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Consider Phlebas (Culture) Paperback – March 26, 2008
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Attention Science Fiction Fans
Man vs. machine, humans vs. aliens, paranormal activities – discover the best of science fiction with these collectible books. Learn More.
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From Library Journal
In the midst of a war between two galactic empires, a shapechanging agent of the Iridans undertakes a clandestine mission to a forbidden planet in search of an intelligent, fugitive machine whose actions could alter the course of the conflict. Banks ( Walking on Glass ) demonstrates a talent for suspense in a new wave sf novel that should appeal to fans of space adventure. For large sf collections. JC
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Banks is a phenomenon: the wildly successful, fearlessly creative author of brilliant and disturbing non-genre novels, he's equally at home writing pure science fiction of a perculiarly gnarly energy and elegance William Gibson There is now no British SF writer to whose work I look forward with greater keenness THE TIMES Poetic, humourous, baffling, terrifying, sexy - the books of Iain M. Banks are all these things and more NME --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Let's start with The Culture: Extremely advanced utopian conglomeration of pan-humans, aliens, and machines enjoying all life has to offer facilitated by the most advanced AI's in the galaxy. There's many goings-on.
Consider Phlebas is the first of the Culture series, and I feel the most experimental. Banks shows us the peace-loving Culture at what they subsequently consider the worst part of their history, during a galactic war with aliens who are bent on domination. This book shows you the Culture through the eyes of an outsider, which is why this review is titled "An appetizer..." as the Culture is much broader than is stated in this novel. The main character has their own agenda and doesn't like the Culture very much. This causes some friction.
This book is not the best one of the series in my opinion, however it gives you an introduction to the Culture and the events which shape discussion throughout the rest of the series. There's many interesting plot points and situations that the main character gets into, of different varieties. One feature I appreciated about this book, is how it takes place in the far future, however does not alienate the reader with unexplained strange terms or technologies. In addition, people still behave like people, have human thought-processes, and are relatable. This is not to say there isn't unique, interesting, and enjoyable strangeness. Some will tell you to skip this book, or start with another. I'd say read them in published order for an interesting experience. Before beginning this series, I had no idea what to expect, however the rave reviews from fellow Sci-Fi fans brought a copy to my door, and led to reading all 10 books in succession (or Excession??).
Next up is the second book, "The Player of Games" which really starts getting into the Culture, its wonders, and a smaller than galactic-scale but still interestingly thorny issue.
The thing I like about this book, and what drew me to the series, was the high concept worldbuilding; I find the Culture fascinating
Things I *didn't* like about this book: The author likes to really go into long detail on seemingly needless details and segments, so much so I regularly found myself shouting at the book "Get on with it!"; I get it, it is world/atmosphere building, but I can only take so much of it before I just get *bored* and put down the book. The plot as a whole goes on similar passive, needlessly long tangents, again I found myself going "I don't care about any of this, get back to the interesting main plot!"
Second thing I didn't like: I didn't like nor care about most any of the characters. Many of them just seems so stupid and one-note; On the plus side they seemed relatively realistic in their behavior, but realistically stupid nontheless. By the end of the book I felt completely indifferent to their struggles and accomplishments.
Like David Brin, Dan Simmons or Poul Anderson, this is high concept space opera. But unlike them, this book, and the subsequent books about The Culture, are morally ambiguous. Horza, the protagonist, despises the machine intelligences and moral laziness of The Culture. But his embrace of and alliance with The Culture's enemies in this galaxy-wide war reveals them to be intolerant, racist, religious zealots. He is much more comfortable with the agent of The Culture who infiltrates his band of pirates than with his erstwhile allies. Through plot twists, when he fights his allies with the help of his enemy, Banks makes many points on many levels.
The book is amazingly compelling. As Horza careens from debacle to disaster, fighting a battle in which he only partially believes, you come to care a about him. Which is surprising, because by any sane standard he an amoral criminal.
Banks is a good but not exceptional writer. But he produces very remarkable books. Even the coda to this book, in which Bank reports the war, of which this story is a tiny, tiny part, caused 850 billion casualties; even the coda underscores the ambiguity of the tale.
What makes a culture "good" or "bad"? In the course of telling a very good story, Banks makes you wonder if you are asking the right question.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Who or what is Phlebas, I have no clue.Read more