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Surface Detail New Culture book

Discussion in 'Iain M Banks' started by Vertigo, Jul 3, 2010.

  1.  
    bluespider100

    bluespider100 BellCross

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    I just recently bought that book bout a week ago, still haven't picked up that yet, going through a series of light fiction, just came through Hamilton's Fallen Dragon, after reading the Nick Sagan's series I would read SURFACE DETAIL.

    As Vertigo stated, CULTURE is the name of the Civilization (Galactical) that lives in the universe created by Iain M. Banks, several not related books are told around that universe.
     
  2.  
    Thadlerian

    Thadlerian Riftsound resident

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    Re: Surface Detail

    Possibly in top three. The Player of Games has a simpler and more poignant story that puts it leagues above the rest, and Look to Windward also had something special. Not sure how it ranks against The State of the Art (novella), which was my very pleasant and, IIRC, blessedly nonviolent introduction to the Culture.

    A good deal better than Excession. The Use of Weapons and Consider Phlebas never appealed to me. And Matter? The less said, the better.

    Very hilarious book in very many locations. The matter-of-factly references to the eccentricity/insanity of various entities/phenomenons is my #1 reason for reading Banks.

    Now, this thread has discussed a certain continuity recurrence of the book. But what about the other?

    (SPOILER)

    Is Falling Outside The Normal Moral Constraints the same Ship as Grey Area from Excession? They're using the term "Meat(-youknowwhat)" on one occasion, which was Grey Area's nickname. Or is it simply a common Ship expletitive? Their tempers just seem too similar.
     
  3.  
    bobbo19

    bobbo19 Well-Known Member

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    Re: Surface Detail

    Yeah i rated Surface Detail highly and thought it was Banks back to his best. Unfortunately Matter was rushed, but looks like hes turned things around this time. As the ^ posted i would put it within the Top 3. The Player of games has to remain my favourite and Look to Windward also comes close. Consider Phlebas was also the first book i read of the Culture Universe and it did enough to have me hooked ever since.
     
  4.  
    Thadlerian

    Thadlerian Riftsound resident

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    Re: Surface Detail

    Regarding the spoiler: Never mind, re-reading Use of Weapons - Diziet Sma says it to Skaffen-Amtiskaw in the flashback.
     
  5.  
    Vetch

    Vetch Devious Cruising Rachel

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    Re: Surface Detail

    Heh. Just to add to the minority here I need to say: I don't think Matter is the best book ever, but I like it better than Surface Detail.
    Matter is original (in places), deeply disturbing (to me) and picks up speed at the end ("rushed" indeed - but I found that fitting and very exciting).

    Now, while I enjoyed Surface Detail a lot while I read it to me it felt like a collection of M. Banks' greatest hits. There were so many motifs I have enjoyed in other Banks books before. I was entertained but... dunno. SD felt much more rushed to me than Matter. When I want to re-read M. Banks I'll get Excession first. Even the Algebraist looks more interesting to me right now than SD.



    8)
     
  6.  
    StilLearning

    StilLearning Well-Known Member

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    Re: Surface Detail

    Culture Minds with mean streak always come across better. In a weird way they seem more.... well, human.

    The debate about the hells has an interesting subtext I thought; When one of the advocates of hells confronts the witness who escoped from one and had to leave his wife behind, he comes across very much as someone with no faith in other people, who believes evil behavoir can only be avoided through the threat of extreme punishment. This is a stark contrast to the, apperently very successful, philosophy of the culture who have largely eliminated 'evil' behavoir by createing a society where mental and emotional weaknesses are rare and resources are plentifull and freely availiable.

    In other words the religious (hence one suspects more primitive in Banks eyes) hells advocate sees them as acheck against inherent human evil. The advanced and peaceful culture have proven 'evil' to be an outgrowth of a bad environment.
     
  7.  
    clovis-man

    clovis-man Prehistoric Irish Cynic

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    Re: Surface Detail

    Talk about coming late to the party! Good discussion, folks. I won't try to add to it. I did resist reading ahead to the end (and also didn't look at this thread until tonight when I finished the story). I got a good chuckle out of the last sentence. I would have to say that this book approaches epic proportions, even though some of the painstaking descriptive pages could have been shortened. And Banks' literary style makes even those parts enjoyable.

    If you read his non-fiction (ostensibly) work: Raw Spirit: In search of the Perfect Dram, you will be convinced that such is indeed the case.
     
  8.  
    Andrew Short

    Andrew Short Science fiction fantasy

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    Re: Surface Detail

    This book came out just in time. Was coming to the end of the culture series, the abominator class ship in this book was a fantastic element in the story. I love when you get to take a look at the cultures offensive capabilities
     
  9.  
    Anthony G Williams

    Anthony G Williams Greybeard

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    My take on it, from my SFF blog:

    The late Iain M Banks wrote nine novels in his SF Culture series (published 1987 to 2012), as well as three other, unrelated, SF stories and fifteen mainstream novels (as Iain Banks). Over the decades I have gradually worked my way through all of his SF books except for the last two Culture tomes and Feersum Endjinn (which I couldn't get into because much of it is in an invented dialect).

    Surface Detail is the penultimate Culture novel, published in 2010. For the background I will repeat the summary I wrote a couple of years ago for my review of Matter, the previous volume in the series:

    "…the Culture, a galactic humanoid utopia in which almost inconceivably advanced technology provides everything that is needed, immensely capable Artificial Intelligences sort out the mundane business of running civilisation (the most powerful, known as Minds, usually being established in vast spacecraft or space habitats with quirky names), and citizens are mostly free to do whatever they like – live forever, change gender or even species, travel the galaxy. There are various alien civilisations in close contact with the Culture and a lot of others that are not, plus human planetary settlements that don't enjoy the same benefits. Relationships with such peripheral groups are handled by an organisation called Contact, and they apply less diplomatic means when required by means of Special Circumstances, whose agents are kind of blend of James Bond and Jason Bourne with comprehensive bio-electronic enhancements."

    As is the author's customary practice, the structure is complex with several different story threads set running, apparently completely unrelated. The first concerns the attempted escape by fabulously tattooed Lededje Y'breq from bondage to the powerful industrialist Joiler Veppers; their paths subsequently diverge to form separate threads for most of the rest of the story. Next up is Vatueil, a soldier involved in an endless series of battles in virtual environments as part of a mysterious war, being revived each time he is "killed". Then we meet Yime Nsokyi, an agent for Quietus, a Culture organisation which rivals Special Circumstances but is concerned with relationships with the dead – who are, more often than not, still "alive" in virtual worlds. Next we are introduced to another virtual world – a representation of a horrifying Hell to which virtual versions of those considered to be undeserving are sent after death. Two academics, Prin and Chay, have managed to make a virtual entry to the Hell in order to collect evidence to argue for it to be shut down. Finally there is the ancient, alien Tsungarial Disk, consisting of hundreds of millions of multi-purpose factories orbiting a star, which appears to be suffering an outbreak of uncontrolled replication. These multiple threads gradually converge into one coherent plot and the pace (mostly rather slow, as is usual with Banks) simultaneously accelerates to a climax involving the usual mayhem.

    Other characters are of course the intelligent starships, without which no Culture novel would be complete. My favourite this time is Falling Outside the Normal Moral Constraints, a warship associated with Special Circumstances, which while pretending to be an old Torturer class vessel, is actually (in its own words) "a borderline eccentric and very slightly psychotic Abominator-class picket ship"; a vastly more powerful vessel which reacts with infectious glee to any opportunity to demonstrate the level of destruction it is capable of.

    It took me a while to get into this story and its 600+ pages look rather daunting, but the journey was well worth the time. Top-class entertainment laced with dry humour in the typical Banks style.

    The final Culture novel, The Hydrogen Sonata, is in my reading pile.
     
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