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ChrisN
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!!!!!!!!

Why did you hate it so much? It's all the good bits about his sci-fi writing taken together and lumped into some complex ball of head fuckery. It's the best book ever!

Much of ithe hatred I see now, was because I largely had no idea what was happening in the novel, in any way, at all, and I had to read it for university, so it turned into a five-hundred page nightmare.

With that in mind;

The ships' conversations go on for PAGES AND PAGES, I was totally flummoxed by what they were actually talking about anyway, their names/classifications drove me mad (I felt mollifed by Matter) and seemed intentionally designed to be as perplexing as possible, the back cover essentially describes the novel as an epic narrative about bugger-all happening ('there was a star. For five hundred years it did nothing. Then it disappeared. Now it's back. Doing nothing'), and it had loads of anacronyms.

Then there was that miserable bint mooning around on a ship because she had, essentially, broken up with her boyfriend. Pffffff. Then this hippy, earth-mother, perpetually pregnant whinger loses it and attempts bloody murder because why? She's jealous because he shagged someone else. It just seemed reductive and silly, and jarred with the rest of the epic plot.

Of course, now, I understand the humour and irony behind many of these things (though Banks' female characters do often seem created from a broad spectrum of SF stereotypes) and so I think I'd enjoy it a lot more.

I've just noticed that it says on the Wiki page that newcomers to Banks should probably start with some thing else!

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Heh, you dislike it for all the reasons I love it. I introduced somebody to Banks with Excession and they adore it, and it was in fact my first Banks sci-fi, so I'd disagree with you on an anedotal basis about starting off with it, but I can understand the argument completely.

You should read 'Player of Games' next, and make sure you don't miss out 'The State of the Art', which is part of a short sotry collection and which I'd consider the most focused, 'complete' sci-fi of his.

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Yes, if there is a best place to start the Culture novels from, it would probably be 'The State Of The Art', as things would make a lot more immediate sense. Personally I started with 'Consider Phlebas', and I still recommend it as a great start point, as being 'against' the Culture from the outset gives the rest of the novels a unique flavour.

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When I read it, I couldn't shake the feeling that part of Huxley wanted the whole thing to work.

Well, he espoused utopian concepts very similar to those in the book in his earlier years. Way back when I was writing something about the book for some class or other I recall reading that Brave New World is essentially some of these ideas reimagined as (or repurposed for) satire, so some personal conflict on his part seems only natural. I'm unable to find a reference for this now though, soz lol.

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Well, he espoused utopian concepts very similar to those in the book in his earlier years. Way back when I was writing something about the book for some class or other I recall reading that Brave New World is essentially some of these ideas reimagined as (or repurposed for) satire, so some personal conflict on his part seems only natural. I'm unable to find a reference for this now though, soz lol.

Having briefly read his Wikipedia page (I do my research), it suggests that he used similar concepts in a later novel, The Island but in a more genuinely positive way.

But yeah, I appreciate that it has a deliberate ambiguity. The Savage's life is portrayed positively as being more 'real', but at the same time, his upbringing sounded horrible, and his opposition to the 'brave new world' is (while partially justified) is obviously taken to a ludicrous extreme that Huxley isn't condoning (i.e. forcing himself into utter isolation, whipping himself, etc). Personally what really resonated with me, being an atheist, is the idea that without religion life is meaningless... so all life really is, is finding enough distractions (i.e. going on rllmuk) to stave off unhappiness.

However, I do think it is a weakness that it doesn't seem to know what it's trying to say, taking the Savage down that extreme path at the end doesn't seem to have any point. And NONE of the characters ever really take shape enough to fully draw you into the world. If we're going with the 1984 comparison; then maybe it has equally interesting ideas, but as a piece of ficiton 1984 is a much more successfully realised and powerful.

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Huxley put it well into his older, wiser introduction to BNW- the two ideologies of the savage and the brave new worlders are polar opposites; a choice between lunancy and insanity I think he put it, which is how he imagined society going at that point in history. Gleeful submission or miserable freedom.

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Huxley and Orwell seem to share a common disdain for the human race in general - mainly, our complete inability to implement anything, even a system that would benefit everyone, without someone, somewhere, fucking it up because of their own greed. Altruism is long gone, as far as they are concerned. In particular, Huxley wrote a fabulously snooty essay on advertising (or media in general, I can't quite remember), bewailing its aesthetic clumsiness and his disgust at our desperate race to fall for it all; it's much like the craving for soma in Brave New World. Orwell said much the same thing in Keep the Aspidistra Flying.

Run out and buy all of Orwell's work now, you won't regret it. He's got the most amazing style: sparse and economical and deadly accurate. He ws a journalist for many years, and was instrumental in developing the style guide for The Guardian, and it shows.

Anyway, 1984 is good, but Animal Farm is better.

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Huxley put it well into his older, wiser introduction to BNW- the two ideologies of the savage and the brave new worlders are polar opposites; a choice between lunancy and insanity I think he put it, which is how he imagined society going at that point in history. Gleeful submission or miserable freedom.

This is the bit that doesn't quite work for me - because I think in a way they aren't opposites at all but actually very similar. As the 'savages' who he grows up with also rely heavily on having a group mentality and are tied by their traditions and conventions, they don't really have much freedom at all. The way Native Americans (who they seem to be mainly based on) and traditional tribes around the world lived was always much more of a "everyone belongs to everyone" way of life - individualism is surely a more modern trend. In that sense the way we live now is far more of contrast - these days everyone is encouraged to think that they are unique and will find their talent, make their mark on the world, and should be seeking personal fulfillment, etc.

Not sure if verytallgirl was talking to me, but I agree, I love Orwell. His writing style is exceptional, he has an incredible clarity of expressing his ideas. I really like reading his essays (loads of which can be found online easily), they're often interesting even when you don't know about the subject he's talking about.

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However, I do think it is a weakness that it doesn't seem to know what it's trying to say, taking the Savage down that extreme path at the end doesn't seem to have any point. And NONE of the characters ever really take shape enough to fully draw you into the world. If we're going with the 1984 comparison; then maybe it has equally interesting ideas, but as a piece of ficiton 1984 is a much more successfully realised and powerful.

But 1984 isn't really a novel with a "point", is it? It's not a piece of persuasive, and is much the worse when read as such. While his earlier works are good, they read more like straightforward advocation of democratic socialism - in short, they are journalism. At some point in his early writing career Orwell said something along the lines that all his writing was to support socialism and to oppose fascism and communism. But I think that this isn't reflected in 1984. Much like "We" was born from the Russian Revolutions and The Great War, to continue the birth metaphor, 1984 may have been mothered by Orwell's journalistic instincts, but fathered by his experiences in the Second World War. So, while something like Road to Wigan Pier may have been invented, you can't help but feel 1984 was conceived.

Because of this, 1984 is a rounded work of art, and not merely a polemic. The human characters cast into it react humanely. In the same way, Brave New World exists in a mixed world of humanity. It just as "amoral" as 1984, in my opinion.

The ideological circle that BNW draws seems quite deliberate. "Lunacy and insanity" are not too dissimilar, after all.

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Recently I've read 'No Country for Old Men' which I really enjoyed. Haven't seem the film but the book was excellent, lived up to most of the praise. You whip through it really quickly because the prose is so sparse and effective.

Then it was the bill bryson memoir 'the life and times of the thunderbolt kid'. Typical bryson stuff, I really enjoyed it but then I like all his work. Nice relaxing reading with a tiny bit of history thrown in. I really reccoment his short history of nearly everything, even if you know all the science already.

Now, i'm on to 'we need to talk about kevin' but Lionel Shriver. Only a quarter of the way in but it's compelling so far. Harrowing in the way that no country for old men was but with a completely different style of writing.

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Much of ithe hatred I see now, was because I largely had no idea what was happening in the novel, in any way, at all, and I had to read it for university, so it turned into a five-hundred page nightmare.

With that in mind;

The ships' conversations go on for PAGES AND PAGES, I was totally flummoxed by what they were actually talking about anyway, their names/classifications drove me mad (I felt mollifed by Matter) and seemed intentionally designed to be as perplexing as possible, the back cover essentially describes the novel as an epic narrative about bugger-all happening ('there was a star. For five hundred years it did nothing. Then it disappeared. Now it's back. Doing nothing'), and it had loads of anacronyms.

Then there was that miserable bint mooning around on a ship because she had, essentially, broken up with her boyfriend. Pffffff. Then this hippy, earth-mother, perpetually pregnant whinger loses it and attempts bloody murder because why? She's jealous because he shagged someone else. It just seemed reductive and silly, and jarred with the rest of the epic plot.

I thought much the same when I read Excession and I was an established fan who'd read the previous Culture books. You need to pay attention to the intricacies of the Interesting Times Gang's conspiracy and the fact that the events in one thread have occured well before events in another, which I didn't do as I read the book on and off over the course of about a month.

I enjoyed it a lot more on second reading (as I did with Against A Dark Background recently), but it's still not as good as Consider Phlebas (full of gloriously OTT space opera set-pieces) nor The Player Of Games imo. Use Of Weapons is being re-read as we speak, and whilst foreknowledge of the conclusion means that I can pick up on the hints the reveal will weakened. <_<

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All this discussion of the Culture novels piqued my interest last night. This morning, a topic in ATF reminded me about it so I popped into Waterstones and got Consider Phlebas. I'm quite looking forward to it as it seems to be about proper alien ideas, However, even in this thread I have managed to avoid any sort of spoilers.

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Just finished a book called Home Run, which is about Allied soldiers getting back to Britain during the war, its pretty insane, some amazing stories in there. Next up is some Saul Bellow, then going to try Oryx and Crake again, which I hated last time around.

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I'm currently dipping in and out of Chronicles, Vol. 1 by Bob Dylan, having previously read it last summer. Fantastic book. I also read Educating Rita (Willy Russell) yesterday (also brilliant), and One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest is next on the list.

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I'm reading Oliver Twist by Dickens and am liking it very much. I was scared when I first tried getting into the Pickwick Papers that I wouldn't be able to get on with him, but this is a lot more readable and much less tangetal. Brilliant description and palpable characters.

Before that it was Making Money by Terry Pratchett - typically funny but it's the first time I've read one about the conman bloke (Moist) so I didn't get a lot of the references to his experiences in the earlier books, I look forward to reading them though. Engleby by Sebastian Faulks is also very good and plays extremely well upon the bond the reader has with the book's narrator. I also read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Stevenson the other day too, as it's only 50 pages long. The description was again very immersing (I'm finding that a lot with Victorian authors) but I think if it wasn't for my understanding of the story through watching the films etc., I wouldn't have known what was going on as it's all through another character's perspective. The pages and pages of letters at the end seemed like a bit of a cop-out denoument to me as well, to be honest.

I've also got One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest to read next before I choose another from my recently attained charity shop Dickens collection, probable Great Expectations.

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Before that it was Making Money by Terry Pratchett - typically funny but it's the first time I've read one about the conman bloke (Moist) so I didn't get a lot of the references to his experiences in the earlier books, I look forward to reading them though.

I've got Making Money but haven't read it yet. IIRC Moist von Lipwig is only in one other Discworld book (Going Postal).

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Down and Out in Paris and London is bestestest of all.

Drunken waiters vs. evil talking pigs and the tragedy of Boxer? Surely there can be no contest!

I'm reading Oliver Twist by Dickens and am liking it very much. I was scared when I first tried getting into the Pickwick Papers that I wouldn't be able to get on with him, but this is a lot more readable and much less tangetal. Brilliant description and palpable characters.

Before that it was Making Money by Terry Pratchett - typically funny but it's the first time I've read one about the conman bloke (Moist) so I didn't get a lot of the references to his experiences in the earlier books, I look forward to reading them though. Engleby by Sebastian Faulks is also very good and plays extremely well upon the bond the reader has with the book's narrator. I also read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Stevenson the other day too, as it's only 50 pages long. The description was again very immersing (I'm finding that a lot with Victorian authors) but I think if it wasn't for my understanding of the story through watching the films etc., I wouldn't have known what was going on as it's all through another character's perspective. The pages and pages of letters at the end seemed like a bit of a cop-out denoument to me as well, to be honest.

I've also got One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest to read next before I choose another from my recently attained charity shop Dickens collection, probable Great Expectations.

I just read an article that considered Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde from the persepective of an original reader, ie. when the novel was first released. This article reckons that the confusion is an intrinsic part of the the reading experience, because Stevenson was actually making a point about moral panics of the time - for anyone reading the novel for the first time, with no prior knowledge of the story at all, Jeckyll's friends are deeply concerned about their friend, an educated, rich man who has lately cut off communication and started developing a relationship with another man: a huge moral panic of the late 1800s, linked to the degeneration of the race and criminality, and Hyde fits the profile of how the Victorians considered gay men to be to a T. Any prior knowledge of the story would ruin that effect.

It's interesting to think about, anyway.

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I just read an article that considered Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde from the persepective of an original reader, ie. when the novel was first released. This article reckons that the confusion is an intrinsic part of the the reading experience, because Stevenson was actually making a point about moral panics of the time - for anyone reading the novel for the first time, with no prior knowledge of the story at all, Jeckyll's friends are deeply concerned about their friend, an educated, rich man who has lately cut off communication and started developing a relationship with another man: a huge moral panic of the late 1800s, linked to the degeneration of the race and criminality, and Hyde fits the profile of how the Victorians considered gay men to be to a T. Any prior knowledge of the story would ruin that effect.

It's interesting to think about, anyway.

Hmm, I'm all up for contemporary social statements in novels, but only when they don't get in the way of the narrative, which should always come first and foremost. Purposefully confusing the reader, although making a point, is still a detriment in my opinion.

Going Postal is a far better book than Making Money. It's my favourite Terry Pratchett book, and you should definitely read that before the second one (though it's pointless saying that now).

Making Money made me laugh out loud pretty frequently to be honest, the stuff about the mad scientist and Igor in the basement was brilliant. Moreso probably than Night Watch, which was the most recent Discworld book I'd read since this one, although Guards! Guards! and the other Watch-centric ones are my favourite in the series.

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Making Money made me laugh out loud pretty frequently to be honest, the stuff about the mad scientist and Igor in the basement was brilliant. Moreso probably than Night Watch, which was the most recent Discworld book I'd read since this one, although Guards! Guards! and the other Watch-centric ones are my favourite in the series.

It's good, but Going Postal is better. Maybe not far better as I said, because I really did enjoy Making Money. I love the Moist Von Lipwig character and really hope we get to see another one :)

Also, your post has convinced me to start reading Guards! Guards! now ;) I've got quite a few Terry Pratchett books I've not read yet but it's great sitting down and starting a new TP book.

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If we're talking Orwell I really like Coming Up For Air - it was written in the thirties but the feeling of being intimidated by modern life feels really er...modern. I think that may be the one he wrote where he pledged not to use any semi colons as he thought it made for a more immediate writing style.

I'm reading the Gathering Storm by Winston Churchill right now. It's awesome - like Lord of the Rings, but real.

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