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Surface Detail (Culture) by Iain M. Banks
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Surface Detail (Culture) (edition 2010)

by Iain M. Banks

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1,428555,274 (3.95)1 / 68
Member:apachama
Title:Surface Detail (Culture)
Authors:Iain M. Banks
Info:Orbit (2010), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 640 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:Science Fiction, The Culture, Sex, Death, Money, nuclear weapons, science fiction, hell, religion, tattoos, read 2012

Work details

Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks (Author)

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English (54)  French (1)  All languages (55)
Showing 1-5 of 54 (next | show all)
Banks is a master at space opera and this culture novel shines with his humor and wit. The comedy is in the dialogue between "minds" (the AI ships that seem to rule) - they are sometimes quite robotic and other times very human. The action revolves around an evil lord who controls the Hells and a young former chattel who is out to kill him. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
Iain M. Banks was taken away from us too soon. He was a genius of prose, structure, characterization and all kinds of SFnal ideas (by all accounts his mainstream fiction – published under the name of [a: Iain Banks|7628|Iain Banks|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1374456581p2/7628.jpg] with no M – is also so great).

Reading Iain M. Banks is more challenging than most sci-fi authors though, his novel’s structure and plotline are often very complex, byzantine even; but the reader’s effort is always rewarded. With Surface Detail Banks takes about 70 pages to set up the pieces and introduce the characters before the narrative settles down enough for me to familiarize myself with the characters and the situation. Having said that, the first few chapters are immediately interesting though a little perplexing. In this early section of the book Banks introduces quite a few point of view protagonists in mysterious and weird locations. Banks clears up most of the perplexities by gradually unfolding his more outlandish ideas without the expositions reading like dry infodumps.

As with most Culture books there are multiple plot strands that Banks skillfully juggles and gradually weave together. The main plotline is to do with “Hell”, which is a virtual environment where digitized mind-states (consciousness) of dead people (souls of sorts) are put into perpetual punishment. The virtual Hell depicted in Surface Detail where one of the protagonists spend her time is indeed a very miserable and violent place where death is not an end to the torment as it is immediately followed by reactivation.

In spite of the very dark theme the novel is at times very humorous. The humour mainly comes from the dialogue and behavior of the Minds, the uber AI that controls the Culture civilization. I can't show you examples of the more comical moments out of context though. There is a large element of cyberpunk in this book. Fans of [b: Neuromancer|22328|Neuromancer (Sprawl, #1)|William Gibson|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1167348726s/22328.jpg|909457] and [b: Altered Carbon|40445|Altered Carbon (Takeshi Kovacs, #1)|Richard K. Morgan|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1387128955s/40445.jpg|2095852] should find a lot to enjoy in this book. If [b: Redshirts|13055592|Redshirts|John Scalzi|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348617890s/13055592.jpg|18130445] or [b: The Martian|18007564|The Martian|Andy Weir|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1413706054s/18007564.jpg|21825181] represent your preferred flavor of sci-fi this book may not suit you. Beside great characters, ideas, humour, prose and dialogue, Banks is also brilliant with nomenclatures, the very long ship names and drone names are awesome yet subtly meaningful.

If I have one complaint it would be that the pace sags a little after the half-way point of the book, especially as one character is negotiating to buy a top of the line spaceship. However, the novel’s pace soon picks up again, in fact one confrontation scene between a protagonist and her arch enemy almost had me jump out of my seat. Surface Detail is highly recommended for anyone who enjoys Banks’ Culture series books, I am not sure it is the best entry point into the series, [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] would be better for that I think. I already bought [b: Look to Windward|12016|Look to Windward (Culture, #7)|Iain M. Banks|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1288930978s/12016.jpg|124371] so I am looking forward to that. ( )
  apatt | Dec 26, 2015 |
More reviews on Weighing A Pig Doesn't Fatten It...

It’s simple: if you like Banks’ Culture novels, you’ll like this one. It’s not the best Culture novel – that’s Excession – but it’s still excellent.

If you don’t know the Culture novels, don’t start here: start with The Player of Games, and work your way up in the order they’ve been released. Banks is a giant, and his highly imaginative Culture series is one of the best things that ever happened to Sci Fi, and his premature death one of the worst. ( )
  bormgans | Dec 15, 2015 |
Another thrill-a-minute Culture novel from Banks. I wouldn't read it as a first foray into this series of novels -- fully appreciating the action, politics, and characters (people and AI Minds) would be helped by already knowing something about the Culture -- but if you've enjoyed reading other novels in the series, you'll no doubt enjoy this one as well. ( )
  ronhenry | Nov 17, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 54 (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.… (more)

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Editions: 0316123404, 0316123412

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