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The Algebraist Paperback – June 1, 2006
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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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Top Customer Reviews
Exploration and mystery drives the story forward as we embark on an adventure into the depths of a gas giant and are introduced to its inhabitants' enigmatic ways. The adventure has its highs and lows as any voyage of discovery does with Banks's wit keeping us entertained as he follows through to its conclusion.
I've seen other reviews that compare The Algebraist to Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark in a derivative way but I think this is a shallow interpretation. While this story does have the epic scale, colorful cast of characters, and treasure seeking aspect of those films, these are really just manifestations of the ancient mythological roots that infuse many great adventure stories.
In the end, Banks tells a gripping tale with characters that are intelligent, sometimes funny, and always interesting to follow along on their adventures. His mastery in conveying the motivations and history of civilizations across the millennia is like a rich tapestry upon which the action takes place. This is an excellent work of adventure and science fiction. I'm greatly looking forward to my next "delve" into another Banks novel.
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.
With no connection to his well-loved Culture series, Banks is free to play and experiment. And with lots of themes to explore, there can be a lot to keep up with, but the pleasures of the book are so great that it always feels worthwhile.
Set in a universe wherein war has disrupted a network of wormholes and reinforced the vast distances between different systems, various factions- all with varying levels of villainy and poor intentions- seek to find out if an ancient race will reveal a secret, far more vast wormhole network of their own.
The ancient Dwellers are perhaps Banks' greatest gift to science fiction. Rather than being wise and remote as we've come to expect from scifi tropes, they are instead boisterous, mad, gleefully violent (especially to their own young), and obsessed with clubs, societies, and most of all hierarchy. They are billions of years old as a society and in some cases individually but their priorities appear to be not a bit more advanced than a crueler version of an Edwardian dandy. And for all that, they are hilarious.
Are they as old as they say they are? Do they have the secret to unlocking instantaneous travel throughout the universe? Well, it doesn't help that they're also notorious exaggerators and serial buffoons.
Who may also possess the most advanced technology the universe has ever seen.