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The Hydrogen Sonata – REVIEW – great read but …. January 11, 2013

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we are huge fans of Iain M Banks Culture novels …though they can sometimes be challenging.

The Hydrogen Sonata is a brilliant tour de force that is one of the best Culture books yet and at the same time one of the least satisfying. Banks’ best books tend to have some kind of amazing ending or awesome plot twist — there are a few amazing twists in the Hydrogen Sonata – but the ending…well we didn’t care for it.

The whole book is essentially about unravelling a mystery that people are willing to kill for to protect and yet it’s a mystery that we never truly learn and it never really does matter either.
 “So I became the man who lived forever, more or less, because I’d once held a secret I didn’t care about any more.”

That somewhat unsatisfying ending aside – this is a book that gripped our attention with amazing concepts, characters, setting and event from beginning to end. The whole deeper discussion around the organization of the Culture and how the minds collectively make decisions was amazing.

The contrast of the Gzilit to the Culture also interesting and the whole scavenger species idea also neat. Vyr Cosson – typical awesome strong female character that Banks writes so well. The ship Mistake Not is pure brilliance especially it’s precision and the language that Banks uses when the ship is facing adversaries.

There really is no other science fiction author alive today that we’d rather read than Banks.


**UPDATE** WE recently had an ‘elevator’ conversation with a person about this book which made us think a bit more about it. While there was no mega twist in this book, there were a few….perversions … of the type that only Bain can contrive.

For example, ximenyr the dude with how many penises? and how did vyr cosson and Berdle get into the ship again? (oh yeah they transported/displaced into a cesspool of shit…kinda reminded up of the first chapter of consider phelbas…(

IAIN M. BANKS – MATTER – The Shellworld Review — yeah it’s long but it’s another awesome Culture novel October 7, 2010

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We just finished reading Ian M. Banks massive tome Matter and like most culture books, it has made us think about alot of things.

As we’ve experienced before with Banks, there are some amazing SciFi constructs – in this book we’re introduced to the concept of a Shellworld, with layers of diff civilizations living on each and are introduced to the Mothanveld, an Optimae species nearly on par with the Culture.

At the beginning until nearly the end, we thought this would be a book about revenge – and even thought that was Ferbin and Djan’s goal – that didn’t quite happen did it?

But the ending was entirely satisfying and typically Banks. No, there wasn’t a major revelation at the end of this massive book, but it did makes sense and did leave us with the same sense we get whenever we get to the end of a Culture book.


The deeper level of meaning in this book – about Matter – that there are levels within levels and it’s never clear who is being played by whom, is weaved so brilliantly into this book – it’s the very fabric of the multiple plots and subplots.

Sure, we ran into some sections that were over-written and sure we skipped over graphs here and there, that just went on and on and on. But the story, the characters, the new tech and the intense drama of wanting to know what would happen next makes Matter an awesome read.

Our fav Culture book still remains the first – Consider Phelbas, the ending of Use of Weapons still remains the greatest twist, the Special Circumstances sub-plot in Look to Windward is still better as is SC’s devious game playing in The Player of Games.

Matter fits well into the Culture canon – giving us a new look into the larger Galaxy, SC and a new type of world view.

Banks is the greatest SciFi writer of this generation and he continues to deliver with Matter. Yes the size of the book might look intimidating, but it’s worth the effort.

Iain M Banks – Inversions – Review – Not quite a Culture novel is it? July 17, 2010

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We’ve become big fans of Iain M Banks and his Culture novels (recently we reviewed Player of Games).

Inversions is a very different book in that the Culture never actually shows up. There are no big grand ships or Orbitals…but there is an old dagger in the Doctor’s boot which obviously is a Knife-Missile.

The whole dueling tales of the Doctor and the Bodguard are brilliantly intertwined and we get a ‘hint’ of the culture (and maybe even Special Cirucumstances) but the viewpoint of the narrator, doens’t know of the culture.

Yes this is an entertaining book — but not in the way we might have expected. The backward ‘ancient’ ways of this planet (do we ever learn its name?) are never ‘outted’ by the Culture – then again De War does have that little on-going story about Lavisha…

No we didn’t see the ending coming — but the again that’s the best part of Banks books isn’t it? The fact that there is always some kind of magnificent conclusion that makes sense — but is still very much a surprise.

Iain M. Banks – The Player of Games – Azad falls to Culture June 21, 2010

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We’re relatively new fans of Iain M. Banks and his awesome Culture series (previously we’ve reviewed Consider Phlebas, , Use of Weapons,and Look to Windward).

Plainly put, The Player of Games is one of the best of the bunch, second only to Consider Phlebas.

This is such an extraordinary story, a clash of civilization, yes — but told through the lens of gameplay. The Culture’s greatest game player goes to the Empire of Azad to play Azad – the game that helps to run the Empire.

Beyond the great characters, the interesting Science (male, females and Apices — the Third Sex), Banks never ceases to disappoint with twist and turns and a final suprise that there is no way anyone could see coming.


The whole thing is a game within a game, within a game where everyone is really playing everyone else..but most of all the Culture’s Special Circumstances are running the show from all angles.

No we didn’t even think about the other drone till the end, so yes it was a surprise to us and an enjoyable one.

The many new and interesting ideas, behind gameplay itself and what it symbolizes in the book works on so many levels, but above all — this is a fun, entertaining and easily flowing read. No long drawn out overwritten sequences, just one amazing scene flowing into the next.

Iain M Banks : Look to Windward : Review : Culture Special Circumstances are everywhere November 9, 2009

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looktowindward Look to Windward is another of Iain M. Banks Culture novels…for us it’s the third one we’ve read behind Consider Phelbas and Use of Weapons, both which were superior books to this one.

Yes the basic premise of this book was interesting – the light from one of the last great battles of the Idiran war from Consider Phelbas is just reaching the Masaq Orbital some 800 years after the fact – that’s kinda neat

the core story though is about the Chel (another alien race), the composer that lives among the culture and the Chel agent come to get him and destroy the orbital.

The story is waaaay to drawn out and at multiple points I was ready to give up. But we know that Banks finishes strongly so we struggled on.

And a struggle it is. Whole chapters make no sense and add little to the plot development.

But the end is a surprise, much like Use of Weapons, it’s an ending that we didn’t see coming at all and changes the way the whole book feels.

I didn’t expect Huyler to be Special Circumstances that was a shocker and the sub-plot with the Culture citizen on the Yolaeus not making it back to warn the Mind was also interesting in its connection.

So no, we didn’t enjoy most of this book while reading it first time through, but with another brilliant conclusion, Banks redeems this book.

Yeaaah we’ll keep reading Banks, the Culture is interesting enough that we want more, but Banks just doesn’t have a consistent quality of writing so hopefully the next book we get will more of a hit than a miss.

Iain M. Banks : Use of Weapons : Amazing Ending, slow start September 13, 2009

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useofweapons This is the second Ian M. Banks Culture novel we’ve read (the first was Consider Phelebas) and no it’s not as good as the first.

That’s not to say this isn’t a good book – but you just need a whole lot more patience.

Use of Weapons is all about a Culture agent known as Zalkawe who is used by the Culture to help influence events. The way the book is written is that there is a long of time jumping back an forth, some of it broken up nicely by different chapter number but not always.

At one point, we actually were ready to give up on this book, since it was so over-written and difficult to follow.

But this book does deliver at the end with a tremendously shocking conclusion that really was a surprise. Though this book was often plodding and dull the surprise ending really does help to make up for the slow start.

If this had been the first Banks book that we had ever read, there is little doubt that it would be our last. But the Culture is a cool idea and Consider Phelbas was such a brilliant novel that we just want to find more of the same.

This book could have been much better if it cut out 100 pages of wasted space and nonsense. It could have been better if the time jumping was more clear.

It is however a very deep and involving character driven story with (like we said) a fantastic ending that is amazing.

Iain M. Banks : Consider Phelbas : Review: AWESOME September 9, 2009

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considerphelbas While I read a lot of science fiction, somehow I had never read Iain M. Banks.

I know, I know i’m a frakking nugget.

So over the summer I picked up Banks’ first SciFi novel (and first Culture novel) Consider Phelbas.

What an incredible ride. Sure there is the larger setting space opera stuff that is the Culture – which is cool

But it’s the story itself, Horza the Changer, the minds, the Idirans that plot twists and the incredible scenes that make this book one of my top three all time scifi novels.

The destruction of the Vavatch orbital with the Damage Game – wow. That could’ve been a book on its own.

The final battle in the caves of the dead world was such a page turner that i read for 10 hours straight till the end.

The end, well it seemed sudden and shocking to me in a way. I didn’t want this book to end.

While epilogues and appendices are usually items that are supplementary, in this case they are part of the story and are the true ending.

Yes this was my first Banks novel, my first culture novel, but it won’t be the last.