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Thread: The New Consider Phlebas thread (contains spoilers)

  1. #1
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    Default The New Consider Phlebas thread (contains spoilers)

    After due deliberation, I have decided to return to the forum. My idea is to slowly reread (in deference to Deep Black's reading abilities—though he mentions getting audiobooks from the library which may speed things up) and discuss all the Culture novels in chronological order. Oh, if you're a newby just reading CP for the first time, you're welcome too. So on to Consider Phlebas.

    Banks' first published SF novel (1987) introduces us, though at some remove, to his central, magnificent idea, the Culture. The Culture, a far future galactic civilization with a post-scarcity, utopian veneer and peace as it's way of life, has been rudely thrust into the horror of total war by an implacable, fanatical enemy, the Idirans, bent upon the total destruction of all the Culture is and stands for. The story itself deals with a singular Idiran shapeshifter agent, Bora Horza Gobuchul, and the mission his Idiran masters order him to undertake. It is basically a quest novel, following the mission and the psychological growth, or lack thereof, of the main character.

    CP holds the distinction of being widely declared the book that launched modern space opera. Written in a fairly straightforward style, it introduces the Culture, without being Culture-centric. Banks sort of dances around the Culture, no Minds are introduced, and only a couple of the peripheral characters are Culture citizens, though there is some exposition explaining the Culture. It is a book full of action set-pieces and not that much philosophical to do, exposition aside. I've always wondered why this novel hasn't been made into a film. It has everything Hollywood wants in a space opera, thrilling space battles, lots of individual action sequences, good versus evil, compelling characters, the list goes on. Instead we get ever more episodes of the moribund Star Trek and Star Wars franchises, which proliferate like bland fast food restaurants, and are probably as bad for your mind as fast food is to your body. Probably the reason has to do with its decidedly leftist, socialist stance. Oh well, can't always have sterling American values of democracy and capitalism underlying your SF.

    Enough of an introduction and overview, I'll be back with more after I've finished rereading CP, there'll be lots of spoilers, so start reading already.
    Last edited by charismatic megafauna; 29-06-2014 at 01:52 AM.

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    Ok, here are some initial thoughts for you all:

    His was the 1st "M" book I read, in around 1995/6ish at College
    For some reason I'm convinced I remember the Idirans as being covered in hair (though I've since been told I'm wrong)
    Is this the one with Pittance & a Planet of the Dead?
    A certain now also deceased ex-forum member Haddonsman (who died around the same time as Iain) said it was like Pirates in space.
    He also tried to start a "book club" run through on TMHs books (with little success)
    It was the 1st publushed SF & Culture novel, but not the 1st written, so Iain already have a lot of the Culture story down before this book came out.
    I seem to recall some mass deaths by the end.
    Filmable? Iain had said he though it was the most filmic of his "M" books
    As for StarTrek/Wars, well the are a "known name" aren't they, the Culture to Hollywood (surely the only place with the money for it) are an unknown

    (maybe put Spoiler in thread title too CM)
    Last edited by Deep Black; 01-07-2014 at 02:21 PM.
    "Just have fun"

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    First Iain book I read my brother did something I would now consider unforgivable, borrowed the book off a work colleague and never gave it back!.

    Enjoyed it immensley, was really rooting for horza throughout, several quite disturbing scenes. I will check in my local library monday and see if they have it, got quite a large selection of english language books and a good fantasy/sci fi shelves too.

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    Just to float off the intended course... and at such an elementary stage. ( I apologise.) But a movie, a real movies of this book; proportionate to Peter Jacksons The Lord of the Rings would be…

    wondrous
    Outside Context Problem (OCP), the kind of problem "most civilisations would encounter just once, and which they tended to encounter rather in the same way a sentence encountered a full stop."

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    I always though the conceit of first introducing the entire society of the Culture as 'the bad guys' was rather clever. Explaining them at a remove really laid the the ground for them very well. If they'd been introduced from the off as the do-gooding, (reasonably) benevolent bunch that they're portrayed as in the rest of the books, I don't think it would've had quite the same effect.

    Quote Originally Posted by charismatic megafauna View Post
    The Culture, a far future galactic civilization with a post-scarcity, utopian veneer
    This possibly quite a geeky comment to make, but CP is actually set in our past. Somewhere around the 1300s, I think
    Last edited by Mercenary whoreboy; 30-06-2014 at 03:34 PM. Reason: Can't spell

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    Quote Originally Posted by charismatic megafauna View Post
    After due deliberation, I have decided to return to the forum.
    Man , I am really glad you're back.
    Excentric - Torturer Class - Right Winger's Nightmare

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    My lbrary did not have a copy of consider phlebas, I am hunting for a copy elsewhere. Will contribute further then.
    Phaze
    on the "Watching the series finale of suits, season 3, luckily I have season 4 episodes one two and three to play with" ID

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    DB, I'm using the published dates, keeps thing simpler and less confusing. Pittance is the weapons-ship storage asteroid in Excession. CP does have Schar's World, a Dra'Azon planet of the dead. Giga deaths could be considered mass deaths. If you think the thread title needs to mention spoilers, go ahead and add it to the title. I don't care enough to go to the bother.

    Brut, I'm of two minds (small m) on the CP movie thing. The positive side wants Banks to be wider known, would like to see a CP movie, even with lots of annoying changes made as it transitions from book to screen. I've a feeling the Idirans would end up looking more like Alien than large tripodal species of the book. And I'm almost certain we would see Horza and Perosteck Balveda become romantically involved and head off to the Culture to live happily ever after. The negative side (which I must admit is likely dominant) thinks the changes would be enough to render the movie unidentifiable to the book. The Culture would become a sort of Star Trekky version of the US and its anarchistic socialism would be ignored completely (it would confuse and confound the rubes who are spending hundreds of millions on Transformers this weekend). It would become another good versus evil 'blow 'em up real good' violence fest.

    Merc, I'm, not not sure the culture is introduced as the bad guys, but they are definitely one of the antagonists, about who we don't know much. As we learn more about the Idirans it becomes much clearer what a despicable bunch of fanatical religious fascists they are. I know the timeline you refer to, but I prefer to ignore it and the whole State of the Art, Earth is out there somewhere, story line. I've always found it to be a pandering bit of nonsense, probably undertaken at Banks' publishers insistence to put the Culture in some sort of context with Earth. As evidence, I'd point out that Banks never mentions Earth again after SotA, sort of like it was a bad idea he rather forget.

    Hi adeltorre, thanks for the ego stroke. I'm glad to be back.

    phazed, don't worry, just comment from memory if need be. Others can fill in details if required. The important thing is to comment. Alternately, you could fly back to Ireland tomorrow, get your copy and return.

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    I meant more that from Horza's perspective they're the bad guys, and as a reader not having come across the Culture before you have no choice but to accept the view of the unreliable narrator. It becomes apparent fairly quickly that they're not what they seem, but for a chapter or two the culture seems almost like a nebulous sort of boogeyman; the Idirians/Horza never even see the ship that's attacking them, the GSV that destroys Vavatch is probably in a different solar system, and so on.

    There are at least two other references to Earth in other books that I can recall, but you're right in that after that one big starring role, we never really feature again. I guess I've just got a soft spot for TSotA because of some of the comedy moments in it (the ship makes him a real lightsaber etc...)
    Last edited by Mercenary whoreboy; 01-07-2014 at 10:21 AM. Reason: Spelling again. Too much coffee.

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    Pittance is the weapons-ship storage asteroid in Excession. CP does have Schar's World, a Dra'Azon planet of the dead.
    Half right memory for me there then
    "Just have fun"

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