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Excession [Paperback]

Iain Banks
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 15 1997
Two and a half millennia ago, the artifact appeared in a remote corner of space, beside a trillion-year-old dying sun from a different universe. It was a perfect black-body sphere, and it did nothing. Then it disappeared.

Now it is back.

'Banks is a phenomenon ... wildly successful, fearlessly creative' William Gibson

'Thrilling, affecting and comic ... probably the finest science fiction he has written to date' New Scientist

'Banks has rewritten the libretto for the whole space-opera genre' The Times

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From Amazon

It's not easy to disturb a mega-utopia as vast as the one Iain M. Banks has created in his popular Culture series, where life is devoted to fun and ultra-high-tech is de rigueur. But more than two millennia ago the appearance--and disappearance--of a star older than the universe caused quite a stir. Now the mystery is back, and the key to solving it lies in the mind of the person who witnessed the first disturbance 2,500 years ago. But she's dead, and getting her to cooperate may not be altogether easy. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Kirkus Reviews

From versatile Scottish writer Banks, another sf yarn about the tolerant, diverse, far-future Culture (The Player of Games, 1989, etc.). The Culture is subtly controlled by prodigiously intelligent artificial Minds, who, Banks intimates, spend most of their spare time navel-gazing. Here, a huge, enigmatic object referred to as the Excession appears in space and interacts with the Culture's energy grid in ways previously considered impossible. Diplomat Byr Genar-Hofoen of the Department of Special Circumstances is sent to investigate--but, sidetracked by beautiful, talented, spoiled-brat operative Ulver Seich and by old flame Dajeil Gelian, it will be a long time before he draws near the object. Meanwhile, certain Minds occupying a vast array of self-controlled spaceships suspect that still other Minds are involved in a conspiracy--but to what end? With the Culture thus distracted by the Excession, the cruel, dangerously expansionist alien Affront seize the opportunity to hijack a Culture battle fleet and start a war that they only gradually realize they've been suckered into and can't possibly win. Brilliantly inventive and amusing--whole sections read like strings of knowing jokes--but a mess: Chattering spaceships with splendid if confusing names (e.g., Not Invented Here and Shoot Them Later) don't compensate for the absence of real characters. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Irony, Affrontery and Iain Banks March 7 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Reading your first Iain Banks novel is like nothing else in literature. It's a little like being in the washing machine on spin cycle. You emerge dizzy but refreshed. Machine gun pacing, vivid characterization, universe-spanning cultures and, of course, The Culture. Smug, self-satisfied, hedonistic and vain, The Culture is also bifurcated between more-or-less humankind and Minds, advanced AI's that are not always tolerant of their "meat-based" co-citizens.
More than any other novel of The Culture, this one involves those Minds and, without spoilers, they turn out to be human, all too human. Banks handles very well the problem of writing dialog for beings who are far, far more intelligent and think millions of times faster than we do. As others have noted, it sometimes makes for dense reading, but it is very believable. In some ways, this is a novel about the psychology and motives of Minds.
As always, Banks laces the story with sly humor, word play and wholly believable aliens. The Affront, the most conspicuous aliens in this tale, are a wonderful invention. As always, the structure of the novel itself with its interlacing of different story lines and physical organization is a part of the story itself, although less obviously so than in the earlier _Consider Phlebas_.
The Excession of the title is the focus of the attention of most of the characters in the story, but Banks is far too gifted a writer to make it the whole story. Readers who complain about the ending may be missing Banks' most important point. Perhaps the story isn't so much about the Excession, but how the characters react to the Excession. And maybe the ending is Banks' way of underscoring that point.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good, but you'll work for it Oct. 31 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Most Iain Banks books are challenging reads, it's a credit to the man that he refuses to write down because he's penning SF novels and not the higher profile "literary" stuff that most of the mainstream probably recognizes him for (is he well read in this country, nobody I know has heard of him . . . what's with that?) so what you basically get with the Culture novels is SF from someone who really knows how to write and doesn't just have a degree and feels the need to share this nifty cool idea he had the other day. This book is full of cool ideas but more importantly it's a dense and slightly elusive work . . . while it's not opaque stuff isn't spelled out explicitly for the reader, there are a lot of dots to connect here. The setup is a large object has appeared from literally nowhere and interacts with the energy grip in a way that is supposed to be impossible. But this isn't the first time this object appeared and the only person who is around from that last appearance is Stored in a ship and has to be convinced to come out. That's how the plot starts. Where it ends is somewhere totally different and if sometimes you think you're reading a totally different book, that's just par for the course with Banks. The focus this time around is more on the Minds in the ships, which is good and bad. The Minds are basically human and their rapid fire conversations that take up a large chunk of the book are highly entertaining . . . however it can be daunting for readers unable to keep track of the dozens of names, especially with little strong personality to back up the Mind and make an impression. You may wish for a recap box at some point to make sure you're still up to speed. Still astute readers are rewarded with a plot that twists almost dizzingly . . . Read more ›
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Format:Mass Market Paperback
Iain Banks can be an intimidating writer. His command of the language and a wonderful imagination combined with a penchant for being unconventional leads to very complex plots, unusual prose styles and flat out great books.
_Excession_ is one of his Culture books, possibly his best. As is typical, there are multiple plots and protagonists but the great AI ships (Minds) play a larger role in this book than any of the others. An unusual object appears in space and touches off a race to claim it between the Culture and others (not specfied so as not to be a spoiler) resulting in some wonderfully complex situations featuring wonderfully deep and fleshed out characters. This book will have you wincing on page and laughing the next, which brings a welcome realness to the hard science fiction genre.
But with this excellence comes a warning: If you tend to skim books or not really pay attention, you may not like Banks in general and _Excession_ specifically. The prose is very dense, with important details tossed off in small sentences that caused to be stop and reread sections more than once. I heartily recommend all of Banks' work and urge the reader to give it the time and care it deserves.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Iain M. Banks' "Culture" novels are excellent SF. Oct. 27 2000
By Ian Hay
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I first picked up one of Iain M. Banks' Culture novels in a train station in Edinburgh while I was studying abroad in college. I think I must have inhaled the entire book on the train ride from Scotland to London. Well, probably not, but it felt like it. By the time I left Britain, I had scoured the bookstores for more of the series, and finally picked up the last of one I couldn't find in Singapore.
It really annoys me that such excellent novels are "out of print" here in the United States.
The "Culture" in Banks' novels refers to a galactic hegemony involved in overtly or subtly bending the rest of the universe's civilizations to their will. It's really quite well done. Wonderfully invented worlds (such as giant, manufactured rings) and inventive quirks like various kinds of sentient machines make the series real page-turners.
Books written published the "Iain M. Banks" nom de plume seem less overtly sinister, possibly not as thought provoking as his written under "Ian Banks." All in all, I'd give them the five-star rating.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow, Iain Banks is a fantastic author
The Culture series are all great so far. Incredibly complex plot, character interactions on multiple levels and across books. Really great reading. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars sorry just plain bad
I have to admit I started this book right after finishing Greg Egan's brilliant "Incandescence" so Excession had a lot to live up to. In short it did not live up to anything. Read more
Published on Aug. 14 2010 by George Allanson
This book is on par with "The Illuminati Trillogy" for strangeness. Borrow it, read it, sit with an ice pack for a week eagerly anticipating the next punch in the head. Read more
Published on May 7 2002 by Tetalia
3.0 out of 5 stars Supposedly brilliant form, no content
What drives me to read science fiction is to make contact with well-built, convincing fictional universes where interesting plots take place. Read more
Published on April 2 2002 by LUCIO DE S COELHO
5.0 out of 5 stars take a deep breath, you're in for a wild ride
This is one awesome book! Bravo Mr. Banks! I have enjoyed all of the "culture" books, with this being by far the best. Lots of action. Loads of creativity. Read more
Published on June 14 2001 by Marks Higgerson
3.0 out of 5 stars This was a tough one to get through
I am fascinated by the imagination and style of Iain Banks and I found his "The Bridge" extraordinary. Read more
Published on Nov. 25 2000 by Hank Schwartz
5.0 out of 5 stars OOOOooo What a great book in a bad cover
PlEASE note that the books of Ian M Banks and Ian Banks get deservedly heavyweight publishing support in the UK. Read more
Published on Oct. 25 2000
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice book
This is a very nice book, and, frankly, although I read them out of order, my first introduction to this universe. I am currently reading Player of Games.
Published on Oct. 25 2000 by John Reenan
3.0 out of 5 stars Excession... Stick with Player of Games
The book which precede's this book is _The Player of Games_. _Player_ is the reason that I chose to read _Excession_, but unfortunately, the bizarre plot twists and generally... Read more
Published on Oct. 22 2000 by Michael Lopp
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