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
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.
"A Truly Great Sci-Fi Novel"
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!
"A truely excellent book"
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.
"Ideal Banks for Audio"
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.
"A whole new dimension to The Culture"
I had read this book some years ago but it had left me cold. Banks' work has since improved but I thought I'd give the audiobook of the first Culture tale a go after reading the many excellent reviews. I was really, really impressed with the reading; each of the characters is very well delineated so it never gets confusing. The book still isn't perfect, but I'm going to download the next in the series to hear Peter weave his audio magic.
"Sci Fi Convert"
Listened to 'Matter' because it was free (!) but I've now started at the beginning of the Culture series with 'Consider Phlebas'. I've found SciFi hard to read sometimes because I get too hung-up on how to pronounce names etc! The audio book version is great. Good reader and the book hooked me from the opening paragraph.
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.
Great Space Opera novel. One of the best I've read.
"A good book brilliantly read"
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.
"Sorry, I just didn't enjoy this"
I got this as I love sci-fi and this had a lot of good reviews but I just couldn't get into it. I found the main characters situations strange and found the plot a little disjointed.
Its a shame really as I am looking for another sci-fi author, other then Alistair Reynolds.
In the end I got to 11 hours and simple found I did not care so did not finish it. Shame.
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