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Excession Mass Market Paperback – February 2, 1998
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It's not easy to disturb a mega-utopia as vast as the one Iain M. Banks has created in his popular Culture series, where life is devoted to fun and ultra-high-tech is de rigueur. But more than two millennia ago the appearance--and disappearance--of a star older than the universe caused quite a stir. Now the mystery is back, and the key to solving it lies in the mind of the person who witnessed the first disturbance 2,500 years ago. But she's dead, and getting her to cooperate may not be altogether easy. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Kirkus Reviews
From versatile Scottish writer Banks, another sf yarn about the tolerant, diverse, far-future Culture (The Player of Games, 1989, etc.). The Culture is subtly controlled by prodigiously intelligent artificial Minds, who, Banks intimates, spend most of their spare time navel-gazing. Here, a huge, enigmatic object referred to as the Excession appears in space and interacts with the Culture's energy grid in ways previously considered impossible. Diplomat Byr Genar-Hofoen of the Department of Special Circumstances is sent to investigate--but, sidetracked by beautiful, talented, spoiled-brat operative Ulver Seich and by old flame Dajeil Gelian, it will be a long time before he draws near the object. Meanwhile, certain Minds occupying a vast array of self-controlled spaceships suspect that still other Minds are involved in a conspiracy--but to what end? With the Culture thus distracted by the Excession, the cruel, dangerously expansionist alien Affront seize the opportunity to hijack a Culture battle fleet and start a war that they only gradually realize they've been suckered into and can't possibly win. Brilliantly inventive and amusing--whole sections read like strings of knowing jokes--but a mess: Chattering spaceships with splendid if confusing names (e.g., Not Invented Here and Shoot Them Later) don't compensate for the absence of real characters. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top customer reviews
I only had a few problems with the book. Remembering which ship was which was sometimes confusing, I think partially because the (wonderful) names of the ships and Minds are just hard to keep straight for me sometimes (my fault) and partly because we only get viewpoints from a couple of them. Perhaps a second read-through would fix this for me. I also found the ending a little confusing - until I read the epilogue. Finally, there was an event that happened the past between two of the characters which was probably about the worst thing you could possible do to another person. The one that it happened to seems to have just shrugged it off, which I found .. difficult to relate to. All in all these are fairly minor points, and I overall really enjoyed the story.
I love The Culture series and The Culture, and this book gave us a lot more insight into the machine intelligences that run it. It was a face-paced novel set within this amazing universe, and really was very enjoyable. I've been reading the books pretty much in order and Player of Games is definitely my favourite so far, with this a close runner up. On to the next!
Wasn't too sold on the secondary love story (it was OK but too long and therefore boring)
It is, IMHO, better than the books that followed, and therefore something I treasure since he's gone. I re-read this one fairly often, and I can't see that happening with "Sonata".
Also had a little trouble getting ahold of this one in the States, so treasure it more.
Worth every penny.
Like The Hydrogen Sonata, it can be difficult to keep straight which Mind is which when they appear in large numbers closely together. This was not overly detracting, but led to a lot of looking back to refresh which Minds were which.