The fifth Culture book from the awesome imagination of Iain M. Banks, a modern master of science fiction.
Two and a half millennia ago, the artifact appeared in a remote corner of space, beside a trillion-year-old dying sun from a different universe. It was a perfect black-body sphere, and it did nothing. Then it disappeared.
Now it is back.
Praise for the Culture series:
'Epic in scope, ambitious in its ideas and absorbing in its execution' Independent on Sunday
'Banks has created one of the most enduring and endearing visions of the future' Guardian
'Jam-packed with extraordinary invention' Scotsman
'Compulsive reading' Sunday Telegraph
The Culture series:
The Player of Games
Use of Weapons
The State of the Art
Look to Windward
The Hydrogen Sonata
Other books by Iain M. Banks:
Against a Dark Background
Set in the remote future, Banks's (Feersum Endjinn) latest novel mounts a galactic-scale space opera, or, to be more exact, a space opera buffa. The Culture, a "pan-civilization, pan-species grouping" dominates the known cosmos, while the borders of unexplored space are probed by its Contact ships, intelligent, witty and fully sentient beings tagged with names like "The Anticipation of a New Lover's Arrival" and "Serious Callers Only." Of course, every opera needs a crisis, and the sudden appearance of an alien artifact that can seemingly travel between universes sends ships from the Culture and its competitor, the Affront, on a race to investigate the potential invader. Meanwhile, handsome young Genar-Hofoen is dispatched on a separate mission to discover what he can about the anomaly, only to find himself buffeted by decaying Culture-Affront relations. Banks fills the supporting cast with appealing but tart-tongued heroines, cute but droll droids--the conversations between the ships alone reveal that one doesn't have to be flesh-and-blood to be neurotic, bitchy or thin-skinned--and enough sputtering politicians to keep readers smiling. Although the narrative pace occasionally drops below warp speed, he provides enough hard science to provide credibility to his fantastic, far-flung society. In short, this is a riotous space swashbuckler, a lighthearted, light-years' romp.
Interesting, although not my favorite Banks
The novel is a very interesting thought-experiment, but the ship-Minds, experienced mostly through fairly stilted email-like exchanges, don’t become distinct enough as characters to really engage as characters, while the human-like characters don’t seem very important. If I had made an elaborate chart, I could have followed the plot better, but that seems to miss the point of writing a novel instead of a treatise. Just the same, the writing is stunningly good, and I was glad to get further insight into the Culture.
The best culture novel? I think so, but then again I love intelligent space ships …
An excellent read
Good characters. Superior vision. Wonderfully literate.