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The State of the Art Paperback – May 27 1993
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From Publishers Weekly
Accompanied by a lengthy essay, "A Few Notes on the Culture" (1997), these seven arresting short stories and the disturbing novella that provides the title for Banks's latest SF collection all date from 1984–1987, the period of his bizarre mainstream novel The Wasp Factory and the extravagant genre novel Consider Phlebas, both cult-inspiring works. In short pieces like "Road of Skulls" and "Piece," Banks turns convention upside down and inside out, with shocker-endings that linger like smoke rising from a crematorium. "Odd Attachment" traces a marooned spaceman and his AI suit on a tortuous survival trek across an uninhabited planet, illustrating Banks's preoccupation with the "self-generative belief system" that applies to both humans and AIs in the Culture, the setting for the title story and some of his SF novels. Viewing Earth and Homo sapiens through the eyes of the Culture, a galactic group-civilization spawned by a handful of humanoid species several thousand years in the past, allows Banks to speculate on his dearest philosophical topics: the preferability of anarchy in space, denunciation of market economies as "synthetic evil," never-ending education for both humans and machines, and genetic manipulation. For all their wrenching images and sadistic twists, Banks's unsettling tales bestow a grim gift, the ability to see ourselves as others might see us.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --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 peculiarly gnarly energy and elegance' William Gibson 'Few of us have been exposed to a talent so manifest and of such extraordinary breadth' The New York Review of Science Fiction 'Unfailing inventiveness and wit' GuardianSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Road Of Skulls rating: 4 stars.
A Gift From The Culture summary: this one keeps you in on it. The characters are well-made, the situation interesting. The ending itself even leaves you satisfied. A smooth ride.
A Gift From The Culture rating: 5 stars.
Odd Attachment summary: very odd story, but it is rather amusing while it should be disgusting. Just like if you read The Wasp Factory, except on a smaller scale. Some of the uses of imagery are shocking yet also amusing. Very well thought-up and witty.
Odd Attachment rating: 5 stars.
Descendant summary: at first you may unknowingly skim through too much of the beginning. I don't think that the beginning started early enough. Excusing that, the story from there gets you into it, and deals with some controversial issues in the middle. The ending is slightly dissapointed, yet understandable.
Descendant rating: 4 stars.
Cleaning Up summary: for some reason this one reminds me of PKDs usual type of short stories. Not that captivating, with shallow characters, but very interesting and satisfying. A mixed read, and probably his worst but it's the top of the bottom.
Cleaning Up rating: 4 stars.
Piece summary: this one is short, yet it is a good representation of life then. When it is done, you'll want more as the author's use of the characters are cool enough. And not only that, but you can also see everything that's happening. Absorbing.
Piece rating: 5 stars.
The State Of The Art summary: like a really long and quite alien version of Piece.Read more ›
As with the very best science fiction writing, Banks challenges the reader. His gritty writing style, coupled with the slick high-technology Culture clashing with 1960's Earth politics, sets the stage for a explosion of ideas. Many of these ideas fly directly in the face of common wisdom (at least for what *we* consider is wisdom) and forces the reader to reevaluate our own mind-set. Scary stuff indeed.
In one of the most telling passages, alien characters play a party game -- describe earthlings in one word. Replies include: industrious, curious and insane. One alien replies "MINE!" A very telling exclamation of modern Earth.
I'd rank "State of the Art" as Banks' best work to date - which is certainly a big complement. I'd recommend the book for any sci-fi fan, or - more importantly - any person who believes that capitalism is the only way for the future. You may not agree with Banks, but at least he gets you thinking
Most recent customer reviews
This novel just might be my favorite of all Mr Banks incredible body of work.Published 5 months ago by Implied Zero
I've loved all Banks's Culture novels I've read so far. Highly recommended.Published 8 months ago by Brian
There are a few versions of this floating around. The one pictured on top of this page is the one I'll be talking about and is a collection of short fiction. Read morePublished on March 18 2003 by Michael Battaglia
...this is not a collection. There is a short-story collection of Banks', but it was only released by his British publisher (Orbit, in 1991). Read morePublished on July 14 2001
Adult and young adult fans of fiction in the disturbing tradition of Roald Dahl will appreciate this collection of short stories.Published on Nov. 11 2000 by Amazon Customer
Banks is quite simply on of the greatest modern SF writers. His books are always a treat for everyone, SF fan or not. Read morePublished on June 13 2000 by Randall Barnhart