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 center of it all is a young woman whose need for revenge masks another motive altogether.
Banks's labyrinthine and devious ninth Culture space opera novel (after 2008's Matter) adeptly shifts perspective between vast concepts and individual passions. The blissfully disorganized, galaxy-spanning Culture has fabulous technology that gives human and alien entities freedom to choose who and what they want to be. When sex slave Lededje Y'breq is murdered by a politician on the planet Sichult, the artificial intelligence running one of the Culture's immense starships resurrects her so she can seek revenge. Meanwhile, the Culture is uneasily watching the conflict over whether to preserve virtual Hells for the souls of "sinners" or give them the release of death. Leaping with jaw-dropping speed from character to character and from reality to virtuality, the narrative swiftly pulls these concerns together. New readers may be taken aback by the rapid pace, but fans will dive right in and won't come up for air until the final page.
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Lost interest after a few chapters due to its repeated turns into the gruesome and gorey. No thanks.
Ian Banks' Culture Series is quite simply extraordinary. His imagination and detail make me read these books over and over again. The Culture-a quasi anarchic utopia-is a civilization that I would join in a heartbeat! It's a loss to the world that Ian banks isn't alive and taking us on his journey.
The best of the dark novels
I mean, who can't paint hell better than Banks? Read "The Wasp Factory" sometime, the only book that I loved but didn't want to leave for the next reader since it was so depressing.
This book brings the old galactic saviors in a little late but ends exceptionally well. And at the risk of a spoiler, if we can someday transfer our selves to a computer substrate what is to prevent someone from emulating hell along the way?