Surface Detail Paperback – May 12 2011
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One of the most entertaining Culture novels for a long time SFX Famed for his profoundly dark and intelligent humour, Iain M Banks has succeeded in weaving another intricate tale that offers fascinating insight into the human condition SciFi Now --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
"Surface Detail", one of Banks's last "Culture" novels, is definitely among his best, memorable as a riveting epic tale of revenge and murder played out in the far reaches of Culture-dominated space, replete with ample digressions into faith, philosophy and politics. Banks gives readers a most riveting meditation on the natures of reality and individuality, cloaked in a fast-paced thriller-tinged space opera.Read more ›
Partly also, it's the Banksian voice, endlessly sardonic, sometimes to the point of childishness, more often laugh-out-loud funny.
And to a large extent, it's how he portrays the interaction between man and machine, between poor little meat-based humans and the vastly more intelligent and powerful AI's who actually run the show. He does it by having the AI's find it useful to scale themselves down, in the form of drones for detached missions, and avatars for communicating with shipboard passengers. One of the main "characters" in Surface Detail is Demeisen, avatar of the Abominator-class ship Falling Outside Of The Normal Moral Constraints. Demeisen has "personality" to spare.
Plot summary? Well, it all has to do with that old stand-by, virtual reality. More specifically, with the decision of some civilizations to create virtual hells for punishment of the wicked and deterrence of the rest. Trouble is, other civilizations find this practice abhorrent, and it might just lead to war in the Real.
All in all, pure fun. Yes, it's a bit too long (627 pages), could have used some tighter editing, but over all, a great read.
Some of the more engaging characters are short-lived. Lededje Y'breq is the personal property of ruthless Joiler Veppers, who has driven her father into bankruptcy and had her tattooed with his personal mark on her skin and everywhere else down to the cellular level. Led dies in the first chapter. Vatueil is a soldier who has fought, killed and died in more battles that even he can remember. When he loses his life, a fresh version is restored from his back-up and thrown into the next round of a decades-long conflict. He dies at the end of the second chapter. Again. The Abominator-class picket Falling Outside The Normal Moral Constraints is more than it seems--both to other ships who scan its field configuration and to people who misjudge its avatar, Demeisen. It doesn't stay together through the whole story, either.
Readers who enjoy Big Ideas are not disappointed. We encounter tattoos of various depth and complexity. There are several on-the-ground views of virtual afterlives, both rewarding and punishing. As the conflict over the existence of virtual Hells is fought on several levels, we ponder the relationship between hope and suffering. And we consider the varieties of death. Along the way we are introduced to a few new alien races, a giant sentient object or two, and an embarrassing "smatter" epidemic that proves challenging to eradicate.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
As an enthusiastic follower of modern British sci-fi, I've been reading Iain Bank's Culture novels since the first publication of `Consider Pleabas'. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Willy Eckerslike
Fare warning, I am an uber Banks fan. Every time I have read any of his sci-books, I thought it was his best (I won't get into his fiction). Read morePublished on Oct. 24 2012 by Louis Vroomen
I think this is his best. I am re-reading it, which is rare for me as there are so many books to read. Read morePublished on June 16 2011 by Eric Lawton