Saturday, 11 July 2009

Iain M Banks : Matter

There is some climax in this book spread over the last two chapters. They put the whole narrative in a real context.
I think context is a central theme here for banks - using the space opera format he can contrast a feudal society functioning on an artificial planet with other civilisations including obviously the Culture. Although the primitive society is aware of the others it simply doesnt care! A bit of a parallel with the arrogance of current societies across the globe.

It's not completely original though the idea of an individual coming from a sleepy society to experience the wider world or universe is a common in sci/fi - fantasy - think of the Hobbits in Lord of the Rings or Luke in Star Wars. Here you have three who make the journey - Holse, Ferbin and Analpin

Other positives are the amount of big ideas looked at - interventionism in other wars/societies, the possibilites of complete destruction, the petty rivalries of different communities the nature of hierarchies, the length of time in space Again Banks always does this well in his sci-fi much better than his mainstream work, although I thought he had covered much of this ground in other works
Also as a Culture novel - people not familiar with it - probably would find this one a wee bit difficult as the first taste; it is again on the fringes of the Culture - the edges where they battle and intervene with other rivals.

So overall good - I liked the ending, some of the other civilisations introduced were good. I thought some of the passages set in feudal Sarl dragged a little though arguably I can see why this was done - makes the ending a little more shocking. But I did get the sense some of it was a bit of a retread - there is actually quite a telling interview with Banks at end of paperback where he admits he did go through a period of doubting whether he had the ideas to maintain writing sci-fi. I am not sure how many more of these epic works he will be able to do.

1 comment:

  1. Just about to start this book. The Culture books are fantastic... my favourite - so far - being "Inversions" - tho havent finished "The Algebraist" and it is great so far. Read all of Iain M Banks books in the past 6 months or so...HIGHLY recommended if anyone reading this has not read any of them.