u38cg wrote: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...
It's because you see it through the perspective of the main character in Consider Phlebas, and he's made his decision there. I seem to remember that, Intellectually, I wasn't convinced by his argument, but on an emotional level, you side with him.
That was my first Banks book, and it's unfortunately mediocre*.
I loved Against a Dark Background until the end, which was terrible. The Algebraist was pretty entertaining, though again, a little disappointing at the end. Excession is great, but is a little anti-climactic (maybe that's the wrong word - there's a climax, and it's on a big scale, but it doesn't feel big). Having read that lot, I was worried that Banks was about 80% of the best SF writer writing today, but thankfully Inversions was superb throughout.
Use of Weapons is very good, though the non-linear format felt a little gimmicky. Feersum Endjin is great, but deh bad chpelin in a quarter of the chapters was a chore to read. Look to Windward is his best outright Culture book, I think (I'm discounting Inversions as it barely establishes itself as being in that universe). Others rate The Player of Games a little higher, and it's a good book, but I think a little overrated. Matter is a pretty good story, though the new big ideas weren't that impressive by Banks' standards. The State of the Art is clever in places (the throw-away joke about the ship contacting the BBC had me in stitches - I think his jokes are very effective because they're rare and unexpected), but I seem to remember it felt a little uneven, maybe only worth reading for completists.
I'm really looking forward to his new one, Transition, which is out next month.
I've read very few of his non SF books (IB rather than IMB). The Wasp Factory was effective and odd, and as much as it was deeply unpleasant in places, I enjoyed it. The Steep Approach to Garbadale dragged in places, and the ending felt very contrived. Any recommendations for other IB books?
*I feel this word has excessively negative connotations, as does "average". I think it's partly this that leads 85% or so of drivers to consider themselves "above average" or better. Sure, people overrate themselves, but I think that misinterpretation of average to mean poor contributes too.