The dazzling new Culture novel from a modern master of science fiction - a tour de force of brilliant storytelling, world-building and imagination.
It begins in the realm of the Real, where matter still matters. It begins with a murder. And it will not end until the Culture has gone to war with death itself.
Lededje Y'breq is one of the Intagliated, her marked body bearing witness to a family shame, her life belonging to a man whose lust for power is without limit. Prepared to risk everything for her freedom, her release, when it comes, is at a price, and to put things right she will need the help of the Culture.
Benevolent, enlightened and almost infinitely resourceful though it may be, the Culture can only do so much for any individual. With the assistance of one of its most powerful - and arguably deranged - warships, Lededje finds herself heading into a combat zone not even sure which side the Culture is really on. A war - brutal, far-reaching - is already raging within the digital realms that store the souls of the dead, and it's about to erupt into reality.
It started in the realm of the Real and that is where it will end. It will touch countless lives and affect entire civilizations, but at the centre of it all is a young woman whose need for revenge masks another motive altogether.
©2010 Iain M. Banks (P)2010 Hachette Digital
"The finest Culture novel yet!"
Over many years I've keenly tracks Banks' development in his wild and wonderful Culture universe. I couldn't put this one down - a work of sheer SciFi genius! Detailed yet expansive, bizarre yet familiar. Philosophy, war, religion, technology, physics, dream. More please Iain! Also masterfully narrated by Peter Kenny across a galaxy of different characters.
Looks like I'm the only one who doesn't think this is the best of the Culture novels so far. Don't get me wrong, I still thoroughly enjoyed this book, but found it rather slower in pace -- a little heavy on its feet perhaps. There seemed to be far more humour in this one, and that's not a bad thing. Also, one of my favourite minor characters of all time appears: the ship's avatar for the Falling outside Normal Moral Constraints, and Banks's florid imagination is, as usual, stunning. I actually found the reader to be far too fast (maybe I'm just a slow processor) -- I had to check that my iPhone wasn't set to 2x speed. But he does the characters brilliantly.
All in all, I thought both Matter and The Algebraist more compelling, but I appear to be in the minority.
"Excellent, slightly disturbing Culture novel"
I loved this. The tyranny of virtual hells was a frightening invention by Banks, and a clear target as a plot focus. There's a pretty decent rendering of a villain, probably the clearest, least ambiguous baddie to feature in a Culture novel. The narration was excellent.
The only caveat I have is the suggestion that this novel probably doesn't sit as well as others in this audio format: the plot twists and array of barely comprehensible character names mean you have to invest more attention than you would with print, because of the difficulty in flipping back through the story to remind oneself of the various story arcs.
"Awesome Book - Again!!"
A fantastic audiobook, if you liked Matter, this is a welcome and long overdue addition to the culture novels on Audible. Those of you who are fans of Toby Longworth, don't dispair. The new narrator is fantastic and manages the voices of the numerous aliens, ships and humans very well. Consider Phelbas was released this month and, off the strength of Surface Detail, I'll definitely be purchasing!
"Imagination that encompasses the universe"
From the first page of the Wasp Factory to the last words that Iain M Banks and Iain Banks writes I will cherish the imagination of a genius. In all the science fiction novels Iain M Banks has created a universe such that his descriptions of the people and things that inhabit it culminate in the reader or listener being able to inhabit that same universe. Peter Kenny has the tones of characterisation just right. But Iain M Banks is the Master of modern Science Fiction. Listen and read. You won't be disappointed.
"A Spot Of Culture"
I've decide not to go through the culture series one by one in order, but to flit about arbitrarily on the basis of what grabs my fancy at the time. This book/listen is lighter than others in the series and has a nice linear construction which means that your not too confused at the end. It has technology to wander at and the usual macabreness and deviation as well. It also contains humour in a form that is not so black as you may expect from this author. All in all interesting and entertaining and exciting, four stars.
"Great Culture Novel"
Surface Detail is a highly imaginative, thoroughly enjoyable and an unusually amusing listen / read. Banks gives us a battle for the afterlife, a dastardly villain, a damsel seeking revenge, sneaky aliens, some great culture ships and what has got to be the most entertaining ship yet, “Falling Outside the Normal Moral Constraints ". How can you not love a ship with a name like that? This was loads of fun, but just in case you start wondering about the feel-goody nature of this story, the epilouge brings it all into perspective and once again we are left pondering the machinations of the Culture. This is vintage Banks and a great return to the Culture. If you haven't already, definitely listen to "Use of Weapons" after this one!
Regarding the narration, at first it feels like Peter Kenny is going along a bit too fast, however once he finds his stride, he does a stellar job.
Well written and very well read. This is sci fi at its best. The reader puts such character into reading. So much so that I found the "ship" to be the star of the book.
"Probably the best culture novel yet"
As usual Peter Kenny's reading is spot on. This story has all the usual Banks tricks and flair, but somehow feels more comfortable, possibly because the story hangs together more. However what makes this excellent is the Ships who are the main characters with fully formed personalities and a complex web of other civilizations the Culture is interlinked with.
Please can we have Excession and Look To Windward read by Mr Kenny
"Excellent addition to the Culture series"
Highly enjoyable if a little confusing and hard to follow on audio at times. The plot follows the usual predicable formula (you just know the Culture will step in at the last minute to tidy everything up) and the long names are annoying; but having said that, this has to be one of the best Culture novels so far- so 5 stars despite the few quibbles.
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