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The Official Iain M Banks Thread


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Okay have finished HS now, so feel I am able to read this thread, here are my thoughts.

The title is the Hydrogen Sonata and is Cossont's life achievement. An ultimately futile gesture to doing something before giving up to the sublime. Which is effectively what the ships were doing too. Their Hydrogen Sonata was the finding out of the truth, that mattered not-a-jot. And then waving goodbye to anyone who might have cared into the sublime.

The sublime, always a bit wooly in Banks' books, this one goes the furthest in trying to explain it, is a place dimensionally it is very difficult to explain. if you imagine 3D worlds, then add 4D into the mix, with Hyperspace, then twist that into 5,6,7D more? Enfolded is a good description. And it does make your head explode. He has left it both suitably vague ( I mean if Minds can't understand it, how can he explain it?) and under-whelmingly described (I want ot know everything dammit!).

Banstyegen lost his raison d'etra. He was a political animal and treated people in whatever way was necessary to further his political career. That he was key to making the subliming happen is ironic in that he would lose so much in a great levelling of his society. The reason he was so upset at the end was because he murdered his lover, who he had tricked into loving him, who had obviously fallen for him so badly that she allowed herself to become pregnant with his child even though that would have caused problems at the sublimation. Quite what she was thinking I don't know, but she was acting for love... and Banstyegen realised this and it cut him deep maaaan.

I liked the ship battles and the dancing insect ships (:) I particularly liked the description of the Empricist arriving in system. It's huge hulk dragging billions of people and drones and WOW! really described that well, I had a complete picture of it in my mind. Topped off by the seven silver avatars turning up and making the other avatar form the small ship seem so tiny and insignificant, that I've completely forgotten its name.

The ship's chatter and the ship with the sublimed Mind living inside it's own mind state was pretty cool. And gave an insight into the sublimed, that even a ship's mind would balk at base reality once it had tasted the sublime. Why would you want to return reality?

I liked QiRia too, a great character to throw into the mix. I had often wondered about whether any humans had stayed alive for longer than a few centuries (not including storage or group minds) and so it was and why? Cos he liked watching car crashes....! Heh. And he was a dick too, which you'd kinda have to expect of someone who would have seen so much. And the planet with giant mountain horn! Cool.

I loved the avatar fight with the arbite and the colonel. Thought that was ace. And then the whole last party was fun too, setting up that whole pool thing and then just having it ripped apart by military types... heh. And the ship displacing itself into the tunnel. I thought it would have been even better if it had displaced itself into the center of the planet (as a ship in Consider Phlebas does into a star) but I guess that'd have been too risky on a populated planet.

Overall then, my impressions were good. I love the little comments about the Culture. I love the varying degrees of technical ability, even amongst the Culture themselves. The ship that ferried the Ronte was so much more powerful then them, but not enough to stop the Lisiedon (or whatever they were called) whereas one of the other Culture ships could have dealt with that situation with its eyes closed and effector fields tied behind its back.

And Cossont was nice and friendly and happy and I liked her and wanted her to win out at the end and join the Culture, yay! I did hope that one of the Culture Minds might have also joined in the great enfolding. But otherwise, yeah, was good. Better IMO than Surface Detail and Matter, but not quite to the greatness that was Excession. On a Par with LTW then.

The only thing that turns up in Surface Detail is the Remnantor ships isn't it?

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Nice sumary/review Danster. Cerainly not his finest, but beautifully written and a lot of fun.

The Culture is just such an incredibly rich fictional construct that spending any time there, among the O's and the shell worlds, the slightly eccentric ship Minds and dry sardonic drones is just aways a tingly, cerebral pleasure.

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  • 1 month later...

I'm reading Against a Dark Background at the moment. About halfway through, and so far I've come across at least four very Douglas Adams-y jokes: :D

- The description of what the Lazy Guns do!

- The Solipsists, each of whom believes that they are God (except for the one who's an atheist and therefore refers to himself as "me" instead of "God")

- Immediately afterwards, the bit where Sharrow is in the city full of nudists: "She felt more and more awkward walking amongst the naked people in the station concourse, so she stopped to take her clothes off in a phone booth and was promptly arrested for stripping in public, an offence against common decency."

- The concept of the Useless Kings, who spend any surplus money on unusable things, so that none of it can be spent on technological progress that would only destabilise their country.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Interesting, but wrong. I must read it again but I always got the impression that (LTW spoiler)

The whole operation to get the Chel to try and blow up the Massaq orbital was a convoluted plan of SC anyway. Nearly all of the Culture books hint at (and the most recent tellw you all about) the amount of thinking Minds do about the possible ramifications of their actions.

I would say that 1) the Culture did not "get it wrong" with Chel they would have known before hand that what they were doing might cause a war, that 2) There may be opportunities after such a war to truly make a difference in Chel society and that 3) Massaq wanted to die way before the Chel incident and yet benefited from it all happening at it's Orbital, a bit of a coinky-denk no?

Anyway, i might be wrong but I think sometimes people get hung up on The Culture doing the right thing and forget that they are, at the end of the day,m out for their own interests mostly.

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Back in the 90s a friend was running the green room at a convention and was desperately trying to find Iain because he was meant to be on a panel in five minutes. Then ops were informed by the hotel that some nutter was climbing up the outside of the building. Some nutter turned out to be Iain.

I'll miss the crazy bastard. :(

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