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Consider Phlebas Paperback – Mar 26 2008
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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 NMESee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
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!Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
good book worth the price to buy it and worth the time to take to read it i will be getting the full book seriesPublished 5 months ago by SSasei
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 on Sept. 21 2013 by Laurence
Iain Banks was born in Scotland in 1954 and published his first book - "The Wasp Factory" - in 1984. Read morePublished on Aug. 12 2008 by Craobh Rua
I can't believe some would enjoy wasting their time reading this... book.
Unimaginative, dull, unattractive characters, stumbling through all of... Read more
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 morePublished on July 12 2004 by furioustyle77
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 morePublished on July 1 2004 by Dale Taylor
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 morePublished on April 27 2004 by Benjamin Seldon
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 morePublished on June 17 2003 by Jane Avriette