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Excession by Iain M. Banks
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Excession (original 1996; edition 1996)

by Iain M. Banks

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3,434671,568 (4.04)1 / 113
Member:andyl
Title:Excession
Authors:Iain M. Banks
Info:Orbit (1996), Hardcover
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:science fiction, first edition, the culture, derleth shortlisted, Kurd Laßwitz Preis, BSFA Award winner

Work details

Excession by Iain M. Banks (1996)

  1. 40
    Anathem by Neal Stephenson (elenchus)
    elenchus: Banks also introduces the "out of context" problem central to Anathem, but in a wildly different plot, and universe. Banks is less ontology and more space opera, but I found both books very entertaining, and both Stephenson and Banks sensitive to political questions raised by their respective plots.… (more)
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English (61)  French (3)  Italian (2)  Spanish (1)  All languages (67)
Showing 1-5 of 61 (next | show all)
Iain Banks generally writes sci fi that is difficult to penetrate- plots are complex, things aren't well spelled-out. Generally there's a good payoff, though, if you stick with it.
Excession was hard to stick with, though. There are just too many characters (and what's with all the crazy names? It makes it harder to keep them all straight). This novel also includes many many Ship Minds as characters, communicating in formal text, and I felt like I needed to take careful notes in order to keep them straight, which i wasn't willing to do.
The Excession is a mysterious and very technologically advanced entity that is found one day by the Elench, an ally of the Culture previously not revealed in this series. The entity destroys or takes over the Elench craft, but its existence is then discovered and attracts the attention of more Elench, the Culture, and also the Affront, another species not previously discussed in these novels. The Affront are a warfaring race only kept at bay by the tech superiority of the Culture.
Wrapped up in all this is a conspiracy of a group of Culture Minds that is slowly revealed. Action centers on an Eccentric Culture ship, the Sleeper Service, in which dwells a woman with a tortured past. Also a Culture agent, Genar-Hofoen, who is assigned to assist in the investigation of the Excession by going to the Sleeper Service and attempting to communicate with the disembodied mind of an ancient ship's captain who may know about the Excession from a previous encounter. Of course, Genar-Hofoen and the woman on the Sleeper Service have a past together, of which more is revealed as the book advances.
Complex, and hard to follow. Ending pays off mostly, though- a worthwhile read, albeit not as good as the better Culture novels. ( )
  DanTarlin | Aug 22, 2016 |
Science fiction doesn't get better than this, although I would caution anyone new to trying out the genre to start elsewhere than plunging into the convolutions and complexities of Iain Banks' plots, the Culture, and ship Minds. This time an anomaly appears, what the Minds call an 'excession' meaning, something they do not understand. Naturally, being Minds, they are piqued and challenged when something they don't understand turns up. So they race to get there and meet and greet . . . only . . . another culture, the Affronters get wind of the excession and want in and it turns out the Special Circumstances, the MI6 of the ship Mind 'verse has been 'up to something' and it all comes to a head, naturally, around this enigmatic visitor. There is a strong human plot as well, a love affair gone very bad, a spoiled brat of a young woman, the usual very funny drones, an obnoxious raven . . . ***** ( )
  sibyx | Aug 4, 2016 |
Originally published in 1996, Excession is the fourth of Banks "Culture" novels, set in a distant future where a hybrid form of humanity has spread throughout the galaxy. What makes Banks "Culture" series such a landmark achievement in SF is in large part that his set-up on the face of it does not seem to provide a promising base for good storytelling. The Culture have almost completely eliminated scarcity, and replaced it with a form of beneficent hedonism, based largely on the ability to do virtually anything with the aid of highly advanced information and biological technologies. Not much possibility for drama or conflict, it would seem.

And yet, against the odds, Banks novels time and again give us conflict and drama and characters torn by competing cultural demands and internal demons. His novels are dark, and the characters are often problematic and sometimes downright unlikable (so if you are the kind of feeb that dismisses books on the basis that you "didn't like the characters" then Banks is definitely not for you).

Excession initially promises a great deal. Banks spends a considerable amount of time developing the internal world of the Minds, the sentient AIs that command the large warships, worlds, and orbitals, and who run most aspects of the Culture behind the scenes. In the previous three worlds character have interacted with the Minds, but we don't get a strong sense of how the Minds interact with one another. The novel also sets up two interesting philosophical conversations running largely in parallel but then intersecting at key moments: one that deals with the morality and ethics of starting a war to prevent an even greater calamity, and a second that involves the tension between individual satisfaction and self-sacrifice for the needs of another.

Unfortunately, Excession is the weakest of those Culture novels that I have read so far. For ninety percent of the book it seems as if Banks is on track. There's dark plots in the background, and overwhelming mystery in the foreground, lots of tension and intrigue. Then it all just dissipates in a rush. All the Culture novels are good, lengthy reads but here it is almost as if he was rushing. The worst aspect of the novel is that Banks engages in a kind of "where are they now" ending which is both unnecessary and amateurish. One of the most striking features of the first three novels is that the reader is left with lingering, provocative questions. With Excession it is as if Banks suddenly stopped trusting his readers not to be freaked out by having to do some thinking for themselves (so, in essence, he turns into George Lucas).

The plotting and characterization also start to fall apart as the novel evolves. As he always does, Banks spends a lot of time developing the mental states and back stories of his characters; this time, however, they end up behaving in ways that don't seem to match with their previous states. I'm not complaining about characters being inconsistent. Inconsistency is part of a fully realized character. But what I do object to is implausible inconsistency. In a similar vein, a Mind character that ends up playing a pivotal role in the plot is abruptly introduced halfway through the book, and then engages in sudden reversals that seem abrupt and arbitrary (because of the lack of build-up) which Banks attempts to paper over with a hamfisted lengthy internal monologue.

Much more so than other types of genre fiction, good SF demands a lot of intellectual heavy lifting from its readers. Very often we have to puzzle our way into a world that is simply presented to us rather than explained. At the end, moreover, the unanswered questions, typically those that hint at links between these fantastic worlds and our own, mean that good SF doesn't wrap things up in a tidy package at the end. It is a shame that Banks seemed to forget that.

Excession remains interesting for its look at the world of the sentient AIs. But if you are new to the Culture series, then start with Consider Phlebas and move on to The Player of Games (my personal favorite so far) or Uses of Weapons. ( )
  BornAnalog | Aug 3, 2016 |
It took a while, but then the Star Trek-like aspects of the book really kicked in. Ships racing to faraway destinations, ship Minds bickering with each other, stuff being blown up. I can see why this is a love/hate book for Culture readers. It has some of the same bloated qualities of Consider Phlebas (at one point I think I listened to ten straight minutes of description of a city the narrator was going to be in for a very short time), but I'd rather read Banks bloat than a lot of other authors' best efforts, so I don't mind as much.

I got tired of Dajiel and her endless pregnancy (and the reasons for it), but the Minds were terrific. I grew attached to the Sleeper Service and its avatar Morphia far more than to the humanoid characters (and the Affront were both horrible and wonderful). I would definitely read this again, in fact I think it would be even more satisfying the second time around.

I finished it by reading the ebook, but the Minds sections are better when you hear them read by Peter Kenny. His interpretation and the different voices he gives the ships add a lot to the experience. ( )
1 vote Sunita_p | Mar 6, 2016 |
This is one of Banks' ‘Culture' novels, set in his far-future universe of sentient ships and interstellar civilizations.
It's just about as opposite to his book "Inversions" where there is barely a clue that it is a "Culture" novel. In this novel, the complex, far-reaching background almost overwhelms the plot – but not quite.
An anomaly (dubbed an "Excession") has appeared in space? What is it? Is it sentient? Is it potentially a gateway to other universes?
No one knows – but everyone is freaking out over it – from the Special Circumstances division of the Culture, to godlike ships of legend, and other civilizations - such as the mild-mannered Elench and the cruel and barbaric Affront – are being drawn into an ever-spiraling mess...
Meanwhile, an ex-space captain lives peacefully in a state of eternal pregnancy in an isolated tower aboard an Eccentric ship....
An ambassador is recruited with promises beyond his dreams to attempt to kidnap a soul...
And a spoiled bimbo is lured into a mission of seduction, told she will be part of the elite Special Circumstances corps...
All will be drawn into the orbit of the Excession... ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Iain M. Banksprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Salwowski, MarkCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Youll, PaulCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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A little more than one hundred days into the fortieth year of her confinement, Dajeil Gelian was visited in her lonely tower overlooking the sea by an avatar of the great ship that was her home. (Prologue)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0553575376, Mass Market Paperback)

It's not easy to disturb a mega-utopia as vast as the one Iain M. Banks has created in his popular Culture series, where life is devoted to fun and ultra-high-tech is de rigueur. But more than two millennia ago the appearance--and disappearance--of a star older than the universe caused quite a stir. Now the mystery is back, and the key to solving it lies in the mind of the person who witnessed the first disturbance 2,500 years ago. But she's dead, and getting her to cooperate may not be altogether easy.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:05 -0400)

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Diplomat Byr Genar-Hofoen is swept into a vast conspiracy that could lead the universe to the brink of annihilation when he is selected to investigate the disappearance of an ancient star.

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