Iain M. Banks novels

Re: Iain M. Banks novels

Postby Tsukiyumi » Sun Jul 06, 2008 2:16 pm

I'm just going to read them in the order they were published.
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Re: Iain M. Banks novels

Postby Captain Picard's Hair » Fri Aug 08, 2008 4:31 am

I'm a couple of chapters into Consider Phlebas, reading it on my new Palm, and I can already see what makes this series so interesting, both in terms of the no-holds-barred writing style and the sheer spectacle of it (I've gotten my first taste of gridfire, and the Culture/Idirans - Banks is very good about getting into the stuff quickly while simultaneously informing the reader in this book) and the intellectually interesting aspects of it. I'm definitely intrigued and eager to read more into this.
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Re: Iain M. Banks novels

Postby Graham Kennedy » Fri Aug 08, 2008 2:09 pm

One of the best of the series, that one. I'm in the middle of reading Matter at the moment, which I am finding is big on spectacle but the story isn't really involving me all that much. Without getting too spoilerish it's largely about some people on a journey to meet up, and literally half the book has consisted of descriptions of each place they go to along the way. The places are all very interesting but I was like "just GET there already" about a hundred pages back.
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Re: Iain M. Banks novels

Postby Enkidu » Wed Sep 10, 2008 9:24 pm

Recieved a parcel from a friend on monday with The Player Of Games (and Phillip K Dick's Lies Inc). I've never read any of Iain M Banks work, but the weekend before last I got together with a bunch of old Uni mates at a rented cottage near our Alma Mata, and during a discussion about books he gave the Culture novels rave reviews. He was starting to get into Phillip K Dick, so I posted off Do Androids.. and The Man In The High Castle this morning.
I was going to read the PKD first, but after reading this thread I'm tempted by the Banks.
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Re: Iain M. Banks novels

Postby Mikey » Wed Sep 10, 2008 10:58 pm

You'll like Banks. Although it's sent in a different direction, he shares a similar ironic take as Dick.
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Re: Iain M. Banks novels

Postby Sionnach Glic » Thu Sep 11, 2008 5:09 pm

Agreed. Banks has what is probably the most unique unviverse ever created. For that fact alone he's worth a try.
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Re: Iain M. Banks novels

Postby Graham Kennedy » Wed Jan 14, 2009 12:14 am

I've been rereading my Culture books since Xmas.

I reread Player of Games first. Interesting book, one of the more original of the set. Some spoilers ahead...

I love how the playing of the game itself is detailed... if Banks had gotten into the nitty gritty of "I moved this piece then he moved that piece then..." it would be absurdly over the top of course, but he avoids that. Yet he does describe the strategy of the games, the approaches the different players are using, etc, and it means that even though the book goes into detail on five or six games (I forget exactly), every one of them comes across as fresh and interesting - especially the last one, of course!

I notice the Culture itself isn't really detailed much here. We learn about it, see an orbital and a ship and a Mind is one of the characters and all, but it's all there without really being explored greatly. So while the ship's Mind is a character, and it is made out to be beyond human in intelligence, it's not really depicted as the near godlike intellect that Minds would be in other books. It makes me wonder just how clear an idea of the Culture Banks had back then.

I love the alien Empire, too. Thoroughly nasty; essentially an example of an especially bad and brutal medieval dictatorship transplanted into an interstellar setting. And I like how Banks commented about how such power structures very rarely survive that long, and uses the game itself as the reason why this one has. By making the game such an inherent part of the culture it made it seem more believable that it would be so important that Gurgeh lose, and builds a real sense of the alien's desperation when he keeps winning. By doing what he's doing he isn't just embarrassing them, he's destroying the very foundation of their entire society.

I wish we'd gotten more of a discussion of Special Circumstances' thinking at the end, though. They do bend the rules, but blackmailing a Culture citizen so comprehensively, it just seems a little beyond the pale. SC has often shown willing to do nasty things in other books, but I'm not sure I ever recall them taking such direct action against one of their own citizens before, they only seem to act against alien civilisations.

Anyway, great book and a good start to the Culture. Consider Phlebas next!
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Re: Iain M. Banks novels

Postby Mikey » Wed Jan 14, 2009 12:57 am

I really have to track down more of these. I've only read Excession, and I'm led to believe that it's not the best representative of the series.
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Re: Iain M. Banks novels

Postby Captain Picard's Hair » Wed Jan 14, 2009 12:59 am

So far I've read "Consider Phlebas" and "The Use of Weapons." Both featured Special Circumstances, but seemed to focus more on the people than the tech (though it was impressive indeed)

What would Banks-authored Trek look like?
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Re: Iain M. Banks novels

Postby Graham Kennedy » Wed Jan 14, 2009 10:51 am

Most of Banks's books revolve around SC to one extent or another, and they almost all focus on the people involved although there is usually a good dollop of ultra-tech involved.

The novella The State of the Art is interesting; it chronicles the time when the Culture discovered Earth back in the 1970s!

I am reading Consider Phlebas right now. It's bloodier and weirder than I remember.
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Re: Iain M. Banks novels

Postby Mikey » Wed Jan 14, 2009 3:29 pm

Indeed, one (of the many) things I like about Banks is his ability to describe the setting and tech of a well-developed SF universe without letting it overpower the characters or the story.
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Re: Iain M. Banks novels

Postby Sionnach Glic » Wed Jan 14, 2009 3:43 pm

You have to remember that in Banks novels, the tech and the Culture itself is just background stuff to explain how and why something is happening. The stories themselves are about the characters, not the tech. Even Excession, which had more tech-talk than usual in a Banks novel, was still sparse on actual tech discussions.
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Re: Iain M. Banks novels

Postby Graham Kennedy » Wed Jan 14, 2009 4:09 pm

Rochey wrote:You have to remember that in Banks novels, the tech and the Culture itself is just background stuff to explain how and why something is happening. The stories themselves are about the characters, not the tech. Even Excession, which had more tech-talk than usual in a Banks novel, was still sparse on actual tech discussions.


Well it helps a little that in the Culture, sometimes the tech IS the characters. Most especially in Excession.

Where a Trek book might spend time saying "The Enterprise did X, and Y, and Z", in a Culture book the ship is actually thinking about these things, and doing it much like you or I would.
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Re: Iain M. Banks novels

Postby Sionnach Glic » Wed Jan 14, 2009 8:54 pm

Quite true. The Minds ensure that the technology are characters in their own right.
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Re: Iain M. Banks novels

Postby Mikey » Wed Jan 14, 2009 9:04 pm

And well-developed ones, too. One never gets the feeling while reading that "these are good characters... for AI spaceships" - just that they are good characters.
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