Time to Rank His Books

Vertigo

Mad Mountain Man
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I keep thinking about emabrking on a re-read but it is a rather scary thought, also I rarely re-read books unless a couple of decades have gone past. However the biggest stopper is simply how many new books I have waiting to be read for the first time :D and since joining this forum that list seems to be growing faster than I am reading... help!
 

gully_foyle

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I quite enjoy a Banks re-read. So far have read The Algebraist, Excession and Consider Phlebas. I think a re-read is something you do when you don't want to stretch your mind on some weighty tome or plain just don't want to chance it with a new book. A re-read also helps enforce the story in your memory and allows you to pick up on the subtleties you may have missed the first time. However, whilst The Algebraist and Excession were confirmed as excellent books, I am with Bobbo19 (what happened to 1 to 18?) in that Consider Phlebas slipped a little in my rankings after a second read.
 

clovis-man

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I'm reading Raw Spirit right now. It doesn't fit in with any of his fiction (SF or otherwise) but it sure displays his sense of humor. A really fun read, but I would not try to rank it.
 

Vertigo

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I'm reading Raw Spirit right now. It doesn't fit in with any of his fiction (SF or otherwise) but it sure displays his sense of humor. A really fun read, but I would not try to rank it.
Yeah I was given it as a present by a friend who knew I liked his SF books and that I was into my whisky. I wasn't too sure what I would make of it, being well outside my normal reading material, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. And yes you do really get a feel for his sense of humour and I particularly liked the rather wry amusement with which he seemed to view himself. The book certainly made me warm to him as a person which was further reinforced when I saw him in a number of interviews and even once IIRC on a University challenge special.
 

Thadlerian

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My ranking of the Culture books:

1: The Player of Games - This one ranks so far, far above the rest. After rereading this summer, I've found it one of my overall favourite novels. It's the one that feels the most like a complete story, a novel in its own right. The Game of Azad is wonderfully described, without going in any actual detail on how it works. Gurgeh's trip into the Ghetto was haunting, and the scene where Flere-Imsaho shows him the encrypted Azadian channels is very strong and moving, without digressing into this excessively graphic violence that Banks seems so fond of. Also, Gurgeh's growing friendship with Flere-Imsaho is very beautiful, though it would have been even better if Banks had spared himself the ending revelation.

2: Look to Windward - Also very good. Far more of the whimsical comedy that marks out the Culture books. The eccentric ships, the Chelgrian's dry comments on that lava river boat ride, the guy floating around the gas giant, losing his pen, and so on. Much laughter contained in this book.

3: The State of the Art (novella) - My first Culture book. Crazy ship, comments on contemporary Earth, nice and quiet storyline - what's not to like about this one? A bit short, though.

4: Excession - The Affront and their antics were awesome. Some of the ships as well. But the book dragged, and the ending was very disappointing. Essentially, it went along the lines of "This could have been awesome, but you weren't ready. Oh well."

5: Matter - What is it about acclaimed writers and editing? Banks, Pratchett, Rowling, Martin - the more famous, the more excessive they get word-wise. Matter is a 200-page plot in a 700-page brick. Why did I have to read about Oramen every third chapter, when he had no significance in the plot resolution whatsoever? Not to mention hundreds of pages about Sarl and tyl Loesp and this detour to visit Xide Hyrlis. Otherwise, the book had some sweet scenes that effectively conveyed the size of things: Syaung-un, and Sursamen core.

6: The Use of Weapons - I read this one three years ago, and I can't remember a thing.

7: Consider Phlebas - I read this one after TSotA, LtW and PoG, and expected it to be similar. My disappointment was great when I found it to not even closely resemble the three aforementioned books. This book had some truly appalling scenes of gratuitous and graphic violence, with the cannibals on Vavatch orbital standing out the most vividly.

In short, the Culture books seem to climb high and sink deep.
 

Andrew Short

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Of the ones I've read:

1. Use of Weapons
2. The Player of Games
3. Consider Phlebas
4. Look to Windward
5. Surface Detail
6. Excession
7. Matter

I Think that's them all
 

Grunkins

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I still have a few to read, but I'll attempt to rank what I've read already. I really enjoyed all of them, so being at the bottom of the list isn't a bad thing.

1. Excession
2. Player of Games
3. Consider Phlebas
4. Use of Weapons
5. Look to Windward

Now that I look at it the order could easily be changed. I really enjoyed them all.
 

bearcatmark

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1. Use of Weapons
2. Surface Detail
3. Consider Phlebas
4. Look to Windward
5. Against a Dark Background
6. The Player of Games
7. Excession

I did not include The Wasp Factory, because it was not science fiction. I really enjoyed all of these books, so the fact that Excession is at the bottom is not a knock on that book, but a complement to Use of Weapons and Surface Detail.
 

Bick

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I've only read PoG, CP and UoW, and I thought all were great - Player of Games I'd rate highest, I think. Having just bought Look to Windward on eBay, I'm glad to see that's rated well too.
 

Moonbat

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Hmm, this is not easy, but I'll give it a go. It might be affected by the order in which I have read them (the more recent ones coming higher up than older ones)

1. Excession
2. Player of Games
3. Matter
4. Surface Detail
5. Feersum Endjinn
6. Against a Dark Background
7. Consider Phlebas
8. Use of Weapons
9. Inversions
10. The Algebraist
11. Look to Windward

Although I liked State of the Art I don't think it counts as whole book as it is made up of short stories.
 

Grunkins

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Funny how there is little consistency in the individual rankings.
Yup, no consistency at all. I think that's great.

I also love Look to Windward and I ranked it last! Really, my rankings could be made by tossing the books in the air and ranking them by how they fell left to right (then putting Excession at the top).
 

J-Sun

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I've only read three and it's easy to rank them at this point. As I think I said elsewhere, Consider Phlebas is my favorite by a good margin, The Player of Games is my least favorite by a good margin, and Use of Weapons is somewhere between. (In list form for scanners :)):

1. Consider Phlebas
2. Use of Weapons
3. The Player of Games

Phlebas, despite its protagonist, seems to most revel in the Culture and enjoy its high tech stuff and is action oriented to an extent. For some reason, I really enjoyed Horza and particularly cared about the fate of Balveda. I liked the moral cross-purposes of the Culture, Idirans, and "others". Also, pieces of it lingered in my mind unusually in a very vivid way after reading. Games, somewhat as I've said elsewhere, was a bloated novella with an uninteresting protagonist doing handwavy "game" things to obvious ends and I didn't really like it at all. Weapons may get a re-read and requires it for me to give it a just evaluation - I just don't know if I can be bothered - the following contains no spoilers but I'm marking it anyway for those who want to skip even vague seeds being planted -
I knew half the twist almost immediately but then, IMO, Banks seemed to screw up parts of the reverse narration that made me doubt myself and then I ended up being right after all. But the "who" distracts from the "what" and I'm not sure that the whole thing is really plausible or "fictionally correct". Like I say, it'd benefit from a re-reading if it's worth it.
That aside, it was much more interesting than Games.

Kind of OT but, given the above, if I'm wobbling between carrying on with Banks or giving up and have Excession and the non-Culture The Algebraist, which might be the better one to try next? I've heard a lot of people complain about Excession's complicated nature but, as long as it isn't an arty and willfully obscurantist complication, that wouldn't put me off by itself. I haven't heard all that much about The Algebraist. Games and Weapons are both, despite the gizmos, very mainstream novels and Consider is less so. I think that may be the main difference at this point.
 

Grunkins

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J, I can say that Excession is my definitely my favorite Culture book (having now read them all). It's not very complicated at all, and has the most space action of all his books. And you get to meet the Affront.
 

J-Sun

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Space action sounds good and meeting The Ominous Other is usually fun - barring any persuasive dissent, I'll go with Excession. Thanks.
 

gully_foyle

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I love Excession and I love The Algebraist. Excession is the more serious of the two, but its more like Spaceships Behaving Badly ( not evil, just boorish and jealous god types). The Algebraist is almost an anti-culture story, with cartoonish aliens and a Paul Atreides like protagonist (my memory is a bit vague, I will have to read it agin). It labours towards the end, but is a lot of fun. The Dwellers are like gentlemen Affronters. Highly recommended.
 
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