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

by Iain M. Banks

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2,654722,251 (3.8)1 / 99
Member:skoban
Title:Matter (Culture)
Authors:Iain M. Banks
Info:Orbit (2009), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 624 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:*
Tags:science fiction, space opera

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Matter by Iain M. Banks (Author)

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English (65)  French (3)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  All (72)
Showing 1-5 of 65 (next | show all)
Matter is the eighth of Iain M. Banks Culture novels.The Culture series give us our science fiction cake while letting us read our fantasy, too. By incorporating highly evolved civilizations that monitor and observe less developed, nearly medieval cultures, we get the entire range of possibilities.

Matter opens with fast and furious action, war crimes, murder, treachery, and a desperate escape. The focus of the story is on the three children of King Hausk the Conqueror. Ferbin witnesses his father’s murder by tyl Loesp, his father’s closest confidante and adviser, a traitor who had been conspiring for power for decades. He hears enough to know he is believed dead and if found alive, that oversight would be corrected. His younger brother Oramen is too young to rule and tyl Loesp will govern as regent for a time, long enough for him to find a way to rid himself of that troublesome and unsuspecting teen. King Hausk’s other child is Anaplian. She was sent to The Culture by her father years ago and trained to be a Special Circumstances officer, someone with the skills and powers to intervene in events in the worlds The Culture oversees. Learning of her father’s and brother’s deaths, she decides to go to her home to mourn and help her younger brother.

This all happens very quickly. Then the story shifts to Ferbin’s travels to seek help from two possible sources, an old family friend and his sister, Anaplian’s travels homeward, and Oramen’s dawning realization that someone is trying to kill him. This is most of the story and it is a tour de force of invention and imagination in terms of creating new worlds, technologies, societies and organisms. Banks created an incredibly complex world and he wants to make sure we know everything about it. The information overwhelms the plot.

In terms of creativity and imagination, Matter is unsurpassed. There are so many worlds, peoples, technologies, and ideas. The story, though, becomes lost in the volume of information. Matter has all this information parenthesized by fast and furious action, but so much of the middle, except for Oramen’s narrative is a lot of riding around in ships, cleverly named ships, but still mostly a long sightseeing trip full of information on the places visited. I don’t want to be a spoiler, but man…the resolution is so hurried and perfunctory considering it took several hundred pages to get there.

This is the eighth in The Culture series. I have not read any of the other books in the series and do not think that affected my enjoyment. Everything was explained, there was no moment reading the book where I thought I was missing some crucial backstory.

★★★
http://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpress.com/2017/01/11/matter-by-iain-m-banks/ ( )
  Tonstant.Weader | Jan 11, 2017 |
They really should animate the Culture books ( similar to IRIA ) ( )
  Baku-X | Jan 10, 2017 |
Banks's science fiction just keeps getting better, in marked contrast to his contemporary fiction. Here the breadth of ideas on show is simply breathtaking. Vast in scope, epic in scale, Banks effortlessly weaves several narrative strands into a coherent whole, as his protagonists converge on Sursamen, one of the ancient shellworlds, constructed aeons ago by a vanished ancient civilisation. The Culture and several other alien species feature heavily and despite being 500 pages, the book is immensely readable. A fine addition to the Culture series and proof that Banks is our finest Science Fiction novelist. ( )
  David.Manns | Nov 28, 2016 |
I really enjoyed this book.

Ferbin was the King's 2nd son. He was unprepared to be in the war. When the man beside him is killed he runs. While he is hidden he falls asleep. Ferbin awakes as his father is brought in down below. He hears them talk about how he is believed to be dead. Ferbin is trying to decide if he should come out, but some instinct makes him stay hidden. He sees the man he and his father completely trust kill his father. As he listen he hears how the adviser, Loesp plans to act as regent for the youngest son. Loesp plans to arrange for an "accident" to make sure the youngest doesn't live long enough to take the throne. Ferbin flees unsure who he can trust. With his servant he goes in search of his sister how is now with the Culture's Special Circumstances. Ferbin grows up on the way and his servant becomes more than he had been before.

Oramen was the youngest son. When he goes from no expectations to King to be he shows him self to have the making of a real king. As he experiences close calls on his life he has to begin to face the unthinkable - Loesp is not what he seems. ( )
  nx74defiant | Nov 27, 2016 |
Matter is another Culture-focused SF novel where Iain Banks explores what happens when a pre-industrial society, the Sarl, meets the hyper-advanced ones of the Culture and others like it. The main story is the familiar one of a king betrayed by his closest advisor, and his spoiled son escaping, growing in character, along with his loyal assistant, as he slowly plots his revenge, and chance to reclaim the throne for himself.

However, this is Banks we're talking about, and he loved to invert such tropes. The revenge attempt never actually occurs because there are far larger issues in play. This royal revenge story takes place on a Shellworld, a terribly ancient, terribly advanced sphere the size of a sun, with 8 or so layers, each lit by nuclear technology, and each inhabited by an entire intelligent species. There are wars between groups, and certain more advanced races oversee and manipulate more primitive types. But the Sarl are carrying out some archaeological digs, and have discovered some artifacts that may or may not belong to the original Shellworld constructors. When these objects come to life, the power unleashed is devastating, and the entire shellworld is threatened. But the Culture has agents that might be able to do something about it.

This novel is very long, and much of the action has little to do with science fiction and more the politics of a primitive society. Those chapters aren't all that interesting. As always, the most technologically advanced sections, with AI ship personalities, the incredibly enhanced bodies of Culture secret agents, and so on, are the most fun and exciting parts. And the dramatic battle at the end is definitely a highlight of the novel. But I did wish that there was less of the non-SF parts, and that the novel as a whole was considerably shorter. That way I didn't have to wade through sections to get to the antastically creative ideas that Banks so ably peppers his novels with.

Not one of my favourite Culture novels, even if I appreciated the obvious build up of technology, as the Culture gets increasingly advanced (with Surface Detail following, and definitely a highlight of the series). ( )
  RachDan | Sep 30, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 65 (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]
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316005371, Paperback)

In a world renowned even within a galaxy full of wonders, a crime within a war. For one man 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, even without knowing the full truth, it means returning to a place she'd thought abandoned forever.

Only the sister is not what she once was; Djan Seriy Anaplian has changed almost beyond recognition to 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, however. 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.

MATTER is a novel of dazzling wit and serious purpose. An extraordinary feat of storytelling and breathtaking invention on a grand scale, it is a tour de force from a writer who has turned science fiction on its head.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:04 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

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)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

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