Matter by Iain M Banks

Sally Ann Melia

Sally Ann Melia, SF&F
Joined
Apr 18, 2013
Messages
115
Location
S A Melia is an English SF&F writer based in Surre
I have read all of Iain M Banks Books and this one Matter #8 in the Culture series is a good strong tale of familial strife set against the background of impossible planet sized structure.

To recap The ten books of the Culture are: Consider Phlebas, 1987; The Player of Games,1988; Use of Weapons, 1990; The State of the Art, 1991; Excession, 1996; Inversions, 1998; Look to Windward,2000; Matter,2008; Surface Detail, 2010; The Hydrogen Sonata, 2012.

The tale of Matter is the tale of a strange homeland called a Shellworld. This is described on p63 as:

The Shell Worlds are mostly hollow. Each had a solid metallic core fourteen hundred kilometres in diameter. beyond that, a concentric succession of spherical shells.

Each of the shells forms a level of the Shell world, and distinct civilisation live on each including water worlds, gas worlds, fixed stars and moving stars. The levels are connected by vast lifts, and sometimes the custodians of the Shellworld allow the inhabitants of different levels to pass from one to another, sometimes with evil intent.

As always with Banks culture stories have an amazing unthought-of science fiction setting, and this is just the start. A prince is falsely accused of fratricide, so he has to flee... So starts a long journey to find a long lost sister and ultimately to save his world.

I really liked this book. I liked the artefact at its heart. I like the way it is only partly understood, and quarrelled over by great powers of the galaxy. I loved the story of the innocent fleeing finding himself on the most amazing pan-galactic road trip.

Highly recommended.
 

Rodders

|-O-| (-O-) |-O-|
Supporter
Joined
Nov 6, 2008
Messages
5,590
I have this at hope, but have yet to read it.
 

Vertigo

Mad Mountain Man
Supporter
Joined
Jun 29, 2010
Messages
8,136
Location
Scottish Highlands
This is a reread as part of my ongoing reread of all of Banks’s Culture books. I say a reread but unusually I found little in the book that I remembered. MY memory was of it being one of the poorer Culture books and being a bit tedious. Not quite sure where that came from as this time I found it anything but boring!

The king of a steam and early electricity powered civilisation is murdered during a war between two human civilisations on adjacent levels of a shell world. This is witnessed by the king’s heir who flees in fear for his life and determined to find justice for his father’s murderers. And so begins a quest that leads him to the Culture and the Culture to some strange goings on in and around the shell world.
Matter is a rather busy Culture story with many players and many alien species to keep track of but, as ever, Banks spins it all into an absorbing and convoluted plot that all comes together neatly at the end.

Unsurprisingly, given Banks’s strongly held political/social ideas, there is almost always an element of social commentary in his work, more so in his mainstream work perhaps, but it is quite strong here. The evolution of the Prince from privileged and spoilt royalty into something more adult and thoughtful alongside his manservant’s evolution from a palace servant to something rather more significant and the constant comparisons between the different social structures of the various civilisations encountered added extra nuance to the story. A little like the earlier book, Inversions, on steroids.

An excellent book that I was far more taken with on this reread that I appear to have been first time around.

5/5 stars
 

Rodders

|-O-| (-O-) |-O-|
Supporter
Joined
Nov 6, 2008
Messages
5,590
I still have this on my TBR pile. I read Surface Detail and The Hydrogen Sonata last year, (both of which I enjoyed immensely) but for some reason I continue to put off reading Matter. I think I've been put off by what I think is low tech fantasy elements, which i always struggle with.
 

Vertigo

Mad Mountain Man
Supporter
Joined
Jun 29, 2010
Messages
8,136
Location
Scottish Highlands
I still have this on my TBR pile. I read Surface Detail and The Hydrogen Sonata last year, (both of which I enjoyed immensely) but for some reason I continue to put off reading Matter. I think I've been put off by what I think is low tech fantasy elements, which i always struggle with.
This very much put me off Inversions, however I would say more of this book is high tech than low with the main protagonists trying to get assistance from the Culture. So they spend a lot of time away from the planet where they are constantly bemused by all the high tech, yes, but they are happy enough to use it! :D

Strangely my memory of Matter seemed to be quite focused on the low tech aspects which made me less thrilled with the prospect of the reread. But, when I came to read it, I found it much more high tech than I remembered, and enjoyed it all the more accordingly!
 

psikeyhackr

Physics is Phutile, Fiziks is Fundamental
Joined
Jul 17, 2013
Messages
1,456
I have tried 5 of Banks books and finished 2, Player of Games and Look to Windward.
I finished PoG because I was a chess addict in high school. I have a problem with the physics on LoW. A main character dropped 'stylo' while hanging upside down then spent a while deciding what to do before falling after it. Up to that point there was nothing to indicate this was a low gravity environment.

I don't like having to try to figure out something doesn't make sense. Gravity and aerodynamics aren't science fiction though I will tolerate materials and propulsion systems that don't currently exist.
 

Vertigo

Mad Mountain Man
Supporter
Joined
Jun 29, 2010
Messages
8,136
Location
Scottish Highlands
I have tried 5 of Banks books and finished 2, Player of Games and Look to Windward.
I finished PoG because I was a chess addict in high school. I have a problem with the physics on LoW. A main character dropped 'stylo' while hanging upside down then spent a while deciding what to do before falling after it. Up to that point there was nothing to indicate this was a low gravity environment.

I don't like having to try to figure out something doesn't make sense. Gravity and aerodynamics aren't science fiction though I will tolerate materials and propulsion systems that don't currently exist.
I didn't really have a problem with that as, for me, it did make sense. It was in fact one of the clues to the environment. I would have to say that I have found far worse examples of bad science in many other books. There was one in a well regarded SF book that I read about a year ago (I forget which one) in which someone falls down a lift shaft in a space station but fortunately the controlling AI realised and turned off the artificial gravity so "he stopped falling and just floated." Now that is what I call messed up science. However, to be fair, the Culture is presented as such an advanced technological civilisation that most of their science is pure speculation.
 

psikeyhackr

Physics is Phutile, Fiziks is Fundamental
Joined
Jul 17, 2013
Messages
1,456
someone falls down a lift shaft in a space station but fortunately the controlling AI realised and turned off the artificial gravity so "he stopped falling and just floated." someone falls down a lift shaft in a space station but fortunately the controlling AI realised and turned off the artificial gravity so "he stopped falling and just floated." Now that is what I call messed up science.
That would have pissed me off even more quickly since it is so obvious.

The character in LtW fell for kilometers so I was trying to understand how this could happen in 1 G. It finally occurred to me it mjust be significantly less than 1 G. But people would walk differentlying in that environment also. The writer could have given some clues that it was low g before that event.
 

Rodders

|-O-| (-O-) |-O-|
Supporter
Joined
Nov 6, 2008
Messages
5,590
I think the planet in LtW was a gas giant. He would've been able to fall for a while. Atmosphere pressure though... :LOL::LOL: Banks's gift was always in the art storytelling and i loved LtW.

Sometimes being clever is a curse as you can obsess over these scientific inaccuracies. Fortunately for me I'm a bit slower so I can suspend quite a lot of belief.
 

Vertigo

Mad Mountain Man
Supporter
Joined
Jun 29, 2010
Messages
8,136
Location
Scottish Highlands
I think the planet in LtW was a gas giant. He would've been able to fall for a while. Atmosphere pressure though... :LOL::LOL:
Yes but that was discussed and he had been massively adapted. And, I seem to recall, that he was beginning to worry that he had misjudged and his 'companion' creature might not be able to 'catch' him and that he might indeed die! But again I would say it was a small point in a much larger story. I confess, whilst reading about it I was more concerned about the apparent ease with which a bomb was smuggled into the orbital.
But then we discover that the Mind was fully aware of it all the time and, in fact, welcomed it!
 

Rodders

|-O-| (-O-) |-O-|
Supporter
Joined
Nov 6, 2008
Messages
5,590
That makes a lot of sense. It's been a while since I read it last and I am also needing an IMB re-read.
 

Bick

A Member of the Forum
Supporter
Joined
Jul 26, 2012
Messages
3,430
Location
Auckland, NZ
I enjoyed LTW a lot less than the other Banks I’ve read - it seemed very disjointed to me. I’ve not read Matter, but it sounds interesting.
 

Similar threads


Top