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Comment: HEAVILY VIEWED ex library issue hardback has a few usual marks and dust jacket with a spine sticker and library bar code on the rear. The pages present with handling wear tho remain free from rips or creases. A few spots of discoloration are present. The spine is good--fully intact and straight. Heavy discoloration to the page edges is present. The book is not the prettiest copy but its usefulness remains.
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Matter Hardcover – February 27, 2008

4.0 out of 5 stars 174 customer reviews
Book 8 of 10 in the Culture Series

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Iain Banks came to controversial public notice with the publication of his first novel, The Wasp Factory, in 1984. Consider Phlebas, his first science fiction novel, was published under the name Iain M. Banks in 1987. He is now widely acclaimed as one of the most powerful, innovative and exciting writers of his generation. Iain Banks lives in Edinburgh, Scotland. Find out more about Iain M. Banks at www.iainbanks.net.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This magnificent eighth novel (after 2000's Look to Windward) of the Culture, an interstellar posthuman civilization of incredible wealth and technological sophistication, centers on three siblings: Ferbin and Oramen, the misfit heirs of conquering King Hausk of the Sarl, who rules a backward and patriarchal realm deep beneath the surface of the artificial Shellworld Sursamen, and their exiled sister, Djan, now a powerful agent of the Culture's Special Circumstances division. When King Hausk is murdered, Ferbin narrowly avoids the conspirators and sets out across the galaxy to ask Djan's help with revenge against the killer, now serving as Oramen's regent. Soon they learn of the horrific forces a hidden enemy is about to unleash on Sursamen, and must race to save the home that has rejected them both. Beautifully written and filled with memorable characters and startling technology, this tale of intricate politics and interstellar warfare ably demonstrates that Banks is still at the height of his powers. (Mar.)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit (February 27, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316005363
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316005364
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.9 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (174 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,044,566 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
For the purposes of this review, I will assume the reader is already familiar with the Culture series of novels. If you have not read this series before: "Player of Games" and "Consider Phlebas" are both better introductions (and better reads).
This book has a very complex plot and a huge cast of characters. The Glossary and Cast of Characters alone are nearly 20 pages. To simplify greatly, the story follows three characters: the two sons and single daughter of King Hausk, lord of Sarl, a technologically backwards (approximately 19th century) land inside a "ShellWorld"...an ancient, artifical world of nested levels like Russian dolls, complete with nuclear suns and a variety of unique landscapes. The daughter (Djan) has long been away, adopted into the Culture and recruited into Special Circumstances. When their father is killed, one brother (Ferbin) flees their home looking for help from another SC agent who once helped their family, or failing that, his sister. The other brother (Oramen), unaware of his brother's fate or the great personal danger he is in, stays behind as prince Regent. Meanwhile Djan is travelling home upon hearing of her father's death.
Ferbin travels outward: literally out of the interior of the Shellworld, out into space; and figuratively outward from a cultural backwater into the enormous domain of the Culture. Meanwhile, Djan is following the opposite course, inwards from the expanses of the Culture to her old home. While Banks does an excellent job of developing the unique personalities and backgrounds of the 3 characters, they are primarily used to reflect on the universe he has created.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a great fan of Ian Banks and the Culture series, I could read 600 or 6000 pages without finding it too long and many of the ideas (such as Shellworlds and the mystery of their purpose) are quite interesting and fun. But Matter has such a rushed and sketchy ending that it's ultimately unsatisfying. If the brief ending is intended to tell us how fragile life is and how war really occurs, then this is done in a way that is pretty sophomoric and not very compelling. Also, many of the characters seem underdeveloped and none, other than a few AIs, are very sympathetic. And without spoiling the ending any further, to have a god-like (apparent) bad guy AI tricked in a simple fashion by the (apparent and frankly not very compelling) hero seems almost silly. Altogether, it feels like the publisher got antsy about the deadline and said "turn in your work now!" when it wasn't really finished. Too bad, because this is one of the most creative and stimulating Sci Fi series out there and Matter v2.0 could have been quite good.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've finally finished "Matter", the latest "Culture" novel by Iain M. Banks. It's been three years since his last book, "The Algebraist", about which I had very mixed feelings. Like many of Banks' readers, I was hoping for a return to a more confident kind of story-telling, without the inconsistencies that had marred "The Algebraist".

Overall, I enjoyed it a great deal. Structurally, it has a familiar pattern: three journeys, party in space but mostly of self-discovery, that lead up to a singular point of crisis. Sounds a bit like "Lord of the Rings", doesn't it? Unlike "LotR", the protagonists are three siblings, but as in Tolkien's work the journeys are the main point of the tale. The revelation of the true nature of the crisis, and the climactic confrontation, are compressed into the last few pages. The dénouement is crudely perfunctory; a brief epilogue that follows an appendix, and almost seems to parody the close of Tolkien's "Return of the King".

Although the narrative is populated with familiar elements from earlier "Culture" novels, "Matter" keeps scratching some of the itches that affected Banks in "The Algebraist". There is a cynical undercurrent about the illusion of "progress", together with a determined attempt to destroy any comfortable identification that we might make between ourselves and any particular part of his menagerie. Perhaps you remember the wonderful quote by Sir Martin Rees, the British astronomer:
"It will not be humans who witness the demise of the Sun six billion years hence; it will be entities as different from us as we are from bacteria."

Banks confronts us with a universe whose population spans a vast spectrum of capabilities, of intentions, of possibilities.
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Format: Hardcover
I have been a fan of Iain M. Banks' "Culture" series for a while. A hyper-advanced interstellar society run by a bunch of playful AIs that spend their free time interfering in the fates of less developed races? Yes please! Banks normally brings a big dose of imagination with a literary bent to science fiction. And his Culture series is Space Opera at it's finest.

I wish I could tell you that "Matter" is a book that epitomizes everything Banks does best, but in fact it's the opposite: slow-moving, un-focused and just plain sloppy. It really feels like Banks phoned this one in.

The plot revolves around a 'shell-world', an artificially constructed world that is in onion-like layers, each 'level' inhabited by a different race. Way down on the 8th and 9th levels are the Sarl, a pre-industrial, war-like civilization. The book primarily follows the adventures of two princes and one princess of the Sarl. The girl has grown up in the Culture and become an agent of Special Circumstances. She is returning home after hearing their father has died. Meanwhile one of her brothers is on the run after being the sole witness to his father's assassination by his closest friend. The other brother is now the presumptive heir to the throne and must deal the requisite web of politics and intrigue.

First nitpick - if you're a fan of the Culture, you're going to be bored to tears by the Sarl, and they take up at least half the book. Banks has made every alien race that surrounds them fascinating and mysterious, but instead of hearing more about the aliens we get Sarl Sarl Sarl.

Second, the plotting is just sloppy. There is a major subplot about the growing tension between two leaders, one who is virtuous and one who is villainous.
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