Time to Rank His Books

Discussion in 'Iain M Banks' started by gully_foyle, Mar 6, 2009.

  1.  
    gully_foyle

    gully_foyle Here kitty kitty kitty!

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    Most discussions about Iain M Banks' SFF books usually ends up with people nominating their faves (see http://www.sffchronicles.co.uk/forum/49443-consider-phlebas-by-iain-m-banks.html).

    So let us clarify our position by ranking them, and ofcourse having subsequent discussions about why we did/didn't like certain works.

    One thing is clear, there are not many people who have read his works and didn't like them.

    Here is my ranking:

    Matter (2008)
    The Algebraist (2004)
    Look to Windward (2000)
    Inversions (1998)
    Excession (1996)
    Feersum Endjinn (1994)
    Against a Dark Background (1993)
    Use of Weapons (1990)
    The State of the Art (1989)
    The Player of Games (1988)
    Consider Phlebas (1987)

    1. The Algebraist (2004) - My first Banks book and I loved it.
    2. Consider Phlebas (1987) - My first culture book, great action and the scale blew my mind.
    3. The Player of Games (1988) - Great story of intrigue although some things were obvious from the start.
    4. Look to Windward (2000) - A sense of loss pervaded this book, which I liked.
    5. Excession (1996) - Great plot, but I got lost in some of the complexities and all the names of the minds/ships.
    6. Use of Weapons (1990) - Most people love this one, I found it to be episodic and I couldn't empathise with the lead.
    7. The State of the Art (1989) - The novella was pretty good.
    8. Matter (2008) - Had the feeling of being churned out.
    9. Inversions (1998) - More fantasy than SF, had some nice touches to it.
    10. Against a Dark Background (1993) - Didn't really enjoy this one, not sure why.
    11. Feersum Endjinn (1994) - Haven't read this one.
  2.  
    Dave

    Dave Wherever I Am, I'm There Staff Member

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    It is very hard work reading it, but clever, and once you get use to the idea, and the hang of it, it becomes very amusing.

    I can't rank these, sorry, I'd be endlessly arguing with myself. I'd also want to include his other work - The Crow Road and The Bridge, I would certainly place in any top ten.
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    Urien

    Urien New Member

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    1. The Player of Games.
    2. Excession.
    3. Use of Weapons.
    4. Consider Phlebus.
    5. Against a Dark Background.
    6. Look to Windward
    7. Feersum Endjinn.
    8. The Algebraist.
    9. The State of the Art.
    10. Inversions.

    (Haven't read Matter).

    Hmm. The list tells me I in aggregate prefer his earlier works and Culture novels. The silent evidence is that I was younger when I read his earlier works, so the me that reads his later works is not the same man (entirely) as the earlier works.

    A list of his None SF works would show a similar preference for his early works. Is it me, or is it his writing or have I just got used to it? I don't know.

    But one of my favourite all time authors.
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    The Procrastinator

    The Procrastinator 1 Candlepower Brain

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    1. Consider Phlebas - my first Culture book, it blew me away.
    2. The Player of Games - As Gully said some things were obvious but my care factor is zero. The journey makes it worthwhile.
    3. The Algebraist
    4. Against A Dark Background
    5. Look to Windward
    6. Use of Weapons
    7. Feersum Endjinn
    8. Excession
    9. Matter
    10. The State of the Art
    11. Inversions (this is actually down here because I have only read it the once and can't remember it clearly - not a fair ranking but there you are)

    Thats my list for today. I'm with Dave in the sense that my rankings change depending on my mood and what I've just read and I argue with myself - I'm not with Dave in the sense that I will make myself rank them regardless - so the list above is hardly concrete, but its a pretty good indicator in general terms. All the ones in the "middle" tend to shift around a fair bit for me, but the top three is pretty much my top three, and the ones down the bottom end tend to stay down there.

    I wonder if its possible to divide Banks fans into ones who love the Algebraist and those who don't? Clearly I do - I really liked the main character and the whole idea of the book.

    I think I ranked Consider Phlebas first because I liked Horza so much. The little guy from Feersum Endjinn is also very likeable. Gully, if you try to read Feersum Endjinn, Dave is right its quite hard work, but worth persevering. There are some Banks books that I don't fully "get" until I read them more than once and this was one of them. I agree with Gully about the sense of loss in Look to Windward, that's why I like that book too.

    Btw there is not a single book on the list I didn't enjoy. Banks is one of my all time favourite authors too.
  5.  
    Allegra

    Allegra New Member

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    I've read only one Banks' book - The Wasp Factory and I'd rank it high among contemporary mainstream fictions. I've been always curious about his Culture books and wanting to ask for a long time: must culture books read in order? It's my usual question when it comes to series because I'm really not so good with epics due to lack of consistency and long lasting concentration. If these books can be read as stand-alone, which are the best ones that you'd suggest?
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    The Procrastinator

    The Procrastinator 1 Candlepower Brain

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    They're all stand-alones. As a starter I would recommend the Player of Games personally, its very accessible - you'll notice we've all (so far) ranked it pretty highly, and we all have pretty different tastes I'd say. All the Culture books are good, but some are more challenging than others. I don't think it really matters which you read first, but the Player is a bit easier to deal with than some - they're all good for different reasons - perhaps I wouldn't recommend starting with Matter, which isn't as strong a Culture book.
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    Allegra

    Allegra New Member

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    Thanks! Will check it out. :)
  8.  
    gully_foyle

    gully_foyle Here kitty kitty kitty!

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    As Lazy Bear said, there is no single Culture book that must be read, he has been quite clever in that regard, he introduces enough of the Culture in each book to set the context, but without the feeling of blatantly giving you the background. After at least two of the mainstream Culture novels (i.e. excluding Inversions) you start to get a real feel for the Culture, and can make your judgements about it. Probably, maybe, Excession can be a bit hard to follow if you have not read at least one other Culture book.
  9.  
    Allegra

    Allegra New Member

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    Excellent. I'll get a taste of culture with The Player of Games as starter. Thanks again.
  10.  
    Tillane

    Tillane Left-minded

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    Very difficult to rank his work, as several are among my all-time favourites by any author, but I've given it a go.

    1. Use of Weapons
    2. Consider Phlebas
    3. The Player of Games
    4. Excession
    5. Feersum Endjinn
    6. Against A Dark Background
    7. Inversions
    8. Look To Windward
    9. Matter
    10. The State of The Art
    11. The Algebraist (which I've never finished, and that's unusual for me)

    Of course, if you ask me again in a few minutes I'd probably give you a different list.:rolleyes:
  11.  
    Moonbat

    Moonbat Luna tick

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    Ok, here is my opinion

    1. Excession
    2. The Player of Games
    3. Feersum Endjinn
    4. Consider Phlebas
    5. The State of The Art
    6. Matter
    7. Use of Weapons
    8. Inversions
    9. Against A Dark Background
    10. Look To Windward
    11. The Algebraist (only one not finished)


    I liked them all, and loved all but algebraist. Fersum Enjiin was a struggle at first but (like a clockwork orange) once I got used to the language it made perfect sense.
  12.  
    ktabic

    ktabic Save punctuation!

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    1: Excession
    2: Consider Phlebas
    3. The State of the Art
    4. Player of Games
    5. The Algebraist

    After those five, it all becomes a bit hard and is very dependant on my mood at the time so I won't try.

    Oh, and for those that like The Crow Road, I can recommend The Steep Approach of Garbadale as a book with a similar feel to it.
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    UnethicalSolutions

    UnethicalSolutions New Member

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    1st Excession (even though I have to make nerdy little lists to keep track of the shenanigans of the various alliances of minds).
    2nd = Consider Phlebas; Look to Windward; The Player of Games; Feersum Endjinn.
    6th = Inversions; Use of Weapons; The State of the Art; Matter
    10th The Algebraist
    11th Against a Dark Background. Really didn't like this one, but need to re read it as it's so long ago that if I go back to it I might change my mind.
  14.  
    clovis-man

    clovis-man Prehistoric Irish Cynic

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    I really can't rank them because I like them all. the only one I haven't read is Matter and it's in my to-be-read pile. I think The Player of Games is a good introduction to the Culture and Use of Weapons might have to be considered as his darkest masterpiece. Feersum Endjin is highly entertaining if somewhat cryptic but a joy to read.

    As you can see, I'm probably not the most objectice or impartial critic.
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    Adam Lucas

    Adam Lucas Adam Lucas

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    Hey! I've read The State of the Art book of short stories and Loved it...i'm reading The Algebraist right now but am getting a bit lost in Dweller politics and kudos to tell you the truth...we'll see how it goes!
  16.  
    Allegra

    Allegra New Member

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    Having read the first three Culture books I understand why people have problem ranking them: they are all excellent but different. If I really have to rank the three, Consider Phlebas comes first - my 1st Culture shock, Use of Weapons then The Player of games follow. Not that I like these two any less, but you know. They are all like good wine (who said it?), rich, sophisticated and addictive. I feel a little break may be needed between each book in case getting a hangover.:p I have ordered the rest of the series except Fearsome Ending oops Feersum Endjinn and The State of the Art. Speaking of a new fan... It's odd the Culture books haven't received some major award but who cares.
  17.  
    bobbo19

    bobbo19 New Member

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    i have not read all of them, but i am currently on my fourth( Excession) and i think it has been the best starting CUlture novel of the series so far. My fav. is still The Player of Games, but if Excession continues to be brilliant it will be a serious contender! If one was to find critiscism then, the way he presents the Affront is sort of analogous to the tri-pedal species (Idiran) in Consider Phlebas. I'm not complaining though, it's great !
  18.  
    clovis-man

    clovis-man Prehistoric Irish Cynic

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    I finally finished Matter a few weeks ago. I'll have to rank it up there with the other Culture novels. Very entertaining. Sort of a Tolkien-esque approach, i.e., a "There and Back Again" type saga.
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    AE35Unit

    AE35Unit ]==[]===O °

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    Hmmm having enjoyed Consider i'm wondering what i should tackle next. There's a copy of Inversions available on Bookmooch but i read the synopsis on Fantastic Fiction and well,it doesnt sound that interesting! I like Space opera and also a good adventure,so 'Consider' fitted right in there!
  20.  
    bobbo19

    bobbo19 New Member

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    @AE35Unit

    I would advise reading them in chronological order. Although each book is not a direct sequel it is sort of neccessary to know what has happened previously.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Just finished Excession and thoguht of it very highly. Looking forward to beginning Look to Windward. The Culture series has me enraptured!

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