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Consider Phlebas (Culture) Paperback – March 26, 2008
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Audio CD, Audiobook, Unabridged
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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 the Audio Cassette edition.
Poetic, humourous, baffling, terrifying, sexy - the books of Iain M. Banks are all these things and more * NME * There is now no British SF writer to whose work I look forward with greater keenness * THE TIMES * 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 * --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.
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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 author makes several points. For some he needs just a sketch (the insect within the batolith). For others, he needs a whole chapter, or half of it (The Temple of the Light; The Eaters). Some have to do with war; others with cultural relativism, injerence, fanaticism that comes out only of ignorance and fanaticism that comes out of a darker nature.
The protagonist is interesting. It is important to examine his motivations. He believes in stopping what he considers an expanding machine-controlled culture where humans are pets. He is sympathique to the reader, even as he behaves ruthlessly in the pursuit of his goal --and freedom; he is tired of the war already. You might compare him somehow to the Irish agent played by Donald Sutherland in The Eagle Has Landed (1976).
Also, the Changers might be inspired by the Tleilaxu Face Dancers in Frank Herbert's Messiah of Dune. By the end of the book the Idirans remind of the Japanese Empire before WWII.
If you are going to read this book, make yourself a favor and google Phlebas The Wasteland Eliot. Read the fragment about Phlebas. Read this book then. When you are finished, most likely you will have forgotten the fragment from Eliot: kindly read those few lines at the beginning of the book again (you will be glad you did it). Then, consider Phlebas.
The last chapter, the epilogue and the whole book will make even more sense.
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And Banks wiring style is convoluted at times.Read more