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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks

This is May's book group selection. 
I've read this series out of order (below), but I don't know that it really matters in hindsight. If you are reading them in order (not as listed below) you might get a better feel for how the Culture universe matures.

April 2000 Excession
July 2003 Look to Windward
Jan 2007 The Algebraist
April 2009 State of the Art
Feb 2010 Matter
Nov 2011 Use of Weapons
Jan 2012 Surface Detail
May 2012 Consider Phlebas

While I did bounce off of Surface Detail (see review here), I thought Consider Phlebas was a pretty good - and fast - read. I will note right off the bat that this read a bit like a cross between a space pirate adventure, a space opera, and an action movie with a bit of heavy philosophy thrown in for good measure. Think if you will, on a grandiose scale as one man rages against the machine (the Culture) with a motley crew who got dragged into things because they were on the wrong ship at the right time. The ever present Culture agent gets to go along for the ride, but has no say and no capability to do anything. Which surprised me given the status afforded these agents in subsequent books.

And I don't know if this was intentional, but it was almost as if the book was a homage to other science fiction works - the space renegade/pirate comes first to mind, there was a chapter with a twisted version of Jabba the Hut, the decaying space Orbital reminded me of Larry Niven's Ringworld, and, the Man vs Machine theme. Just to name a few.
I'm really not capturing the essence of Consider Phlebas in this review. If you've read Banks, you'll understand my struggle.

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