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Matter (Culture) by Iain M. Banks
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Matter (Culture) (edition 2009)

by Iain M. Banks (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,966753,004 (3.82)1 / 106
In a distant-future, highly advanced society of seemingly unlimited technological capability, a crime is committed within a war. For one brother it means a desperate flight, and a search for the one--maybe two--people who could clear his name. For his brother it means a life lived under constant threat of treachery and murder. And for their sister, it means returning to a place she'd thought abandoned forever. Only the sister is not what she once was; Djan Seriy Anaplian has become an agent of the Culture's Special Circumstances section, charged with high-level interference in civilizations throughout the greater galaxy. Concealing her new identity--and her particular set of abilities--might be a dangerous strategy. In the world to which Anaplian returns, nothing is quite as it seems; and determining the appropriate level of interference in someone else's war is never a simple matter.… (more)
Member:Falcon124
Title:Matter (Culture)
Authors:Iain M. Banks (Author)
Info:Orbit (2009), Edition: Reprint, 624 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
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Matter by Iain M. Banks (Author)

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English (68)  French (3)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  All languages (75)
Showing 1-5 of 68 (next | show all)
Iain M Banks - Matter
Matter is the eighth book in Iain Banks science Fiction Culture series and this is the fifth book I have read in the series. There are no more on my book shelves and so this will probably be the last one I read. The formula is similar to the other books in the series. The advanced utopian machine based Culture have become guardians of the universe. Robotics has become so advanced that machines build themselves creating their own minds. Humanoids and other alien races who choose to live in the society created by the Culture have enhanced life styles and immortality, but occasionally there are challenges to the system and when these occur human agents are employed by the Culture to deal with the problem. Each of the novels are therefore a story within the Culture series featuring a human agent sent on a mission and as such are stand alone books.

Iain M Banks who also wrote mainstream fiction as Iain Banks said in an interview he preferred writing science fiction, because the novel depended on the strength of the ideas by this he meant original story lines. He said:

"You can write a perfectly good mainstream novel with no original ideas at all, you just have to tell an interesting story with interesting characters who have something to say" he also said that "you get fewer ideas as you get older, but you do get better at developing them"..........

He is as good as his word because each of his culture novels is centred on an original storyline and in Matter this is as good as others I have read in the series. The human agent this time is Djan Seriy Anaplian female and sister to Ferbin Hausk who is a humanoid of the Sarl race. He lives on a Shellworld which is an engineered planet containing a number of levels stacked on top of each other in which various animal life forms live, although some levels are complete vacuums. The Sarls live on the seventh level and they are at war with the Deldeyns who live on the level below. A lift system which controls the movement between levels is controlled by another race who have an uneasy truce with a race of parasites. Ferbin is next in line to his father who rules the Sarls, but in the fighting with the Deldeyns his father is murdered by the general of his army. Ferbin flees and seeks out his sister who he knows to be an agent of the Culture. Meanwhile the Sarls have defeated the Deldeyns and have discovered an ancient city which is being gradually exposed by a huge waterfall tearing away the land mass. The big idea here is the Shellworld itself as there are many similar worlds in the galaxy, but they are under threat from another alien species.

If all this sounds confusing it really isn't because Banks is a good enough writer to juggle several plot lines at once and keep the reader on board while holding back some information that will create suspense in the unfolding of the story. I have been fascinated with the idea of the Utopian Culture in previous books, but in this novel Banks chooses not to develop this idea concentrating instead on his story, which builds to a climax with Djan Seriy Anaplian and her brother battling for their lives in the depths of the shellworld. Banks science fiction is not held down by hard science, he lets his imagination run free, but creates enough background (world building) to convince his readers that the scenarios are possible. He is a bit like a modern day Edgar Rice Burroughs in this respect without the overt racism and sexism.

Banks has called this novel Matter which is of course a play on the phrase Mind over Matter - the minds of the Culture versus the Matter of the Universe I suppose. Anyway this is a good example of Bank's science fiction work and so 3.5 stars. ( )
3 vote baswood | Nov 22, 2019 |
I didn't even realize this was part of the Culture series, so read this first. Quite good! Juxtaposition of the medieval and the super futuristic in an elaborate dyson sphere construct. It made me want to go back and read the others! ( )
  Mactastik | Sep 4, 2019 |
I'm having a hard time mustering many words to say about this one. Sure was a Culture novel. Slow to get going, felt a bit long, pleasant use of fantasy tropes, ending was vaguely dissatisfying. Having a woman as more of a main character was a pleasant change. This has got to be the Culture book it's taken me the longest to actually finish. ( )
  wirehead | Sep 3, 2018 |
I read somewhere recently that Iain had to drag himself away from computer games to work on his books. I’m sad to say, it looks like he’s losing the battle. Following on his The Steep Approach to Garbadale, this is the second effort in a row that just wasn’t worth the trouble. For many years I considered him the very best science fiction writer on the planet and his recent The Algebraist was as good as they come.

Although packed with his signature inventiveness, this book fails utterly to deliver on plot which boils down to: wicked aide kills king, prince flees to seek his (Culture trained) sister and wanders the universe to find her, meets several of Bank’s fantastic (but mainly irrelevant) civilisations on his journey and returns to claim his inheritance after battling the ‘dragon’ who avenged him.

If you haven’t read Banks, don’t despair, there’s a treasure trove of his work available. Avoid this one – it is the worst! ( )
  tchelyzt | Jul 15, 2017 |
As I work my way through the Culture series, I am started to get frustrated by some of Banks' writing. This book was great in the areas in which the rest of the series is great- good adventure plot, cool futuristic ideas, some interesting characters. But it is so loaded with stuff that it gets bogged down. For example:

-Why write a chapter in the middle of the book introducing a character at some length, only to kill him and his ship off at the end of the chapter to set up a plot advancement? Could have been done much shorter.

-Why the lengthy detours to tell us all about an alien space station that the travelers are just passing through anyway?

-Why a long discussion of a journey through the world that seems more devoted to telling us about an imaginative form of life, when it doesn't really tell us anything related to the plot?

-Why do all the character names have to be so unpronounceable and long?

Banks' imagination was breathtaking, but he would have been better served to keep the newness to a lower level in each book; this one drags for 600 pages.

The story is of a kingdom on a ShellWorld, a multi-level artificial living surface built millions of years ago by a mysterious and now-extinct race. Yet another mysterious and now-extinct race functioned mainly to destroy these ShellWorlds. Anyway, on Level 8 in this world a nation-building king in a humanoid society with technology approximating the 1800s is completing his wars of conquest to unite the level, when he is murdered by his trusted aid Tyl Loesp, all secretly witnessed by his ne'er do well son Ferbin, who then goes on the run. He is searching for his sister Anaplian, who has gone off-world and joined the Culture as a Special Circumstances agent. The story bounces between the prince, his younger brother Oramen who is back at court and in danger from the traitor and now regent, their sister the Culture agent, and Tyl Loesp.

Mixed up in all this there is a complicated political situation among the technologically advanced peoples who oversee the ShellWorld, in which two lesser civilizations split control of the ShellWorld and are in some conflict, while they in turn are overseen by a more advanced culture that is supposed to make sure they're all playing fair and not interfering too much in the primitive groups doing battle within the world.

Anyway, Banks seems to like imagining a primitive culture and how it might respond to the technology of the Culture. I'm fine with this, but I want the stories to move faster. Earlier in the series, Player of Games (the best of his books by far) felt much more focused and compact. ( )
1 vote DanTarlin | Mar 6, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 68 (next | show all)
[...] it rapidly becomes heart-sinkingly clear that here, the particular society in which the Culture might or might not intervene is one of faux-medieval fantasy fiction. The uniquely hopeless odour of leather, horse-like animals, stale sweat and tortured syntax wafts from the pages, and there is a tedious drizzle of invented proper names. [...] The story's highly intriguing last act could perhaps have been fruitfully expanded into a greater space, and the long setup could have been compressed. Having front-loaded the novel with so much talky scene-setting, Banks might have ended up relying slightly too much on his (and our) favourite gadgets.
added by Widsith | editThe Guardian, Steven Poole (Feb 9, 2008)
 

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Banks, Iain M.Authorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brandhorst, AndreasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dusoulier, PatrickTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
García Martínez, MartaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lill, DebraCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Longworth, TobyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Adèle
With thanks to everybody who helped:
Adèle, Les, Mic, Simon, Tim, Roger,
Gary, Lara and Dave le Taxi
First words
A light breeze produced a dry rattling sound from some nearby bushes. (Prologue)
The place had to be some sort of old factory or workshop or something.
Senble Holse was hunched over a tub with a washboard, furiously scrubbing, when her husband walked in. (Epilogue)
Quotations
A temple was worth a dozen barracks; a militia man carrying a gun could control a small unarmed crowd only for as long as he was present; however, a single priest could put a policeman inside the head of every one of their flock, for ever.
Djan Seriy's discomfiture was being caused by the fact that some of the Culture's more self-congratulatingly clever Minds (not in itself an underpopulated category), patently with far too much time on their platters, had come up with the shiny new theory that the Culture was not just in itself completely spiffing and marvellous and a credit to all concerned, it somehow represented a sort of climactic stage for all civilisations, or at least for all those which chose to avoid heading straight for Sublimation as soon as technologically possible (Sublimation meant your whole civilisation waved farewell to the matter-based universe pretty much altogether, opting for a sort of honorary godhood).

Avoid self-destruction, recognize -- and renounce -- money for the impoverishing ration system it really was, become a bunch of interfering, do-gooding busybodies, resist the siren call of self-promotion that was Subliming and free your conscious machines to do what they did best -- essentially, running everything -- and there you were; millenia of smug self-regard stretched before you, no matter what species you had started from.
Anaplian realised they had got rather rapidly to the point that all such conversations regarding the strategic intentions of the Culture tended to arrive at sooner or later, where it became clear that the issue boiled down to the question What Are The Minds Really Up To? This was always a good question, and it was usually only churls and determinedly diehard cynics who even bothered to point out that it rarely, if ever, arrived paired up with an equally good answer.

The normal, almost ingrained response of people at this point was to metaphorically throw their hands in the air and exclaim that if *that* was what it really all boiled down to then there was no point in even attempting to pursue the issue further because as soon as the motivations, analyses and stratagems of Minds become the defining factor in a matter, all bets were most profoundly off, for the simple reason that any and all efforts to second-guess such infinitely subtle and hideously devious devices were self-evidentally futile.

Anaplian was not so sure about this. It was her suspicion that it suited the purposes of the Minds rather too neatly that people believed this so unquestioningly. Such a reaction represented not so much the honest appraisal of further enquiry as being pointless as an unthinking rejection of the need to enquire at all.
Shoum: "As I say, news osmoses. And where news is concerned, the Culture is of a very low pressure."
Ferbin: "I fail to understand you, ma'am."
Shoum: "They tend to hear everything." [277]
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Disambiguation notice
This is a Culture novel by Banks-with-an-M released in 2008. "Matter" was also a working title of the "non-M" book "The Steep Approach to Garbadale", but this is not that book. Please do not combine this with Garbadale.
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Orbit Books

3 editions of this book were published by Orbit Books.

Editions: 0316005363, 1841494186, 0316005371

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