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Excession by Iain M. Banks

Excession (original 1996; edition 1996)

by Iain M. Banks

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3,420641,579 (4.04)1 / 113
Authors:Iain M. Banks
Info:Orbit (1996), Hardcover
Collections:Your library
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 (58)  French (3)  Italian (2)  Spanish (1)  All languages (64)
Showing 1-5 of 58 (next | show all)
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 |
Banks is word-drunk on his many abundantly hedonistic sci-fi worlds. But he has a lot more fun (as do his readers) mining the "first contact" plot than your typical _A Space Odessey_ Clarke type (not that I don't love Clarke!). Vast but also intimate, Banks' plots provide a huge panoramic backdrop for characters living a day-to-day filled with wonder (and in this case - love). Yeah, there a lot of ships running around in different directions and their names are a bit confusing, but that's not an especially critical component to understanding. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |

The Culture series is one of the most beloved among today's sf readers, possibly the most beloved but I don't have any hard figures to back it up so I'll leave that hyperbole out for now. Certainly some entries in the series are more popular than others, based on the average ratings and online discussions [b:The Player of Games|18630|The Player of Games (Culture, #2)|Iain M. Banks|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1386922873s/18630.jpg|1494157] and [b:Use of Weapons|12007|Use of Weapons (Culture, #3)|Iain M. Banks|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1388530572s/12007.jpg|1494156] are generally held in high regard, [b:Inversions|12017|Inversions (Culture, #6)|Iain M. Banks|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1288930844s/12017.jpg|21864462] and [b:Matter|886066|Matter (Culture, #8)|Iain M. Banks|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327954631s/886066.jpg|871329] less so. As for Excession, it is one of the more popular ones, top 4 I think, and I can see why.

"The Culture vs a BDO, yes, please!"
That was my reaction upon reading the book's synopsis which I shall fastidiously avoid writing as always. These things are never more than one click away on Goodreads after all. Apart from being a field day for BDO fans ([b:Rendezvous With Rama|112537|Rendezvous with Rama (Rama, #1)|Arthur C. Clarke|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1405456427s/112537.jpg|1882772] and whatnot) this book also largely focused on The Minds, the series' sentient AI entities which are much more than supercomputers, among other things they are also the real movers and shakers of The Culture society where all the humans are well catered for with everything they could possibly want, leaving little motivation to get involved in politics or anything else of real importance. What is interesting about The Minds is that they are fully sentient, they have their individual personalities, emotions, and motivations; in other words human-like characteristics coupled with vast intelligence. They even have their own version of virtual reality games called "Irreal" (AKA "Infinite Fun"). So when the complex, enigmatic Minds encounter an even more inscrutable BDO (which they classify as an Outside Context Problem) we are in for some interesting times.

The book is not entirely about the Minds or the "Outside Context Problem" artifact however, the author is after all a human being so he did not forget that his human readers need some human characters to identify with the human drama aspect of the book is not central to the main story line but cleverly woven in. As usual with Banks the human characters are well developed and believable though none are particularly likable. The single alien specie to appear in this book are the boisterous and naturally cruel and callous Affronters, they are particularly interesting because they are not "evil" aliens per se, they are what they are, morality does not appear to be part of their DNA. The prose is literate and a pleasure to read as always, the lyrical passages, the action packed scenes and the humorous moments as all there. The only snag with this novel for me is the large cast of characters, AIs, humans and aliens. They all have interesting names but there are so many of them it is hard to remember who all the minor characters are and their relevance to the major plot of the story.

If you have never read any book from this series before, this is probably not the best volume to start with. I would recommend [b:Consider Phlebas|8935689|Consider Phlebas (Culture, #1)|Iain M. Banks|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327951890s/8935689.jpg|14366] or [b:The Player of Games|18630|The Player of Games (Culture, #2)|Iain M. Banks|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1386922873s/18630.jpg|1494157] instead, though if you really want to jump right in with this one you may want to read up some background materials in Wikipedia or Banks' own guide "A Few Notes on the Culture". I am looking forward to eventually catching up with the rest of the series. Excession is an excellent read, well worth anybody's time, but for the moment my favorite Culture book is still [b:The Player of Games|18630|The Player of Games (Culture, #2)|Iain M. Banks|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1386922873s/18630.jpg|1494157].

(4.5 stars) ( )
  apatt | Dec 26, 2015 |
I made the mistake of reading the first half in 15 minute increments, then leaving it for a couple of months before reading the rest. Given that the story involves dozens (human and AI) characters, many of whom have secret agendas, this sporadic reading meant that I'm sure some reveals at the end went by totally unnoticed. Still, this seems like what I expected a novel in the Culture series to be like, particularly the ship Minds being protagonists. Not entirely satisfied with the ending, but totally worth the time. ( )
  crop | Sep 3, 2015 |
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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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