Iain M Banks

Discussion in 'Iain M Banks' started by Brian Turner, Jan 3, 2004.

  1.  
    Brian Turner

    Brian Turner Brian G. Turner Staff Member

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    I've read some of his mainstream "literature" works, such as the Wasp Factory and Espedair Street. But I've never actually read any of his SF novels.

    Has anyone ehre read any of Iain M Banks' science fiction novels, and if so, what did you think of them?

    Were they visionary, tacky, so-so...what? :)
  2.  
    dwndrgn

    dwndrgn Fierce Vowelless One Staff Member

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    Sorry, I'm no help here. I haven't read anything by him although he was on my to read list for a while but every book I picked up by him didn't capture me enough to open and start reading.
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    littlemissattitude

    littlemissattitude Super Moderator

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    I'll be no help here, either. I've had Banks's science fiction recommended to me, but so far I haven't gotten around to reading him. So I'll be interested to hear from anyone who has, as well.
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    Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

    Jayaprakash Satyamurthy Knivesout no more

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    I've read several of them. I think they are quite brilliant, or at least, worth a read in any case. Opinions differ, but these two are my favourites: The Player of Games and Feersum Endjinn.
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    Incognito

    Incognito going spare!

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    Why do you like them, though, knivesout? Is it primarily character driven? Or is he quite visionary about the whole SF environment? Good plotting? What? :)
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    Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

    Jayaprakash Satyamurthy Knivesout no more

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    I had a feeling I wouldn't be allowed to get away with such cursory remarks. :p

    One of the first things I look out for in a writer is quality of writing - I've sat through some truly bewildering works like ER Eddisson's A Fish Dinner In Memison because I liked the texture of the writing. Banks is definitley a deft, skilfull writer, extremely good at immersing you in a totally alien setting, and at carrying out a novel-length experiment like Feersum Endjinn, narrated by a character who has totally strange spellings for nearly every word.

    Coming to his actual stories - breadth of vision is the key here. Banks imagines events and conflicts on a huge scale and is able to portray them properly. Most of his SF novels deal with a galactic Culture, with the basic premise being that 'our currently dominant power systems cannot long survive in space; beyond a certain technological level a degree of anarchy is arguably inevitable and anyway preferable', to quote an essay by Banks. That's a debatable premise (all good premises are), but Banks' exploration of the issues inthe form of gripping stories is brilliant.

    The Guardian descrbes him as a 'reactive social storyteller in the mode of Dickens, with a macabre strain comparable to early Ian McEwan.' That may refer more to his non-SF works (of which I have only read The Wasp Factory) but you can trace that sort of thing in his SF too.
    I hope that was a little more helpful. :)
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    Heartwood Bond

    Heartwood Bond Heartwood Bond

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    I've just finished reading Excession - one of his Culture novels. Very heavy going with an almost predictable plot, but still absorbing and very original. I like the way he portrays the ships as having their own, almost human "minds" with a sense of humour.

    I think that he definately has a cult following - the more Culture books you read, the more you'll get out of it.
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    Dave

    Dave Wherever I Am, I'm There Staff Member

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    I did it the other way around, started reading his SF then moved into his general fiction. I think I like some of his general fiction better, but they all have they same quirky style. I first read 'The Player of Games' as it was the manager's recommendation at Ottakers bookshop.

    The "Culture" is the complete antithesis of 'Star Trek' Starfleet's 'Prime Directive' of Non-Interference. The Culture has it's hands in everything going on in the galaxy. I think this is much more realistic. It is a natural progression of today's politics. Governments always want to interfere, and they always leave a mess behind them.

    The stories featuring A.I.s are particularly interesting. I'm fascinated by how they often seem to have more humanity than the humans, who are only interested in having a good time.
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    jackokent

    jackokent Jack of all trades

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    I'd really recommend his SF. He has a fantastic imagination, although as you may have descovered from Wasp Factory he can be a bit dark sometimes.

    The problem I have with Banks is that his titles seem to have little bearing on his stories so I can never remember which is which. Not read one I haven't really enjoyed however.
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    Who's Wee Dug

    Who's Wee Dug New Member

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    I have a few of Iain's books but not read any of the culture series, his short stories novel State of the Art ranges from SF to Horror and a morality one.My favorite is The Business, fiction but could aslo be taken as alternate reality,I have yet to read my copy of the Algebraist.

    But on another note as far as I know he is going to be a GOH at Mecon in Belfast next year.
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    T5.2

    T5.2 New Member

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    if his books could be compared to a tv series, it would be Farscape.
    He loves to use high levels of adrenalin in his action, and his cinematic way of writing makes everything a wonder to behold; everything from space stations large enough o gather atmospheres to sleezy bars.
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    Lyrebird

    Lyrebird New Member

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    Alternate Reality? Maybe I missed something... :confused:
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    Bant Warick

    Bant Warick Guild wars addict

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    I've just started reading my first Banks novel, excession. It's a good story but probably not the ideal one to start with when your new to his culture novels (took me a while to realise the ships where AI "alive"). So any recommendations on what I should have read first?
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    Circus Cranium

    Circus Cranium New Member

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    Inversions was okay. Personally, i think his lit works like The Wasp Factory and Espedair Street have it all over his scifi novels. That's where his style really comes out.
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    gully_foyle

    gully_foyle Here kitty kitty kitty!

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    Hi Bant, I'm fairly new to Banks and have only read two of the culture novels, Excession then Consider Phlebas. I kind of get the feeling that your asking which end of the ball do you grab. It seems no particular book assumes you know much about the culture, and perhaps no book takes the time out to explain much about it either. I'm just immersing myself in them when I can.
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    Rane Longfox

    Rane Longfox Red Rane

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    I always feel that reading them in the order they're published is a good plan. The books pretty much follow the chronological advancement of the Culture, so it's a decent idea. Consider Phlebas should therefore be the first one you read, followed by The Player of Games and Use of Weapons (which are incidentally the best two books he's written, pretty much:))
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    Allegra

    Allegra New Member

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    Are his SF books as dark and disturbing as his Wasp Factory? That's his only book I've read and despite I admired his writing I didn't dare to read another book of his. At the time I was reading it I sort of wondered whether the brilliant author himself a psychopath!:eek: I especially hated the parts of torturing little dogs.
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    Rane Longfox

    Rane Longfox Red Rane

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    Use of Weapons is a bit disturbing. But brilliant:D
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    Anthony G Williams

    Anthony G Williams Greybeard

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    I like his Culture series very much, and must have worked my way through most of them by now. His writing has an intelligence and humour which lifts what might otherwise be heavy going.

    I couldn't read Feersum Enjinn (sp?) at all, though. Several pages of dialect had me giving up in irritation.
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    Green

    Green Sick and Tired

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    You just have to read it in a Scottish accent - then it flows much more easily :)

    Unlike most people, I found Use of Weapons to be a bit on the crap side. The end was good, the rest meh.
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