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Excession Hardcover – Import, 1996

4.1 out of 5 stars 182 customer reviews
Book 5 of 10 in the Culture Series

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 455 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit (1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857233948
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857233940
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (182 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #481,707 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By James D. DeWitt VINE VOICE on March 7, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Reading your first Iain Banks novel is like nothing else in literature. It's a little like being in the washing machine on spin cycle. You emerge dizzy but refreshed. Machine gun pacing, vivid characterization, universe-spanning cultures and, of course, The Culture. Smug, self-satisfied, hedonistic and vain, The Culture is also bifurcated between more-or-less humankind and Minds, advanced AI's that are not always tolerant of their "meat-based" co-citizens.
More than any other novel of The Culture, this one involves those Minds and, without spoilers, they turn out to be human, all too human. Banks handles very well the problem of writing dialog for beings who are far, far more intelligent and think millions of times faster than we do. As others have noted, it sometimes makes for dense reading, but it is very believable. In some ways, this is a novel about the psychology and motives of Minds.
As always, Banks laces the story with sly humor, word play and wholly believable aliens. The Affront, the most conspicuous aliens in this tale, are a wonderful invention. As always, the structure of the novel itself with its interlacing of different story lines and physical organization is a part of the story itself, although less obviously so than in the earlier _Consider Phlebas_.
The Excession of the title is the focus of the attention of most of the characters in the story, but Banks is far too gifted a writer to make it the whole story. Readers who complain about the ending may be missing Banks' most important point. Perhaps the story isn't so much about the Excession, but how the characters react to the Excession. And maybe the ending is Banks' way of underscoring that point.
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By A Customer on April 1, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
On vacation, at an idyllic Thailand beach resort with an unexpected library, I got hooked on Iain Banks. It was this book that did it. As the other reviewers say, it's a tad long (i.e. perfect for long holidays and vacations.) And sure, the story does become tangled at times. But it's unbelievably creative and screamingly funny in a sarcastic and cynical way. Think "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe" on growth hormones. (If one is looking for "hard" science fiction, however, this is likely not your book.)

I would buy the book if only to have the complete listing of all the names Banks employs for his glib and sentient starships. These are a catalog of odd-ball word pairings and acidic aphorisms. My favorites - "Ethics Gradient" and "Fate Amenable to Change."

Throughout Excessions, Banks's writing is persistantly imaginitive, heading off in unexpected directions, creating a novel sweeping universe; and frankly is everything I hope for in science fiction. My only complaint is that after reading this book I bought 9 or 10 more books by Banks, and I found none provided the enjoyment that this one did. While the other books are all excellent, they did not bowl me over. Is that because everything else was not as good, or that a reader tends to favor the first thing he reads of a wonderful writer? Judging from the range of responses from other reviewers as to "the best" Bank's book - I am leaning towards the latter.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Most Iain Banks books are challenging reads, it's a credit to the man that he refuses to write down because he's penning SF novels and not the higher profile "literary" stuff that most of the mainstream probably recognizes him for (is he well read in this country, nobody I know has heard of him . . . what's with that?) so what you basically get with the Culture novels is SF from someone who really knows how to write and doesn't just have a degree and feels the need to share this nifty cool idea he had the other day. This book is full of cool ideas but more importantly it's a dense and slightly elusive work . . . while it's not opaque stuff isn't spelled out explicitly for the reader, there are a lot of dots to connect here. The setup is a large object has appeared from literally nowhere and interacts with the energy grip in a way that is supposed to be impossible. But this isn't the first time this object appeared and the only person who is around from that last appearance is Stored in a ship and has to be convinced to come out. That's how the plot starts. Where it ends is somewhere totally different and if sometimes you think you're reading a totally different book, that's just par for the course with Banks. The focus this time around is more on the Minds in the ships, which is good and bad. The Minds are basically human and their rapid fire conversations that take up a large chunk of the book are highly entertaining . . . however it can be daunting for readers unable to keep track of the dozens of names, especially with little strong personality to back up the Mind and make an impression. You may wish for a recap box at some point to make sure you're still up to speed. Still astute readers are rewarded with a plot that twists almost dizzingly . . .Read more ›
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Ian M. Banks, more than any other writer, has a knack for making artificial intelligence machines into living, "breathing" characters. (In fact, they don't breathe.) And they are the real starts of this novel.

What makes these characters enjoyable, though, is that their culture (as, in effect, de facto protectors of The Culture civilization) feels so human, with dignity, noble goals, ethics, protocols, social norms, and an admirable overall desire to make things better. The fact that The Culture is built on individual freedom, including freedom to do what you will and freedom from the nasty and brutish challenges of illness, physical disadvantages (let alone disabilities), and poverty, makes it easier to root for these "Minds". And the fact that The Culture is not perfect at achieving these goals, especially when it comes to meddling with less advanced civilizations, makes it all the more believable. Otherwise it'd just be too utopian.

There's a mystery at the heart of this novel: A mysterious ship (if it is in fact a ship) that suddenly appears in a corner of the galaxy. Nobody knows what it's about, where it's from, what it wants. But it may have appeared previously long ago. The only thing that's clear is that it's vastly more powerful than the Minds who are the giants of The Culture.

This is a very enjoyable read, and is one of the few novels I've read that I plan to read again.
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