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State of the Art Paperback – May 1, 1993
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About the Author
- Publisher : Firebird Distributing (May 1, 1993)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 224 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1857230302
- ISBN-13 : 978-1857230307
- Item Weight : 5.6 ounces
- Dimensions : 7.72 x 0.59 x 5.12 inches
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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A couple of the short stories were mildly entertaining. For the most part, they were over with fast. So, even if you don't like any particular one, it's over with pretty quick.
To me, the novella, The State of the Art, is really the most disappointing thing about this. It is sort of cool to see Diziet Sma (one of the main characters in Use of Weapons) back in action. But really, it just seems like the story meanders around without much really happening in the end.
Basically, a team from the Culture's Contact division is sent to Earth to check it out. Debate ensues about what to do about the world that humans are messing up at an alarming rate. It's Banks, so naturally zaniness ensues. I won't say the story is bereft of some amusing parts, but the problem is that ultimately, it just sort of tapers off without anything of an significance taking place. This is the fourth Culture book I've read, and I've been going through them in order. The first three were great. All of them added something to my understanding of this amazing society. This book though, I think you could pass it up and not miss much.
Don't get me wrong, all of this is why I love Banks. It's just that I'm used to seeing all these gears working together, grinding and scraping against each other to produce deeply unsettling and beautiful fiction, instead of neatly compartmentalized into sterile and neatly labeled boxes.
The Culture novella is meandering and relentlessly political, offering a rare glimpse of Banks not bothering to cover his rage against the machine with his trademark combination of dark humor and cyniсal word-weariness. It's raw and powerful in its own right, but (like everything else in this collection) it might be easier to appreciate if you already know and like the author.
So earth is examined and the lunacy of war, environmental destruction, economic chaos and huddling masses explored along with any hopeful signs that the societies of earth may actually get it together before it is too late.
The humor which one always needs when dealing with mayhem and cruelty, comes in sardonic bursts the most pleasing of which are the ship names like "You Call that Clean?" "Lightly Seared on the Reality Grill," "Experiencing a Significant Gravitas Shortfall."
The hope that the Culture will intervene and save us from our path of destruction is put to rest (just in case the reader was hoping that a higher power was going to save us from our folly) and the Culture decides just to monitor earth--leave it as a control case, as it were, in its continuing problem of whether and when to intervene in a planet's destiny.
I seldom read science fiction and have only recently discovered this series. I am such an avid fan that I must ration myself so as not to finish them too fast. To me the series falls into the same genre of the "Dune" series and the "Foundation" series. There is a lot of sociology nested in the corners of the excitement and there is enough excitement for an adrenaline junky along with some dreamy technology.
Top reviews from other countries
Although it contains some Culture short stories, the quality is far lower, and when you are 3 books into the Culture series, it stands out badly.
If you read the series, find yourself a fan of Banks, or his Culture books then this book is a little something extra you might like to buy, but it is in no way on par with the rest of the books in the Culture series. Or any of Banks full novels, so I recommend you skip this book in the series, and just buy something else, Against a Dark Background, Feersum Endjjin, are both excellent books by Banks, though not in the Culture series, but will give you much better value for money.
Banks' is my favourite author and his abilities as a wordsmith and a crafter of realities I have never found bettered. Each short oozes with his style and substance but there is just never enough space for him to build momentum or for me to become engaged. The first Culture tale is just a frivolity whilst the second, whilst longer, still does not have the space it needs to mature: indeed it becomes more of a duelling polemic - fascinating and highly relevant, especially given the current pathetic state of humanity - but I wanted so much more.
My summary - excellent work from Iain M Banks but the format is not my cup of team and I am looking forwards to returning to the Culture big time!
Fleecy Moss, author of the Folio 55 SciFi fantasy series (writing as Nia Sinjorina), End of a Girl, Undon , and 4659 now available on Amazon.
Before I continue with the rest of the Culture novels I thought I'd give this collection of short stories a go. Well, I have to say I'm not impressed and I'm so glad I didn't start here instead of with Consider Phlebas.
"Road of Skulls": Not bad, a traditional style short story with a thrown in twist.
"A Gift from the Culture": I couldn't see the point.
"Odd attachment": Just annoying. A ridiculous play on "She loves me, she loves me not..." with a juvenile ending.
"Descendant": Quite good but a rather obvious ending.
"Cleaning Up": Liked this one.
"Piece": Really liked this one.
"Scratch": Yes, scratch this. If I wasn't reading the Kindle version I'd consider this a waste of valuable paper and ink.
And finally the main feature of this collection "The State of the Art". This story charts the first contact of the Culture with Earth. So we have Minds and GCUs and fields, hyper-space and all the other great tech but ... well, just not near enough. A GCU stumbles (purposely) across Earth and sends down some people as a ground surveillance, to mop up the vibe so to speak. But that's it: basically the story is simply a vehicle for Mr Banks to expound his gripes, grievances and wishes for the future of Earth's civilisation. Granted this is an underlying theme of many novels SciFi or otherwise, but this is so blatant it comes across as a rather dry lecture on what's wrong with humanity. Very poor.
Read if you want but if this is going to be your first dip into the "Culture" I strongly suggest you start elsewhere or you might never pick up another one - and you would be missing out.