For a while now, friends have been telling me, read Iain M. Banks and his Culture books. Well, I finally got around to it and loved the first book, Consider Phlebas. I reviewed it up at HTMLGiant and really enjoyed it a whole lot. As I wrote the review before the recent passing of Banks, it mentions his illness. RIP Mr. Banks:
“When I think of the best science fiction, I never think of it as actual science fiction. Rather, tales of humanity revealing glimpses into its nature that would otherwise be difficult to convey without the facade of artificial quasars and exotic aliens. “Iain Banks has ruined most sci-fi for me,” said a friend who was recommending the Culture series to me. With the recent news that Iain Banks was suffering from a terminal cancer to his gallbladder, I felt it was time to dive into this long and branching series I’d been hearing about for so long. I started with the first book, Consider Phlebas, which on the surface is a space opera with swash buckling action. It’s set to the backdrop of a war that is taking place between the Culture and the religiously fanatical civilization called the Idirans. The machines of the Culture are more complex than humans and have unique personalities that help calculate/determine their future. When the Mind of a brand new Culture ship escapes into a Planet of the Dead, the two factions race to retrieve it. The protagonist is Horza, a shape-changer sent by the Idirans because he has special access to the planet that the others do not.”
“The book could be called Consider the Culture as it juxtaposes the Culture in a study of contrasts. Whether it’s the religious Idirans, a group of cannibals, or Horza himself, seeing the Culture from the eyes of its enemies gives us a varied perspective on what exactly it is. These parts steal the show for me and I was often more interested in what the Culture represented than Horza’s odyssey. Through the Culture, Banks proposes an alternative future, one that is both more optimistic and yet more realistic than the apocalyptic descendants of the Biblical Revelations or even the utopianism of Star Trek (pre-JJ Abrams). The Culture excels because it understands human nature all too well and embraces it rather than trying to manipulate, control, or defy it. The savagery of human nature, the cupidity of its lusts, and even its laziness are all balanced by the sense of discovery, intuition, and will to survive.”
Thank you as always to my HTMLGiant Editor, Janice Lee!