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The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks
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The Hydrogen Sonata (edition 2012)

by Iain M. Banks

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8403510,727 (3.89)1 / 53
Member:amobogio
Title:The Hydrogen Sonata
Authors:Iain M. Banks
Info:Orbit (2012), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 528 pages
Collections:Michael's Books Read
Rating:****
Tags:me12, sf, library book, Culture

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The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks

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Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
By my own star scheme this has to be a five star read because all I did the last two and a half days was rip through it. Helps that I had a couple of days in which that was feasible, otherwise I suppose I would have been sneaking around pretending to be busy and productive when anyone was looking. The story? Who cares, really . . . with Banks it's all in the details. In this one, a ship Mind of the Culture stumbles into a mystery and summons its pals (if ship Minds can said to have a rat pack) and they decide to solve it. A civilization, the Gzilt, is about to Sublime (don't ask) and apparently the civilization that 'mentored' them had a dirty secret. Upon Subliming it is customary to confess such things, but this previous civ. declined to although they left traces of it, specifically in a person who is still alive ten thousand years later . . . Vyr Cossont, a Gzilt musician and Lieut. Cmmdr. no longer on active duty is summoned by Gzilt military to help, because on a musical quest 20 years earlier she actually met this 10,000 year old dude. I've been hoarding Banks, why I cannot say, and I am about to unhoard him and go on a binge, I think! How can you resist ship named Contents May Differ; I was Passing By And Thought I'd Drop In; Just The Washing Chip in Life's Rich Tapestry; You Call This Clean? ( )
  sibyx | Feb 23, 2015 |
Excellent Banks, one of his best........................................excellent characterisation, compelling prose, wide-ranging story-line and impressive Tech.......................what more could you want from a Space Opera?! ( )
  malcrf | Jan 6, 2015 |
The Hydrogen Sonata, for better or worse, will always be the last Culture book. The death of Iain M. Banks hovers over the whole book, impossible to escape even three years out. Some of that is the effect of the subject of the book, and some of it happens in the action, but that sense of death, of dread, undercuts the whole thing.

The plot is sufficiently space-operatic. A whole civilization, the Gzilt, is about to kick off into several dimensions above and within our own, a place where cultures go when they are ready to retire from galactic realpolitik. It’s a difficult technological journey, meaning that only high-level civilizations can go. The Gzilt are roughly as old as the Culture, having been one of the races in on the negotiations to start the Culture as a whole, and as such are technologically about equal. When a diplomatic ship carrying a message about Gzilt history is destroyed under fishy circumstances, about a month from the drop-date of the whole species, a Culture ship in the local volume notices it, and is asked to investigate. What follows is a mad dash, from the Culture and the Gzilt alike, to uncover the truth of the Gzilt’s history and technological prowess, with an eye towards how that knowledge might affect the transition into the next life.

The text is filled with various ways that people try to combat the boredom and difficulty of life. There is a lengthy discussion of what it means to create whole digital people for the purpose of forecasting, and what sort of cruel god that makes you. The wonderful Mind-to-Mind discussions return, full of problems that only hyperintelligent AIs can possibly begin to have, and the catty comments that come with it. There is discussion about the nature of living forever, and choosing to forget memories, as well as how people go into and out of oblivion, unable to describe what they lived for or why they might return someday.

Throughout the whole book, there is a real sense of dread and defeat as well. Aliens are slaughtered in numbers not seen since the earliest, darkest, Culture book. This is also the first time we really see ship to ship combat among equal civilizations, and while there is some triumph, there is defeat as well. The Culture loses, properly and completely, at more than one occasion.

One also notes how much time has passed. This is a book about the trip into the hereafter, roughly a thousand years after we all first joined the civilization. And, ultimately, it is a fitting end, filled with the humor and joy that we expect, the ideas big enough to fill chalkboards of math and make our brains hurt. But it’s a book about death, and the ways that we approach it. I wonder, still, what Banks knew when he was writing it. May he rest, like his creations, in peace. ( )
1 vote Vermilious | Jan 4, 2015 |
I hadn't read anything by Iain Banks before even though I enjoy science fiction so I thought I would give this audiobook a try. I didn't realize until I started it that it is the 10th book in a series about a space-faring nonhuman species. It's probably not a good idea to start that deep in a series although this story stood on its own fairly well.

The Gzilt, not technically part of the Culture but associated with it, have decided to Sublime. Although it is not quite clear what happens when a species sublime because very few people come back from it, generally it is believed that the species becomes part of a higher order of being. Generally, before a species sublimes any other species who has kept a secret from them confesses it. A species called the Zihdren planted a book that predicted the development of the Gzilt and, on the basis of this book, the Gzilt declined to join the Culture. Some of the authorities in the Gzilt do not want this secret to be divulged and they go to great lengths to prevent it.

Essentially, that is the story which is played out over the last few weeks before the Gzilt Sublime. Kind of interesting but not enough that I will try to read any other of this series. ( )
  gypsysmom | Dec 18, 2014 |
The Culture series has been hit or miss for me. Some of the books I totally devour: the tech, the battles, the storyline. But in this one there is precious little of any of that. As with all Culture novels, the character names are impossible to pronounce, and there isn't enough action. ( )
  Mrdrewk | Dec 2, 2014 |
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Dedication
To the memory of
Paul Gambol
and
Ronnie Martin
With thanks to Adèle, Tim, Les, Joanna and Nick
First words
In the dying days of the Gzilt civilisation, before its long-prepared-for elevation to something better and the celebrations to mark this momentous but joyful occasion, one of its last surviving ships encountered an alien vessel whose sole task was to deliver a very special party-goer to the festivities.
Quotations
She hadn't forgotten all her military training; one point she certainly recalled being taught was that anything that looked like an outrageous coincidence was probably enemy action.
It would be far preferable if things were better, but they're not, so let's make the most of it. Let's see what fresh fuckwittery the dolts can contrive to torment themselves with this time.
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Haiku summary
To Sublime or not?
The Sonata is a fugue
With exploding ships!

To Sublime or not?
Politicians scheme and fix
But the ayes have it.

To Sublime or not?
Nosey Minds may interfere:
Methusela knows.

No descriptions found.

Suspected of involvement after the Regimental High Command is destroyed as they prepared to go to a new level of existence called Sublime, Lieutenant Commander Vyr Cossont must find a nine-thousand-year-old man to clear her name.

(summary from another edition)

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