Drink, but very carefully...
Struck me mostly as definition 3 from this list:
"a brief summary of the plot of a novel"
"Just have fun"
It's okay for what it is, a 5 paragraph "description" of the book. I especially like the 3rd paragraph:
What is the Culture? A human-based galactic civilization that, in its attempts at progressive, benevolent rule, sometimes gets it chillingly wrong. Through the course of nine novels, including the brilliant "Use of Weapons" and "Excession," Banks has used mind-bending space opera to explore the Culture and tell ripping-good adventure yarns with large casts of characters, while also commenting intelligently on issues related to war, morality, philosophy and religion.
Unlike far too many reviewers, he seems to have read and comprehended much of what IMB is trying to accomplish, though he should have said, a human/AI-based galactic civilization.
Nya. The LA Times review, and most of the others, were just horrible. Lots of synopsis and mis-interpretations as far as I can see. I think the book is relatively difficult to review; because of the ending, because it relies on knowledge of previous books/Idiran war, because it seems to be saying something about virtual worlds but you can't quite figure out what.
Ultimately I think there is a lot of subtext to the Culture novels that just doesn't get picked up on, and a lot of wit and SF literary style that gets completely glossed over - who mentions the pacing of the engagements/novel? The gradual drawing into focus of the early scenes? The beautifully logical yet thrilling combat? I always read the reviews and get the impression that Banks' Mind is working on a higher level than the people reviewing.
Too virtual? What does that mean? That more than 50% was set in virtual worlds? Because even that doesn't hold up.Banks has certainly imbued "Surface Detail" with excitement and energy, but ultimately the novel seems too long, and too virtual.
Yeah, there were really only two layers throughout the whole thing, maybe three if you count Vatueil's sequences as being sims within the war-sim. It certainly didn't feature any of the cheesy "...and then I got off the bus" moments that Dick and most other SF pulls in this regard.It's hard not to compare the layering of realities here with the work of Philip K. Dick or a novel like Stepan Chapman's "The Troika," in which "virtualness" is so intrinsically tied to character that it becomes transcendent and moving.
Ahaha... eh.. what?Culture fans will enjoy "Surface Detail," but others may wish for fewer layers and a little more depth.
See? The reviewer gives up and just makes rather limp jokes at the end. I didn't read all the reviews, did any reviewer actually *get* the book?By the way, in case you were concerned, you are not truly dead. Nor are you in hell. Probably.
The trouble with reviewing IMB's work is that it's literary, intellectual, and creative aspects is an order of magnitude greater than almost any others working in the genre are capable of (based upon my experience of 50 years reading the stuff). Too many reviewers just don't get Banks, aren't familiar with his oeuvre, or need a familiar (ie. naive and puerile) Star Wars/Star Trek approach. Probably why he has failed to win any of the major SF awards despite a body of work arguably the greatest to ever grace the SF genre. I suppose this neglect will eventually be remedied by some sort of lifetime achievement award (sort of like Alfred Hitchcock, who never won an Academy Award for Best Director in spite of being widely considered the best motion picture director ever).
Star Wars is, particularly in the prequals, very rich in mythology and politics, which I love. But it takes large liberties with logic (like the whole AI issue, Obi Wan jokes, "well if machines could think, none of us would be here now, would we?") which I'm all too willing to ignore
I'm not well read in SF - loved le Guin (sp?) though. Stranger in a Strange Land was also great, but too much of a hypothetical concept piece for my liking. I'm rambling again.
Star Wars would be equal, nothing better as far as I can recall. Thoughts?
I'm referring to written SF, not movies or TV. I've been reading the stuff for over 50 years. Started with the great 50's authors Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, et al; continued with the 60's 70's new age authors, Le Guin, Niven, Cherryh, etc; skipped most of the 80's (grad school keep me busy with other reading) and returned in the 90's with Bujold. I discovered Banks while at the public library about 96 or 97. Going through the new SF arrivals and I picked up Excession (probably not the best place to start, but what the hell), read the dust cover description and was immediately intrigued. I was blown away by the sheer scale of things, the audacity of the vision, the literary talent. No looking back. Reread it immediately, put holds on all the other IMB available, went out and bought the books. I've now reread all the books (other than SD) about 3 to 5 times each. I discover something fresh with each reading. I've only ever bothered to reread a couple of other SF titles.
IMO Banks has no peer in the SF field. The Culture is the grandest vision of the future ever put on paper. Since Matter, I preorder the novels, just can't wait to read them. CP is now widely regarded as the start of the modern space opera. The Culture has become extremely influential and widely imitated. No matter, no one else even comes close to Banks combination of literary talent, intellectual ability, wit, and invention.
Hi praise indeed.
How do you rate his non SF out put?
"Just have fun"
I've only recently started on the non-M books. For a long time I was only interested in the SF, but Banks is Banks. So far I've read WF, CR, SoS, and the Business , started but couldn't finish the Bridge. I find I'm not as interested in the "mainstream" books. I liked The Crow Road more than the others, seems semi-autobiographical. The Business seemed like something he tossed off to meet publisher's obligations, not a lot there. WF and SoS are both seriously weird shit, and I find I'm ambivalent, some things I liked, some things not. Im not sure I've read enough non-M yet to really form an opinion. I do think he returns to the Culture again and again, because it allows him to return to a more positive outlook on life (ie. a happy place). And because he can elaborate on how he would like things to be without being pedantic. While I do read just for the enjoyment of the story, someone likes Banks who can turn a phrase with best of them and make me think, while always entertaining, is someone to really treasure. His like doesn't come along often.