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Surface Detail (Culture) by Iain M. Banks
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Surface Detail (Culture) (edition 2011)

by Iain M. Banks (Author)

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1,784676,045 (3.99)1 / 73
Member:electricsheep82
Title:Surface Detail (Culture)
Authors:Iain M. Banks (Author)
Info:Orbit (2011), Edition: Reprint, 656 pages
Collections:Your library
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Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks (Author)

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English (65)  French (2)  All languages (67)
Showing 1-5 of 65 (next | show all)
This book kind of blew my mind (and brought back my rabid Iain Banks fandom, after the slight disappointment that was Excession). It took me a long time to read, partly because it's 600 pages long and partly because the hardback copy I have is too heavy to want to take on vacation, but also because it's thematically so huge that I kind of needed 4 months to digest it.

There are, of course, several interleaved plots, but the overarching one (introduced early enough for this not to be a spoiler) is a conflict about whether Hells should exist. This being the universe of the Culture, this is not a metaphysical question, but a purely ethical one, because civilisations can choose to have a hell or not, and that choice has become a major division between and within civilisations.

As I read the book, and plenty happened in my own life and the world in that time, what made me really love it was the number of parallels I saw between its techno-fantasy world and the real world around me. The sadism embodied in the Hells, the repugnant status-quo-at-all-costs reasoning used by those who would justify them, the sometimes hopeless-looking idealism of those who would get rid of them, and the weaknesses and limitations of all the would-be good actors all felt like biting commentary on events this year that Banks couldn't have exactly foreseen. And then there's the moral ambiguities of just what steps may or may not be justifiable in service of a noble goal (not exactly a new theme for the Culture novels, or the best exploration of it I've seen, but certainly an engaging one), and the multiple levels of different actors manipulating each other. Of all the Culture novels, even as it has one of the more outlandish plots, I think it's the one that has most to say about the world we actually live in.

NB: If you haven't read any of the Culture books before, don't start with this one because it definitely seems to assume you know something of its world. ( )
  eldang | Aug 11, 2019 |
Review: Surface Detail by Iain Banks. 3.5 Stars 02/21/2019

This story is not based on a single character that goes from book to book however; it was based on the outer world vast civilization known as The Culture, its agents and their actions. Lededje Y’breq is one of the Invalidated; her body was marked bearing witness to a family shame. She belonged to a powerful man but she was prepared to risk everything for her freedom even when it comes with a price. Basically there is a war between Heaven and Hell going on between those who think a moral obligation falls upon its citizens to create a Hell to punish evil doers. Banks is a great writer with a unique style for his complex plots, depth of characters, creation of powerful alien technology, and for his pleasant and unpleasant surprises.

The first few chapters of the book are about as grim as anyone could feel. Murders follow by scenes of war and I felt that Banks was leading me into hell with nothing to guide me forward. There were many characters which made it harder to follow but they were cleverly developed but the reader had to keep track of whose who.

Banks does describe the galaxy life in detail with creative galaxy shaking events. He includes all his familiar trimmings throughout the story. Banks includes witty named starships along side the clever drones and some avatars on a human scale. Banks is pretty creative and smart when it comes to ancient engineering and dealing with corrupt individuals at the top of their barbaric capitalist civilizations. The Culture can only do so much for any one individual… ( )
  Juan-banjo | Feb 22, 2019 |
37% (twice) Can't get through it. It's just not capturing my attention.
  Spiricore | May 18, 2018 |
Grotesque and fascinating like all of the Culture series. ( )
  picklefactory | Jan 16, 2018 |
Was that a happy ending? Of sorts, obviously, because it's still Banks - but I ended up with a tear in my eye for the first time in a while. Surface Detail wasn't at all what I remembered or expected and was all the better for it.

Surface Detail is huge in emotional scope, taking on the concept of death (in a galaxy where being backed up and reincarnated, or effectively digitally immortal are both norms in advanced societies); the afterlife (...and whether we need the threat of Hell to keep us on the straight and narrow); and the delicate balance between justice, revenge, privilege and political expediency.

All of which sounds like very heavy going, but leavened here by quality snark, a superbly entertaining Mind that just can't wait to blow something up, and enough sly humour to keep it from smothering you.

Full review ( )
1 vote imyril | Apr 15, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 65 (next | show all)
Those who love the Culture will know the best lines often go to the artificial intelligences. In Surface Detail the stand-out character is a sadistic Abominator class ship called the "Falling Outside the Normal Moral Constraints". The warship's barely concealed glee when, after centuries of waiting, it finally gets to blow some other ships up, is hilarious, and its motives remain intriguingly mysterious. Some other characters, particularly the Special Circumstance agent Yime Nsokyi, remain a little underdrawn. But this is a minor quibble – the novel's real power lies in the absorbing questions it poses about the value of the real, as opposed to the virtual, about who or what is expendable, and whether a society is better held together by threats or by promises.
 
added by r.orrison | editThe Times, Lisa Tuttle (Oct 9, 2010)
 

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Banks, Iain M.Authorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Panepinto, LaurenCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
ShuttershockCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Book description
It begins in the realm of the Real, where matter still matters. It begins with a murder. And it will not end until the Culture has gone to war with death itself. Lededje Y'breq is one of the Intagliated, her marked body bearing witness to a family shame, her life belonging to a man whose lust for power is without limit. Prepared to risk everything for her freedom, her release, when it comes, is at a price, and to put things right she will need the help of the Culture. Benevolent, enlightened and almost infinitely resourceful though it may be, the Culture can only do so much for any individual. With the assistance of one of its most powerful - and arguably deranged - warships, Lededje finds herself heading into a combat zone not even sure which side the Culture is really on. A war - brutal, far-reaching - is already raging within the digital realms that store the souls of the dead, and it's about to erupt into reality. It started in the realm of the Real and that is where it will end. It will touch countless lives and affect entire civilizations, but at the centre of it all is a young woman whose need for revenge masks another motive altogether.
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When sex slave Lededje Y'breq is murdered by a politician on the planet Sichult, the artificial intelligence running one of the Culture's immense starships resurrects her so she can seek revenge. Meanwhile, the Culture is uneasily watching the conflict over whether to preserve virtual Hells for the souls of "sinners" or give them the release of death.

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Orbit Books

2 editions of this book were published by Orbit Books.

Editions: 0316123404, 0316123412

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