Iain M. Banks

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Iain M. Banks

Postby Pseudo » Sun Dec 21, 2008 4:06 am UTC

I was wondering if anyone had gotten into his books? I am currently half way through Player of Games and I have Consider Phlebas queued up.

Everyones thoughts...
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby Mzyxptlk » Sun Dec 21, 2008 10:26 am UTC

I've read The Algebraist, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Definite recommendation there. I started reading The Steep Approach To Garbadale, but gave up due to a combination of work and not-getting-into-it.
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby MaybeAndroid » Sun Dec 21, 2008 9:09 pm UTC

Like you, I started with The Player of Games, which is technically the second Culture book, and then went back to the first one, Consider Phlebus. Since then I've been reading through them in order, and I'm now just finished Excession, and I'll be starting Inversions soon (hopefully - I asked for it for Christmas!). Although the books aren't really a series in the traditional sense, I've found it useful to go through them in order, as some of the later ones have a lot of little in-jokes and references to aspects of the Culture mentioned in earlier books, so it's easier to have read the other books first. When I've finished the Culture series I plan to read his other SF books as well, and I've already read The Bridge, which is one of his non-genre books published minus the 'M' in the name.

I really, really love the Culture; it's a really great example of world building done brilliantly, and I love discovering more of it with each of the books. The whole scope and idea of the Culture is a really fascinating one. The plots and the story telling style can be a bit non-traditional (not so much with The Player of Games, which is the most straight forward of the books, but certainly with the other ones, such as Use of Weapons which has a very non-linear plot) but I really like that aspect of it.

Slight spoiler hidden:
Spoiler:
The novella/short story The State of the Art really threw me though, as it reveals that the Culture is actually not a future from Earth, but rather exists concurrently with our present. It surprised me, but I think it made me appreciate the series even more.
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby Pseudo » Mon Dec 22, 2008 2:48 am UTC

Awesome! Yeah, I had planned to plow through the rest of them in order I just happened to pick these two up first. My friend just finished Consider Phlebas so I should be getting it soon. Glad to hear this; I'm looking forward to reading these now. :D
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby |Erasmus| » Mon Dec 22, 2008 9:47 am UTC

I have Consider Phlebus sitting in front of me nearly finished, and The Player of Games in my bag... They seem good enough so far, although I have been told that Consider Phlebus is so much worse than the rest of the series. Seeing as it has been reasonable so far, assuming my source is accurate, the rest of the culture novels stand to be pretty good.
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby stevenf » Mon Dec 22, 2008 10:26 pm UTC

Ideally, read the whole lot - but in the right order. I started with Excession which I found hugely and joyously imaginative. The story telling style, especially the ships names and the exchanges between them, was truly innovative.

As mentioned above, The Culture is the plot feature with the greatest development potential. If the whole thing could be expanded in the CGI style of Final Fantasy it would make a series that would leave Star Trek and Star Wars in the ditch.

Somewhere in xkcd I have previously given an URL for IMB delivering a longish disquisition on the culture - worth chasing down for a greater insight.

Candidly - I think IMB has not yet made the most of his talents in SF. I really hope he continues to try to develop The Culture
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby Antimatter Spork » Tue Dec 23, 2008 5:19 pm UTC

I've read Player of Games and Excession. I have a hard time finding the books, since I get most of my books from libraries and they often don't have them or don't have a lot.
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby PAstrychef » Sat Dec 27, 2008 1:23 am UTC

Banks's books are now being properly released in the US! Wonderful writer, his non-SF stuff is also quite good, especially The Crow Road. If you like a long and winding tale, these are a good choice.
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby MaybeAndroid » Sun Dec 28, 2008 4:10 pm UTC

stevenf wrote:Somewhere in xkcd I have previously given an URL for IMB delivering a longish disquisition on the culture - worth chasing down for a greater insight.


This, possibly?
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby stevenf » Sun Dec 28, 2008 10:17 pm UTC

Thanks MayBeAndroid. That is the one. Did you find it interesting?
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby MaybeAndroid » Sat Jan 03, 2009 10:35 am UTC

I actually haven't had a chance to read it yet, but I've had it sitting in my bookmarks folder for ages! I'll try to find time to read it before I start the next Culture book.
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby agibb » Sun Jan 04, 2009 11:09 pm UTC

I am a massive Iain M. Banks fan. I have read most of the culture books, and the Algebraist. I haven't got around to reading Feersum Endjin or State of the Art yet. My personal favourite is Excession. That is basically my most tattered book. Despite half a dozen readings I still haven't quite unpicked which ships are stabbing which other ships in the back. Hopefully that's not too much of a spoiler. Anyhow, I would thoroughly recommend any Culture books, or The Algebraist.
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby jestingrabbit » Tue Feb 24, 2009 1:13 pm UTC

I'm currently reading "matter", his latest culture novel.

I really love his stuff. I picked up "use of weapons" during the first few weeks of uni (a looooonnnngggg time ago) and have loved his stuff ever since. I've read all his sci-fi (except the last 200 pages of matter) and all but his last two non-genre novels. Its all good. Its all fabulously well realised and unlike a lot of sci-fi, he knows how to write good endings. The endings of his stories make sense.

Just an fyi, a lot of the words you think are made up are actually real english words, though very obscure. For instance: 'zetetic elench' is an actual phrase in the english language. Check the OED if you don't believe me.
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby Bluggo » Wed Feb 25, 2009 12:37 am UTC

A few months ago, after having read Banks' summary of the Culture somewhere in the webosphere, I bought "Consider Phlebias".

I was more than a little disappointed.

The universe was neat and interesting, but the characters' personalities were Twilight-grade shallow (come on, why am I supposed to care about them again?), for most of the book the plot lacked a real direction, and Banks overused spatter and "action scenes" as a means for keeping the reader on edge.

There were a few sweet parts, like the one about
Spoiler:
the game of Damage

but in general I got the impression that Banks is good at universe building but mediocre at actual writing.

I heard somewhere that his later books of the series are better: probably I will have a look at them one time or another, I suppose.
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby Banksy » Wed Feb 25, 2009 6:07 pm UTC

Iain Banks is sheer brilliance.
All of his science fiction works are excellent, with the possible exception of 'Against A Dark Background', which to me seemed to just be a woman subjected to a series of dark events (well at least he warns you).
Even Feersum Endjinn if you can get past the way it is written is a smashing novel.

My personal favourite is Excession, with the fast paced story and the brilliant insight into the Minds.
Close second would be the player of games... also pretty damn good

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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby Adacore » Thu Feb 26, 2009 12:02 am UTC

I think he can write very well, but chooses the all out action approach for his sci-fi stuff. He's said in interviews before that he sees writing fiction as being like drawing a miniature with fine pencils, while writing sci-fi is like using rollers and decorating brushes and just slapping paint onto a giant canvas. They just show different aspects of his scope.

I've read all the Culture books but am yet to read most of his other stuff. Although I did just finish Against A Dark Background, which was awesome, but - as the title suggests - pretty dark. I actually felt that he was *too* creative in Against A Dark Background - he created so many really cool absolutely unique settings that I just felt he may have been better off spending longer in each of them and saving some of the spares for other works. It was almost like a showcase of his imagination at times.

I picked up all his non-scifi (sans 'M') books from a charity shop last week; I'll start working through them soon, I guess - the only one I've read so far is The Business.
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby Dream » Fri Feb 27, 2009 2:47 pm UTC

Bluggo wrote:A few months ago, after having read Banks' summary of the Culture somewhere in the webosphere, I bought "Consider Phlebias".

I was more than a little disappointed.

If I can give you a couple of cents here, I'd say the the polar opposite in his work to "Consider Phlebas" would probably be "Look To Windward", which is one of my favourite SF books of all time. It's strange, as they are both named after lines from the same poem. Windward is a far more expansive book, and thought it touches on some of the same subject matters as Phlebas, the writing, storytelling and characterisation are so far removed form the first book that it is hard to believe that they are from the same author. Banks himself has called Phlebas a "yarn", which while not a criticism, is certainly an accurate description. Windward is far from that, being much fuller and more fleshed out. It also happens to be a brilliant book.
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby Bluggo » Fri Feb 27, 2009 7:33 pm UTC

Thanks for the suggestion!
Despite my dislike for the plot and characterization of Consider Phlebias, I liked very much the universe it was set in, so I will be sure to have a look at "Look To Windward" soon - probably, shortly after I finish "The moon is a harsh mistress".
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby |Erasmus| » Sun Mar 01, 2009 9:54 am UTC

Bluggo wrote:Thanks for the suggestion!
Despite my dislike for the plot and characterization of Consider Phlebias, I liked very much the universe it was set in, so I will be sure to have a look at "Look To Windward" soon - probably, shortly after I finish "The moon is a harsh mistress".

As I previously posted, I was told to read Consider Phlebas because it sets up the universe, but was an otherwise awful book, and I kinda agree (maybe not awful, but definitely lacking). I read The Player of Games afterwards, and was blown away... If you liked the stuff about damage, you will probably enjoy that one.

I've also read the Algebraist since I last posted, and just finished Against a Dark Background. Both were good, if not quite as good as Player. I'm trying to find a copy of Use of Weapons, but failing that, I've heard The Wasp Factory is one of his best ones.
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby Adacore » Thu Mar 19, 2009 2:57 pm UTC

The Wasp Factory was his debut novel, and it's good, but I'm not sure I'd say it's his best work. My favourite of his non-scifi books is actually The Business (yes, it's by far the trashiest one with the least literary value, but I enjoyed it). For the Scifi, I liked Consider Phlebas - it's not his best, but I have nothing against it. Matter and Excession are probably my favourites.
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby FoS » Fri Mar 20, 2009 9:21 am UTC

Gaarr!
I'm a Banks fan but Feersum Enjin left me gagging. I'd much rather re-read one of his other books then actually finish Feersum.
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby wyngrn » Fri Mar 20, 2009 1:27 pm UTC

I've read Excession and Player of Games along with 4 or 5 of the non 'M' books.
In my opinion they all show a great imagination at work and there's usually some weirdness that makes you think a bit deeper about whatever the subject is.
For me the most conventional was The Business which, though enjoyable, didn't do what his other books do for me.
I haven't read Phlebas (luckily, by the sound of it) but the other two are excellent and the Culture just leaves you wanting more.
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby |Erasmus| » Sat Mar 21, 2009 12:35 am UTC

wyngrn wrote:I've read Excession and Player of Games along with 4 or 5 of the non 'M' books.
In my opinion they all show a great imagination at work and there's usually some weirdness that makes you think a bit deeper about whatever the subject is.
For me the most conventional was The Business which, though enjoyable, didn't do what his other books do for me.
I haven't read Phlebas (luckily, by the sound of it) but the other two are excellent and the Culture just leaves you wanting more.

Phlebas is a little bit 'meh'. but it's worth reading because it was his first culture novel. From what I've read (and heard from others) he goes into a lot more detail about the culture in that one. It is an interesting read, at the least.

I bought Matter and Look to Windward today. Still no copies of Use of Weapons available :(
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby Adacore » Sat Mar 21, 2009 3:25 am UTC

I have quite frequent business trips to Glasgow. Iain Banks books have pride of place in the bookshops up there, so I never have any trouble finding them :D

Are they not that popular in Australia?
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby |Erasmus| » Sat Mar 21, 2009 12:05 pm UTC

Adacore wrote:I have quite frequent business trips to Glasgow. Iain Banks books have pride of place in the bookshops up there, so I never have any trouble finding them :D

Are they not that popular in Australia?

They are not particularly well known, I feel... I only heard about him through a friend of mine who told me I absolutely -had- to read player of games, and use of weapons.

Borders have a decent range, but are lacking in both Use of Weapons and The Wasp Factory. Dymocks has much less, only sometimes having a couple.
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby Macbi » Wed Mar 25, 2009 6:42 pm UTC

I think my favorite Culture novel has to be Use of Weapons for the contrast it make between the sheer scale of the Culture and each of the lives that the plot touches.The Coolest Action Scene Evar award goes to the drone's escape at the start of Excession.
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby Antimatter Spork » Sat Mar 28, 2009 2:38 pm UTC

I didn't really like Consider Phlebas that much, but I think it might just suffer from the fact that it's the first Culture novel and Banks hadn't really hit his stride yet. Use of Weapons was better, and I loved Player of Games and Excession. (I haven't read too many of them, they're not easy to find, especially in libraries).
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby Wolfkeeper » Wed Aug 19, 2009 5:06 am UTC

Consider Phlebas could have been OK if it didn't have such a depressing ending. You can forgive a novel quite a bit if you leave it feeling good. It was quite an inventive novel. I hope one day he'll rewrite the ending and fix the damn book.

Use of Weapons is my favourite, Player of Games if you like something a bit lighter. I'm currently rereading the Algebraist, it's really fun, but a bit cartoony, things like 'kudos' are never really explained and are basically handwavium to make the story work.
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby kandalf » Wed Aug 19, 2009 6:16 am UTC

My uncle actually dumped a half dozen of Banks' books on me after reading them on a vacation. (Algebraist, Consider Phlebas, Feersum Enjinn, Excession, Look to Windward, Against a Dark Background). I read them over a year or so, but really enjoyed most of them. A couple months ago I checked out Player of Games and Use of Weapons from the library, which were both very good. I guess I have to get Matter next...
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby MaybeAndroid » Wed Aug 19, 2009 12:21 pm UTC

I realise that the title of this thread specifies Iain M Banks, but I was wondering if anyone reads his non-SF fiction, which is published just as Iain Banks? I've now read most of the SF and was thinking of starting on his other books. Apparently his newest books, Transition, actually is kind of a cross-over between genres, as it's kind of SF but not set in space as his other books are. It's published here in the UK as a general fiction book, but in the US as a science fiction one.
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby u38cg » Wed Aug 19, 2009 12:56 pm UTC

I have been meaning to read more of his straight fiction, but was a bit put off after Garbadale and the extremely predictable
Spoiler:
incest story line
which you could see coming from ten miles away, just like being tied to the train tracks and hearing the whistle and feeling the rails starting to hum.

However, I enjoy the science fiction very much, despite the occasional appearance of the Deus ex machina (Excession*, I'm looking at you). The roller-coaster imagination is great fun.

*Excession is still my favourite of the books, along with Use of Weapons.
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby PAstrychef » Wed Aug 19, 2009 2:43 pm UTC

I like both the "M" and "non-M" books. Crow Road is amazing, and Whit is a blast. Song of Stone was my least favorite of that set. It's a hoot-I got mine in Glasgow, and they have printed on the covers-not for sale in the USA.
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby markfiend » Wed Aug 19, 2009 3:17 pm UTC

I've read all of his 'M' books (repeatedly) and a lot of his non-'M' books (mostly once each, except The Wasp Factory -- which I have to keep returning to in much the same way that one feels compelled to poke a scab.)

Anyway, the topic is 'M' so...

Consider Phlebas was the first I read, and while I do see the arguments that it's less well developed than the later books, it's definitely worth a go in its own right. Considering the lack of characterisation, (don't know whether it's worth spoilering this but hey)
Spoiler:
I think that in the case of Horza, this is in fact part of his character as a Changer, there are several points in the novel where he doubts his own identity.


Excession is probably my favourite Culture novel, closely followed by Inversions (Some people who weren't paying attention seem to think that Inversions wasn't a Culture novel.)

Matter seems a bit rushed at the end IMO -- one case of too much editing!

Use of Weapons is very clever, especially given
Spoiler:
the twist that Zakalwe turns out not to be Zakalwe at all.


I could rabbit on about this for hours, but I'm actually at work. :oops:
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby frogman » Wed Aug 19, 2009 10:50 pm UTC

I read The Player of Games first, and thought it was absolutely brilliant. Then I read Consider Phlebas, which, although it wasn't as good as TPOG, I didn't dislike as much as some of you seem to. I own Use of Weapons, but haven't gotten around to reading it yet.

It's not that hard to find Iain M. Banks books here, but that might be because I live in the city with the biggest independent new and used book store in the world. They have a whole shelf dedicated to him (might be two, actually, can't remember).
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby MysteryBall » Sun Aug 23, 2009 5:09 pm UTC

I started reading Banks' books a while back, finished Phlebas a while back and started on The Player of Games, I was rather disappointed when
Spoiler:
I discovered there wasn't a character that flowed through from the 1st book other than in reference, I had grown rather fond of Horza... :(
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby PAstrychef » Sun Aug 23, 2009 10:55 pm UTC

There are very few overlapping characters in Bank's work-if there are any at all, they're ship-Minds, or Minds in general. The Culture books are not a series in the way publishers have trained us to expect a series to work. And I'm thankful for that.
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby Czhorat » Mon Aug 24, 2009 1:40 pm UTC

I've read use of Weapons, Player of Games, Consider Phlebas, and Matter. I liked them, and see this as an example of a series that is getting stronger as it goes along. It's hard for me to read more than one at a time though, and I need something more up-beat in between; there's quite a bit of brutality in these books, both physically and emotionally. In some ways I like that he doesn't always go for an easy, happy ending, but sometimes the ending is so downbeat and nasty as to feel almost gratuitously bleak (especially Use of Weapons). He and KJ Parker remind me a bit of eachother in that respect in that while showing the horrific ways in which war twists peoples psyches they both end up writing something more unpleasant than it needs to be.
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby Adalwolf » Tue Aug 25, 2009 8:08 am UTC

I've read Consider Phlebas, and I thought it was quite good. The epilogue pissed me off though. I didn't want the Culture to beat the Idrians (sp?)! I'll have to check out more of his work soon.
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby u38cg » Tue Aug 25, 2009 9:22 am UTC

The Culture is more morally ambiguous in Consider Phlebas than in subsequent books. Whether that's down to narrative requirements, a change of view on the part of the author, or something else...
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Re: Iain M. Banks

Postby Czhorat » Tue Aug 25, 2009 11:49 am UTC

I think there's still a hint of moral ambiguity about the Culture. They are self-righteous, monolithic, and seem to see think that the rules (even their own rules) don't apply to them. Add to this the fact that the minds have agendas and priorities which mortals can't even pretend to understand and, in my opinion, you get what seems utopian but can be a very powerful force for purposes that might, to an outsider, seem capricious at best. I think the Culture seems more a force for "good" to you because the viewpoint characters have all been Culture, but I still think some ambiguity leaks through. Banks doesn't seem to like to write pure "good guys"/
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