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The State of the Art Paperback – May 27 1993

4.6 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit (May 27 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857230302
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857230307
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 1.5 x 19.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 222 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #105,451 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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.

Review

'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' Guardian

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
If you're not already a Banks fan, this book won't make you one (that would be "The Player of Games", "Canal Dreams", "The Brige", or "Use of Weapons," depending on your taste). But if you liked "Use of Weapons", "State of the Art" is worth it just for the title story, which has Diziet Sma aboard a GCU orbiting Earth in the 1970s. The intervene
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Format: Hardcover
ok, so this book was one of the first i read after the bridge, inversions and feersum endjinn. I naturally prefer iain m banks' SF novels as they are so detailed and although this is a short story it has a very big emotional impact(or it did for me personally). It is (in brief) about aliens (the culture) deciding whether to land on earth and what effect it may have if it chooses to. Its main focus is how the mentally inferior human race would handle it if aliens did settle on the planet. I found it quite upsetting to read from a point of view which looks at earth as more of a disease than a blessing and it is disturbing to reaslise how detructive people can be. It brings all this to light and as you progress through the story you realise that the aliens perception of humans being blind to change and thinking they are the only race out there is accurate, which is fairly shocking to read. This book is accurate in its description of the human species and soon the story being told becomes almost irrelevant as this novel really gets into your mind. It is short and, as they say, straight to the point. Brace yourself for some subtle but emotional reading!
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By A Customer on July 25 2000
Format: Hardcover
Road Of Skulls summary: this short story is rather boring, but it gets you "in there". The feeling of being on the move is there, and the fairly innovative scenes will catch your interest.
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.
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Format: Hardcover
Look at it this way - State of The Art is a great short story with some additional filler between the covers. But what a great short story it is. State of The Art finds the Culture arriving at Earth in 1978. By all accounts, the outlook is bleak for the human race. Contact, and our favorite Culture gal Dziet Sma, have to decide whether to get in touch with a world locked in a seemingly desperate arms race and the slow and painful destruction of the planet's ecosystem. Banks casts an ascerbic eye over the "state of the art" - both the Culture's and Earth's. By setting the story in the recent past, the reader knows that if the Culture had turned up just 10 years later the whole story would be different. Or would it? Sma and her crew-mates travel around the world sampling the delights and the horrors of Earth. Despite various cosmetic changes, is the planet in any better shape than it was 21 years ago? Is the Earth beyond hope? In a fitting gesture to the Culture's perverse tolerance for dissent, a crew member decides to stay. Why? And what, asks Banks, makes us human - and the Culture alien? A clever, philosophic and beautifully written story. Worth the price of the book alone.
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Format: Hardcover
In "State of the Art" Banks gives us an powerful insight into our own culture, its greed, politics, and notion of what it means to be "human."

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
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