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Consider Phlebas [Paperback]

Iain M Banks
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 26 2008
"Dazzlingly original." -- Daily Mail"Gripping, touching and funny." -- TLSThe war raged across the galaxy. Billions had died, billions more were doomed. Moons, planets, the very stars themselves, faced destruction, cold-blooded, brutal, and worse, random. The Idirans fought for their Faith; the Culture for its moral right to exist. Principles were at stake. There could be no surrender. Within the cosmic conflict, an individual crusade. Deep within a fabled labyrinth on a barren world, a Planet of the Dead proscribed to mortals, lay a fugitive Mind. Both the Culture and the Idirans sought it. It was the fate of Horza, the Changer, and his motley crew of unpredictable mercenaries, human and machine, actually to find it, and with it their own destruction.

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From Library Journal

In the midst of a war between two galactic empires, a shapechanging agent of the Iridans undertakes a clandestine mission to a forbidden planet in search of an intelligent, fugitive machine whose actions could alter the course of the conflict. Banks ( Walking on Glass ) demonstrates a talent for suspense in a new wave sf novel that should appeal to fans of space adventure. For large sf collections. JC
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


'Banks is a phenomenon: the wildly successful, fearlessly creative author of brilliant and disturbing non-genre novels, he's equally at home writing pure science fiction of a perculiarly gnarly energy and elegance' William Gibson 'There is now no British SF writer to whose work I look forward with greater keenness' The Times 'Poetic, humourous, baffling, terrifying, sexy - the books of Iain M. Banks are all these things and more' NME

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Customer Reviews

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By monicae
Really it's 3.5 stars. I enjoyed the book, though it took me quite some time to get through it. I did find it episodic with gimmicks to keep the protagonist engaged. I have always wanted to read a sci fi novel with a secret agent bent to it so this was my wish. Horza is James Bond w/o the pannache.
I tend to like my sci fi with great characterization and with some kind of philosphical message on the way of the world. This really had neither element to any great degree. It was a straight forward story with some not entirely successful proclaimations on humanity and the pursuit of perfection. Idirans were religious fanatics blind to anything but their own purpose. The culture basically were bored hedonites. One wonders what would have happened if the Idirans hadn't declared war.
I guess the worst thing I can say about this book is that after I finished the last page, I didn't find myself thinking about it's implications at all.
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Consider Phlebas is the first novel in Iain M Banks' Culture series. The Culture, a galactic society composed mainly of powerful AI's and AI-enhanced humanoid races, has recently entered into interstellar war against an up-and-coming tripedal, three-metre-tall race of aliens known as the Idirans. Against this huge backdrop, Consider Phlebas tells the story of Horza, a humanoid special agent working for the Idirans, who is sent to recover a lost Culture AI.

Although a space opera on the largest of scales, the plot of Consider Phlebas bears some resemblances to classic pirate stories. After falling in with a group of mercenaries, Horza joins a few of their raids to gain their trust, meanwhile plotting to use his powers as a Changer—a race capable of copying the appearance and even biochemistry of another humanoid—to kill the current captain and assume his identity. Along the way, there's a shipwreck where Horza is captured by an apocalyptic cult of cannibals, a daring escape from a behemoth enemy ship, and a card game known as Damage, in which the cards you play determine the mental states of your opponents and a big enough loss can result in death.

These three episodes were the highlights of the book for me; here, Banks' vivid writing and imaginative subplots do a good job creating a tangible sense of danger while making one root for the morally-ambiguous Horza. Unfortunately, while most of Consider Phlebas deals with adventures such as these, they have little influence on Horza's ultimate quest to recover the AI or even the Idiran-Culture war behind it all.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Culture and The Culture Nov. 18 2000
Format:Mass Market Paperback
_Consider Phlebas_ is not out of print, although Amazon apparently doesn't have it. It's been re-published recently by Orbit (ISBN 1-85723-138-4) and it's worth tracking down.
Like David Brin, Dan Simmons or Poul Anderson, this is high concept space opera. But unlike them, this book, and the subsequent books about The Culture, are morally ambiguous. Horza, the protagonist, despises the machine intelligences and moral laziness of The Culture. But his embrace of and alliance with The Culture's enemies in this galaxy-wide war reveals them to be intolerant, racist, religious zealots. He is much more comfortable with the agent of The Culture who infiltrates his band of pirates than with his erstwhile allies. Through plot twists, when he fights his allies with the help of his enemy, Banks makes many points on many levels.
The book is amazingly compelling. As Horza careens from debacle to disaster, fighting a battle in which he only partially believes, you come to care a about him. Which is surprising, because by any sane standard he an amoral criminal.
Banks is a good but not exceptional writer. But he produces very remarkable books. Even the coda to this book, in which Bank reports the war, of which this story is a tiny, tiny part, caused 850 billion casualties; even the coda underscores the ambiguity of the tale.
What makes a culture "good" or "bad"? In the course of telling a very good story, Banks makes you wonder if you are asking the right question.
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4.0 out of 5 stars "Consider" Buying this! Nov. 18 2000
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Ok the first thing you're thinking is "whats with the title", right? It's ok because it isn't some crazy flippo title dreamed up in Banks' imagination; along side all those ship and character names which come off a little half baked at times (ie, The ship named C.A.T or Clear Air Turbulance), but remain memorable nevertheless. The title is taken from T.S Eliot's 'The Waste Land'iv, where in the same passage he has found the title for his most recent work 'Look to Windward'.
The only meaning I can divine behind the books title is perhaps some veiled suggestion by Banks that in his view everything must evolve, die, change and transcend whether we like it or not; in many cases he seems to apply this same pragmatic/philosophically ambivelent logic to the treatment of the characters and their harsh invironments. Simply put Banks' characters are spared nothing, regardless of our emotional investment and what we might hope for them; they are strangers in a strange land lost in a wilderness of pain whose only small comfort comes via their success in superimposing a futuristic Piratical mentality over the top of their softer side.
Let me say from the outset that I loved this book once I surrendered myself to Banks' imaginary 'Culture' mentality. There were odd moments here and their in the early chapters where my mind wanted to compare it to 'other' works that I had enjoyed more in certain areas but essentially it's silly to do this. The only way to enjoy this book is to surrender to the concept, go with the flow and invest in the characters.
The lead character in this book is a brilliantly drawn fellow named Horza who is known as a 'Changer' or shapeshifter, able to take on the appearance of other people. In the opening sequence (which I found brilliant!
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining
Overall an entertaining book, however I didn't like the end of the book as much as I thought I would. I will definitely be checking out the next book in the series.
Published 12 months ago by Laurence
4.0 out of 5 stars The Jinmoti of Bozlen Two,
Iain Banks was born in Scotland in 1954 and published his first book - "The Wasp Factory" - in 1984. Read more
Published on Aug. 12 2008 by Craobh Rua
1.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely horrible
I can't believe some would enjoy wasting their time reading this... book.

Unimaginative, dull, unattractive characters, stumbling through all of... Read more
Published on Oct. 3 2006 by ET
3.0 out of 5 stars A Bit Dated; Still a Good Read
Compared to all the top notch SF out there, Consider Phlebas is middle of the road. But taken for what it is, it's pretty good. And what is it? Read more
Published on July 12 2004 by furioustyle77
5.0 out of 5 stars A stunningly real tale in an entirley imaginary realm
I was turned onto the writing of Iain Banks by a friend of mine who is a brilliant biological scientist who works in the same dpeartment at the University as me. Read more
Published on July 1 2004 by Dale Taylor
5.0 out of 5 stars Wicked, Haunting SF!
I spent some time after I read this book trying to justfy whether the truly incredible and unforgettable conclusion to this novel made up for what I felt was a meandering,... Read more
Published on April 27 2004 by Benjamin Seldon
4.0 out of 5 stars Consider _Look to Windward_.
Another reviewer suggested a 3.5 rating. I'd mostly go along with it. 4 stars seems to be too much, while 3 is overly harsh. Read more
Published on June 17 2003 by Jane Avriette
5.0 out of 5 stars action, ideas, character ... somewhat dark
An excellent book, full of compelling drama. If you like action and great space opera, this is one of the best. Read more
Published on March 4 2002
1.0 out of 5 stars I must have read a different book...
_Consider Phlebas_ is one of the few books I have thrown against the wall upon finishing. The ending is sort of a grand "f*** you" to the reader and characters. Read more
Published on Aug. 15 2001 by Kieran Mullen
5.0 out of 5 stars Very nice book
This was the first book I read by Iain M. Banks and I truly liked it and have tried to read them all since then. I love the Culture concept and would sure like to live there :-)
Published on Aug. 1 2001 by Frimann Stefansson
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