Consider Phlebas (CP) is without doubt a conceptually stunning piece. The breadth and depth of the concepts and constructs is breath-taking. There are..Show More » 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 a stunning book, that I had not read, since it first came out when I was a kid. But it was good enough to stick with me over the many interven..Show More »ing years. This reading is fantastic. Great interpretations of the characters. Hope the accents don't upset anybody. Highly,highly recommended. If we are lucky Mr.Kenny will be reading the rest of the series too.( He also did a great job with -Consider Phlebas) ps please hurry with the others, I can't wait until -Excession is given this treatment
I'd already read this as a physical book, but I'd forgotten the title - I decided that I should just listen again anyway and I was really glad I did. ..Show More »Once you've read it once, then the second time you listen to it in a completely different way - I highly recommend leaving it a few years after the first listen and then listening to it again.
Anyway, it's pretty much impossible to say anything without spoiling it for others with this book so all I'll say is that it's up there with the best of the Iain M Banks books for me.
Great narration too - this is one of my favourite narrators. I made a list of them after a while so I'd be able to search based on narrator and not just author - I reckon it's that important - plus great narrators don't tend to do terrible books. I also really like Scott Brick who read Dune (amazing), Toby Longworth who read Iain M Banks - Matter, Samuel West who read The Day of the Triffids (amazing), Sean Barrett who read The Left Hand of God (really really good), and my favourite of the lot is Anton Lesser who read the Algebraist, which I didn't really enjoy - although I think I need to just try again with it and do it all over a few days and not try and do anything else at the same time.
I recently began work at an organization that let you listen to your mobile...so I downloaded my 2nd book...'State of the Art' by Iain M Banks. Just l..Show More »ike the first book, I loved it. Iain M Banks sci-fi books are very detailed and can be difficult to read but having his stories read aloud (through my headphones obviously) makes them just as good, maybe better!
This book is classic sci-fi covering all scales. There are human stories, various races, Culture Ship Minds and even, from certain viewpoints, the mic..Show More »roscopic. Although it contains a huge amount of technical information on the Ships (the story being largely concerned with these) it never becomes bogged down in pointless detail and remains constantly fascinating. It treads a fine line between fleshing out the Culture universe as a whole and maintaining a strong element of mystery. It's great to see the all-powerful and infinitely intelligent ship Minds totally stumped and humbled by something they can't even begin to explain.
Peter Kenny's reading is of such a high standard that this constitutes, to my mind, a definitive edition of the story. This reading manages that rare feat of actually improving on the original work. Here's hoping that Iain M. Banks keeps on writing them and that Peter Kenny keeps on reading them!
Not exactly SciFi, a view from outside The Culture
Although not a Culture book as such, being set in a medieval world of wars and scheming factions, it follows the lives of two people: The Doctor, and ..Show More »The Bodyguard. Written from the point of view of someone from this medieval planet, we are never sure where these people come from, but the way they act and the events that ensue, you are left with the feeling that they are an example of The Culture interacting with a less advanced race.
I have listened to every culture book so far and they are all outstanding but this is the best one. Banks is a formidable writer. A very moving and p..Show More »oinant story that will stay with me for years. Peter Kenny gave excellent narration as always.
Such is the draw to a Culture novel that I was compelled to purchase as soon as the title became available.
As has been the way with rec..Show More »ent Banks work, the story takes place on a number of levels. Matter, takes this one stage further and locates the narrative inside a shell world which itself is made up of a number of levels - cleaver.
Imagine a heraldic prince, not unlike Hamlet who stumbles upon his fathers murder and the action spirals out to threaten the whole world, drawing the attention of the Cultures elite soldiers, SC.
At it's heart, the story contemplates the very meaning of life, but don't expect Banks to answer that, if the best Minds of the Culture can't. If however, life really is all just a game, what does it really Matter!
If you are a fan then tell your loved ones you will be away for 21 hours and when you return you will be suffering from withdrawal symptoms.
Let's hope it isn't another 8 years until the next one, but however long it takes it will be on My Next Listen list.
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 SciF..Show More »i 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.
In The Hydrogen Sonata Iain M. Banks - as an outspoken atheist - has finally gotten around to using his Culture universe to explore faith and religion..Show More ». Though there have never been any gods in his creation (the Minds, though near-omnipotent, are way too vain and profane to fulfill that role) there has always been Subliming: a Heaven-like afterlife for civilisations or Minds to ascend to. He’s never tackled Sublimation head-on before and I was intrigued to see how he would do it; this being Iain M. Banks though, he did it with wit, thoughtfulness and panache (with great dollops of action, sex and intrigue thrown in to spice it up). I couldn't tell which came first, the plot or the theme, but its not important; the plot rattles along - a wondrous travelogue around his beautifully imagined universe - and the theme lies there in the background adding depth to the conversations of the characters we’re following on their various wild-goose chases. Along the way we get to chew over different aspects of religion through the different characters we meet: a hermit Mind who returned from the Sublime representing resurrection; evil and guilt (or lack thereof) are explored through the main antagonists; forgiveness and acceptance of our sins and the meaning of life, the universe and everything according to a millennia-old human. There’s no spiritual epiphany to found though, either by the characters, the author or the readers; the moral (if there is one - I’m not sure it’s even relevant) could be that a truly loving God would welcome all his flawed creations into heaven. Or maybe that personal Truth can be true even if it’s based on lies (and doesn’t hurt anyone). I don’t know, but I love the way that the great mystery at the heart of the story could seem almost irrelevant except for the fact that it’s incredibly important to those involved. Anyways, I really enjoyed the book and it was sublimely narrated (no pun intended) by Peter Kenny - thoroughly recommended!