The first Culture novel, now available as an unabridged audio download.
The war raged across the galaxy. Billions had died, billions more were doomed. Moons, planets, the very stars themselves, faced destruction - cold-blooded, brutal, and worse, random. The Idirans fought for their Faith; the Culture for its moral right to exist. Principles were at stake. There could be no surrender.
Within the cosmic conflict, an individual crusade. Deep within a fabled labyrinth on a barren world, a Planet of the Dead proscribed to mortals, lay a fugitive Mind. Both the Culture and the Idirans sought it. It was the fate of Horza, the Changer, and his motley crew of unpredictable mercenaries, human and machine, actually to find it, and with it their own destruction.
Consider Phlebas is a space opera of stunning power and awesome imagination.
©1987 Iain M. Banks (P)2010 Hachette Digital
Consider Phlebas (CP) is without doubt a conceptually stunning piece. The breadth and depth of the concepts and constructs is breath-taking. There are throw-away ideas in CP that would be an entire book for another author.
OK, CP is a linear tale lacking some of the structural fun and games of the later novels and character names can be a bit of a challenge, remembering who's who, but all credit to the narrator for helping out with strong vocal work. Seriously, have you ever tried to narrate even a chapter of a book? Creating, remembering and switching voice personas is extremely challenging, so a quick round of applause for Mr Kenny.
Banks' style is engaging and the action or fight scenes are incredible but without doubt the single most captivating aspect of the book is The Culture and the Minds that enable it. All of the incredible robotic menace of the Matrix or Terminator genres is tossed on its head by the super-artificial intelligences that provide for the needs of every citizen... Because the AI's seem to want to keep people around and happy. Is it symbiosis? No, what do organics add to the AI's? Interest and entertainment certainly but it does seem to be an almost 'master-pet' or 'farm' relationship except there seems to be no negativity.
I digress. Stunning concepts. Intelligent prose. Challenging ideas. Gripping action.
What more do you want?
Seriously, I'd give it 5 stars but I know what's coming later in the series and if you think this one is good, the later novels will knock your socks off!
This is the first of the Culture novels and the second one I have read after 'Matter'. This book introduces a fascinating universe and I can see why Banks has kept it alive through the series of books he has set in it. the story is pretty easy to follow once you have adapted to the names, characters, technology and politics and it is fast-paced enough not to become bogged down like other space operas I have read. The story is linear and self-contained with a good ending. Well narrated and recommended to those that like the genre - it is a good example of its type.
Coming back to Banks thru Audible I found this a gripping reintroduction to his work - weaving threads of characters thru the whole with his typical skill & artistry and totally absorbing as an audio book.
Peter Kenny's reading is 5 star. Consider Phlebas is Iain M. Bank's first sci-fi novel. Whilst a great rolling space opera it lacks the tightness and narrative tricks he applies to his non sci-fi novels and later sci-fi works, so only 4 stars.
Whilst I'm the first to accept that individual taste is exactly that, the only rating so far is a single star and it prompted me to write something to balance that view. I still consider this to be the best of the Culture novels and is actually the easiest to get into.
Having heard and read so many positive reviews of Iain M. Banks' work I was looking forward to this book. Maybe my expectations were too high, maybe I just didn't "get it" but for whatever reason I found this book very ordinary despite the good narration and voice characterisation by Peter Kenny. From the beginning of the story I found it hard to engage with the various characters and by the end of the book I just didn't really care about any of them or the societies they represented. Although the pace was pretty good some of the scenes seemed superfluous such as the episode with The Eaters. I wasn't sure of the purpose of that scene, it almost appeared to be there just to add to the word count. The ending of the book and it's epilogues just seemed to lead to nowhere particularly interesting. Certainly not a dreadful book but also not as good as I had been lead to believe.
I have read all Banks' sci-fi (and most of his non sci-fi) works before, so the author is well-known to me. However I'd lost my paper copy of this, his first sci-fi work so bought it on a Kindle sale for £1.99 to reacquaint myself with it.
I actually like the throwaway line about the botched raid of the Temple Of Light being a reflection of the wider conflict - very clever and Banksian.Of course how the PoV turns around at the end is the killer in terms of the direction of the future Culture novels....
At the same time for £3.99 I thought I'd try the audio-narrative - I am so pleased that I did. The RADA-trained Kenny is a stunning narrator - using his warm voice and countless other more than passable accents to differentiate the cast of thousands (well perhaps hundreds) littering Bank's space opera...the work he puts in consistently over 16+ hours simply amazes me - it's more like listening to a really good radio play than to someone reading a book. I also read very quickly and tend to skip over slower or descriptive parts, so listening to the full text being read out slows me down and helps me immerse myself much more thoroughly in the work and appreciate the book so much more.
It's 16+ hours so I would be insane to try! It's got quite an episodic narrative and mainly follows one character all the way through, so it has a lot of natural breaks - ideal for a daily commute for example.
I was impressed by Kenny that I went out and joined Audible. I also notice that he has narrated almost all of Bank's works as,as another classic Banks sci-fi - Against a Dark Background, was on £1.99 Kindle offer I bought that and the £3.99 audio narration even though I have the paper book. I also saw that Kenny narrated the 15 Lives of Harry August (a book already in my Kindle Library) so I bought that as well. That means I've got another 30 hours of Peter Kenny to look forward to...
I don't get much chance to read books these days so listening to them is the best option for me!
Having considered Iain Bank's novels for some time I finally took the plunge and decided on this one to start off with.
I found the story engaging and it held my attention all the way through, helped by the excellent reading of Peter Kenny. I got through listening to it fairly swiftly, I listen just before bed to help relax me, but I found myself staying awake longer, getting swept up with the story.
If I had one criticism that stopped me from rating it with 5 stars, it was that it felt a rather abrupt end as the story had built up steadily throughout the book. I'm not sure if it was just the late night reading but it all came to an end rather suddenly for me but didn't spoil things too much and I moved on to the next book in the series with some anticipation.
I'll confess up front that I'm a huge admirer of Iain Banks' science fiction. Banks has created an epic utopia/dystopia that is utterly involving, thought provoking and rewarding.
Peter Kenny is a brilliant narrator and brings life to the many characters that are introduced throughout this first 'Culture' novel.
Highly recommend this and the series as a whole.
I like Iain Banks work, so am bias. It's been many years since I read this book and thought I would try the audio book. It didn't disappoint. If you like science fiction give it a try.
I also like Peter Kenny narration of the book very much.
"Peter Kenny makes the book worthwhile"
I enjoyed Iain M. Banks' book because of an excellent narrator. I am not sure that the story itself is so great... although it falls probably in the genre of tragedy.
This is the first book in Banks' Culture series and is a must to read or listen to should you be interested into being initiated into his universe where man and machine have become equals in the sphere of existence. Set against the background of the Culture (humans and machines) and Iderian war, Horsa, the main character, must find his own way through the maze of loyalties. Horsa chooses against artificial life, just to... well read or listen the book to find out.
"Routes of The Culture"
A good listen. All the technological depth and character development you could want in a sci-fi novel. If you like "Ring World" or "The Mote In God's Eye", you'll probably like this more.
Only four stars out of five because it mainly lacks the humour of his later books. "Matter" (by the same author) was just brilliant!
Though this is Iain M Banks' first sci-fi novel, it is a 2010 audio production.
Once again, Peter Kenny excels as narrator.
"Classic, intelligent sciFi"
Read this years ago: an absolute classic of sciFi. The novel works on many levels - as a story line, as a set of believable characters, and as a created world of its own. The sciFi environment which envelops the characters is convincing and deeply thought through - right down to the subtlety of the relationship between humans and the highly evolved AI computer systems who jointly form the 'Culture'. The novel is told through the character of an enemy of the Culture, again a thoroughly thought through interpretation of how a genetically modified species might interact with other species and cultures. Mostly though, the sciFi world created is convincing enough to allow the reader just to enjoy the battle of wits between the two principal characters.
Some of the scenes in the book are reflective of the extremities of behaviour which might be expected by extrapolating extreme character traits over immense populations, and I must confess I found them a bit strong - but they do contribute to the depth of characterisation and the sense of urgency in the story line.
The performance from Peter Kenny is well paced and compelling - to quote Jerry Pournelle in the golden days of Byte magazine - 'recommended'.
"outstanding reading, so-so plot"
I'd try Iain Banks again. I read another book of his which is very good. But this one tales off badly, despite some good ideas. It's like he was a chess player who learnt a lot about openings but had no experience in end games. It goes off like a damp squibb.Ok, this is the first in the series, and others say later books are better and this is necessary background. That might be so. But it doesn't stand alone.Granted, this was one of his first books, written nearly 40 years ago, but it's not that the technology is dated. He just didn't know where his story was leading; at least within this book.
More of a sense by the end of why we should have been interested in the book
Peter Kenny's reading is outstanding. His capacity for different voices and accents, consistently maintained is very impressive. He makes the listening very interesting, and rarely if ever gets the sense of a sentence wrong.
"very, very good"
Yes - the narration is superb with a neutral english accent and with varied, unique and pitch-perfect accents to each character.
Kraiklyn - amoral and generally incompetent but not stupid and with irrepressible self-belief. "Easy in, easy out."
Escaping the mega ship immediately following its collision with the iceberg
For a mostly serious story, in places it can be very funny.
I somehow missed Iain Banks' works when growing up. Unlike most greater than decade-old sci-fi it has dated extremely well and am enjoying catching up on them all.
"Culture Book 1 - Not a classic but a solid effort"
The unassuming pace is interesting like listening to a day dream
Horza does kind of grow on you as the tough secret agent persona wears away. None of the characters are easy to like. And the ones that do... well...
Passable attempt at alien voices. The mapping of an unknown alien voice to known earth accent is always a tough one like why do French slum dwellers inherit a cockney accent in Les Miserables. Why do Culture supercomputers get the sound of a pompous nineteenth century English fop?
No. the slower patches are pleasant and necessary but do not engender a sprint read
This story is more than the sum of its parts.
The after taste is interesting and since it is part of a loose series it is enough to hit the buy now button a couple more times.
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