3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Irony, Affrontery and Iain Banks
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...
Published on March 7 2001 by James D. DeWitt
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. The literary talent of the author simply does not matter as long as he or she has the ultimate talent of telling an interesting story. Indeed, arcane luminaries of the Science Fiction genre, such as Isaac Asimov and Arthur Clarke,...
Published on April 2 2002 by LUCIO DE S COELHO
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Irony, Affrontery and Iain Banks,
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.
As always with Banks' stories of The Culture, there is moral ambiguity and it's impossible to tell the good guys from the bad guys. For my taste, that's a lot more "real" than the moral absolutes of space operas in the tradition of E.E. "Doc" Smith.
An excellent, rollicking adventure, full of surprises, laughs and sly irony. Densely written but highly readable. Much more mature than earlier Culture novels. Highly recommended.
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow, Iain Banks is a fantastic author,
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This review is from: Excession (Kindle Edition)
The Culture series are all great so far. Incredibly complex plot, character interactions on multiple levels and across books. Really great reading. His non sci-fi is equally great. How does he do it?
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good, but you'll work for it,
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 . . . I've read a few Banks books by now and he still amazes how he manages to turn everything upside down so quickly. The action is good, the dialogue between ships crackles, the plot is mind bending and the last page deserves to be read over and over again. I can't say this is his best work, but like all his other stuff the quality is high and if new readers have the stamina, they'll find themselves pleasantly delighted.
4.0 out of 5 stars THE STRANGEST BOOK I'VE EVER READ,
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. Cause every so often another messed up bit of plot twist or snarled logic is going to jump out and hit you from the recesses of memory. Its like carrying a bomb around in your head! Other than the mental torture and too many plots in one book it was good. I recommend it for those masochistic moments.
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. The literary talent of the author simply does not matter as long as he or she has the ultimate talent of telling an interesting story. Indeed, arcane luminaries of the Science Fiction genre, such as Isaac Asimov and Arthur Clarke, almost invariably have a plain, objective narrative style.
Well, this is my first book by Iain M. Banks, but so far I can say that he goes in the opposite way: the style of his book is baroquely sculpted and each character is exhaustively (yet subtly) worked upon. Even though, the plot and setting told/described with such a literary richness is simply crappy.
Iain M. Banks' Culture universe resembles some idiotic science fiction cartoon or movie (such as "The Jetsons" or "The Fifth Element") turned into a book. In some ways, it also resembles "The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy", but the problem is that it is not exactly intended to be comical. As for the plot, there is basically no strong central narrative line, nothing that makes the reader (or at least me) cares about what will happen in the next page or how the book will end. As a matter of fact, it is a remarkably boring, tiring reading, and I took perhaps two or three more times to finish this book than the average for a compendium of the same size.
Putting it shortly, Iain M. Banks seems to be an author for someone who loves form but does not demand content.
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. Humorous dialogue and plot twists galore keep you guessing right until the last page as to what exactly is going on. In this day of seemingly endless space saga series and movie/TV tie-ins, Banks books stand out as spectacular examples of stand alone novels that nontheless deal with a pre-crafted future society. Read it, and then read it again to pick up the minutae of detail that makes this a most worthy read!
5.0 out of 5 stars Banks at his best,not for the timid or short attention spans,
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.
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.
"Excession" was confusing and a bit tedious to wade through.
I very much liked his portrayal of the alien Affronter race and of the "Minds" of the starships, but the plot barely held me and rather petered out at the end.
It is helpful for the reader to know that the curious conversations presented in reduced bold type are taking place between the artificial intelligent minds of the conscious starships.
I have several more Banks novels on my night stand and I hope that they prove less formidable and more intriguing.
5.0 out of 5 stars Iain M. Banks' "Culture" novels are excellent SF.,
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.
5.0 out of 5 stars OOOOooo What a great book in a bad cover,
By A Customer
PlEASE note that the books of Ian M Banks and Ian Banks get deservedly heavyweight publishing support in the UK. This like all his Ian 'M' Banks books is character driven gothic Sci Fi in a credible and sustained distant future. Do not judge this by the shoddy cover its been given in the US. This is a masterpiece
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Excession by Iain Banks (Paperback - May 15 1997)
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