly recommend this book.
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