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Showing 1-6 of 6 reviews(3 star). Show all reviews
on October 22, 2000
The book which precede's this book is _The Player of Games_. _Player_ is the reason that I chose to read _Excession_, but unfortunately, the bizarre plot twists and generally thick storytelling made this a difficult read for me.
_Excession_ picks up in the same universe where _Player_ left off and dives even deeper into the consciousness of the sentient drones/ships/orbitals which populate the Culture. This is the reason to attempt this book... these characters are fascinating. They feel human for a bit then Banks subtly reminds you that you're in the "head" of a machine. Brilliance.
The human characters is where Banks lost me. He begins with solid hooks on each of the main characters, but they often did not develop into three dimension characters that I cared about. Towards the end, I found myself praying to avoid threads which involved these characters and their confusing plotlines.
If you want a taste of "The Culture" -- read _Player_. If you want to find out more, read this, but keep a notepad out and take notes.
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on September 25, 1998
Before you begin reading this book flip to the back and find the epilogue. Grip the page firmly and tear the bastard out. This will significantly improve the book. When I finished the epilogue I nearly through the entire book in the fire. It's hard to believe a single page can turn a silk purse into a sow's ear, but Iain manages it.
The prologue isn't as bad as the epilogue. It's merely a cure for insomnia rather than annoying. When I was half way through the prologue I was tempted to put the book away and get something more interesting. I forced myself to continue as Iain has had numerous successful books and 'Excession' won the British SF award. There had to be something more to it then the drivel I was reading.
Once you've waded through the prologue and start the book proper it become less tedious, unfortunately it becomes almost unbearably pretentious. Pages are wasted with totally irrelevant symbols and meaningless strings of numbers. It seems once you've made a name for yourself you can indulge any little vanity you want and still get it published. Fortunately in the latter part of the book even Iain seems to have got sick of the attack of pretension he begins with.
The story itself is interesting and imaginatively written, but because of the tedious prologue, pretentious writing affectation and hackneyed epilogue I can't give it more then three stars and was tempted to give it two stars. If this is a fair example of Iain's work I won't be racing out to read his others.
Now that I've finished bitching about the book I'll give you a bit of a run down of what happens, in case you want to inflict it upon yourself.
There is this thing called the Excession that just turns up one day. It is clearly an alien object of some sort with more advanced technology then the other members of the 'Culture' (This is not the first Culture novel).
Everybody wants to find it (it keeps zipping around to annoy people) and take it over. To this end various groups hatch plots. The ship minds want it, the humans want it, and the Affronter want it. There are subgroups and plotters within each of these groups as well. And apart from everyone wanting it they also want to stop everyone else from getting it. as you can imagine this makes for an excessively complicated plot.
Iain follows all the threads he begins logically and intelligently, and then draws them all together at the climax. If it wasn't for the beginning, the end and the pretension, all off which could be deleted without affecting the story, then it'd be a four star book.
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on November 25, 2000
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.
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on September 27, 1999
Banks' "Culture Universe" is definitely intriguing, the backdrop for potentially great stories such as "Player of Games". This book looks promising from the start, but then you realise that you're halfway through the book, and nothing much has happened. By the end, still nothing has happened. Missed opportunity for a good story.
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on July 30, 1998
by a very intelligent and talented writer. I've loved every other Banks novel I've read, but this one was really carelessly written. Banks is capable of much more than this.
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on April 2, 2002
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.
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