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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Iain M. Banks Returns to the Culture Universe in October 2010!

Iain Banks at Wikipedia

It is no secret that my top sff novel of all time is Iain "M" Banks Use of Weapons which I have easily read 10-15 times in the almost 20 years since I have discovered it in the early 90's. The quartet of early "M" Banks novels: Consider Phlebas, Use of Weapons, The Player of Games - all Culture - and the standalone Against a Dark Background (including the epilogue published later online) are probably the best four novels in a row I've read - many times of course - from any author.

Later Culture books while quite good, are not as awesome as those first three and the last one Matter which started extremely promising, kind of sputters a bit in the last third though it has a great "Banksian" ending and it offers some glimpses of the awesomeness it could have been when the most interesting character of the novel who sadly appears in only one chapter, discusses the title topic "matter" with one of the three main POV characters.

Last year's Transition while not a Culture book and published dually as a mainstream non-M in the UK and a sff "M" here in the US, was my top sff novel of 2009 by far; despite its flaws, it topped everything sfnally read by me by quite a lot, though it required three close readings to get all its nuances; Transition is a very complex novel that needs at least two readings to fully appreciate for reasons I explained in the review linked above.

Imagine my delight when several days ago news broke that the new IM Banks Culture novel "Surface Detail" has been brought forward to October 2010, from the envisioned early 2011 publication. Here is the blurb:

"It begins in the realm of the Real, where matter still matters.

It begins with a murder.

And it will not end until the Culture has gone to war with death itself.

Lededje Y’breq is one of the Intagliated, her marked body bearing witness to a family shame, her life belonging to a man whose lust for power is without limit. Prepared to
risk everything for her freedom, her release, when it comes, is at a price, and to put things right she will need the help of the Culture.

Benevolent, enlightened and almost infinitely resourceful though it may be, the Culture can only do so much for any individual. With the assistance of one of its most powerful – and arguably deranged – warships, Lededje finds herself heading into a combat zone not even sure which side the Culture is really on. A war – brutal, far-reaching – is already raging within the digital realms that store the souls of the dead, and it’s about
to erupt into reality.

It started in the realm of the Real and that is where it will end. It will touch countless lives and affect entire civilizations, but at the centre of it all is a young woman whose need for revenge masks another motive altogether."

Surface Detail has automatically become my number one expected novel for the rest of 2010, superseding the previous list, especially considering the very intriguing blurb which seems to be related to the awesome part of Matter alluded above.


Ron Buckmire said...

I *loved* Matter but could barely get through The Algebraist and threw Consider Phlebas across the room after about 2 chapters...Excession I slogged through with mostly disgust.

I hope this new book is more like Matter than the old books.

I suppose I might give Use of Weapons a try

Scott said...

After reading "Look to Windward" I kind of fell off the Banks train. Like you, I thought "Use of Weapons" was/is a masterpiece, and too loved "The Player of Games". I'll have to find a copy of this new one though.

Liviu said...

Algebraist had a great premise and some very cool stuff (the villains, some of the creatures living into the gas giant) but left me a bit empty; Consider Phlebas - I saw some similar reactions, so i guess it depends on how you like an anti-hero who fights on the bad guys side in a sort of picaresque dark space opera; there is a lot of inventiveness in that book; Excession had its good stuff too - that part with the concentration camp officer and his punishment, some of the stuff on the main ship...

I liked Inversion too despite its fantasy feel, but none to me matched those first four because all the characters lacked the edge of Horza, Zakalwe, Lady Sharrow...

Fabio Fernandes said...

Use of Weapons is also my favorite Culture novel. I intend to reread all the Culture cycle before reading Surface Detail - and, guess what? I recently read Transition, and I couldn't agree more: it's the best novel I've read this year so far.


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