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

by Iain M. Banks

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,218None6,527 (3.98)1 / 51
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

2010 (9) 2011 (8) afterlife (7) AI (5) culture (49) ebook (28) fantasy (4) far future (6) fiction (113) first edition (6) hard sf (4) hell (17) Iain M. Banks (5) Kindle (23) novel (22) own (5) read (18) read in 2012 (5) religion (4) science fiction (256) series (9) sf (75) sff (10) space opera (31) speculative fiction (8) The Culture (60) to-read (18) unread (11) virtual reality (10) wishlist (4)

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English (42)  French (1)  All languages (43)
Showing 1-5 of 42 (next | show all)
The writing is clear and easy to follow and there are some intriguing parts of the book, but overall I was disappointed. By the end of the book, I found myself caring very little about what happened to any of the many characters--human or machine--and I felt almost disinterested as to how events turned out in the galactic level conflicts that are part of the book. I've read one other of Iain M. Banks science fiction novels, Excession, which I enjoyed. I've also read two of his novels--The Bridge and Song of Stone. Although it was a hard read, in much the same way that that Saramago's Blindness is a difficult read, Song of Stone was beautifully written and compelling. ( )
  j3745 | Feb 4, 2014 |
The Culture, AI, space opera, science fiction, hell, religion ( )
  incandescent | Dec 21, 2013 |
Following considerable progress for many cultures in cheating death by many technological means, the main technological advance is for those beings who outlive their physical body to be placed in simulated worlds. some are various forms of heaven, but others, following either religious doctrines, or some kind of moral threat, include hell as an option. The Culture disapproves of this, but wants to at least appear to be neutral about such a decision, partly given it already is the superior force in the galaxy. Who wins this epic battle, initially just in virtual worlds, but later in the real ones, is the backbone of the story, told from various angles. Two critical figures are Veppers, who is the richest industrialist in the Sichultian enablement, as well as a nasty narcissistic playboy figure, and Lededje Y'breq, who is initially a showpiece slave of his, that he regularly rapes and beats. When one of her many escapes is fatally punished by him, she is reborn within the Culture and subsequently protected by them, but is determined for revenge. She doesn't care about his role in the pro/anti Hell issue, but given his secretly very heavy connection with this, her very personal connection with him becomes pivotal in settling the galactic war. Vatueil is another main character, one of the most important soldier in the war, deliberately climbing up the ranks from the bottom to the very top. Yime Nsokyi is a Culture agent, who gets close to the Hell issue in various ways. Finally there are Prin and Chay, academics from an empire that secretly uses Hells. They smuggle themselves into one of these simulated hells, suffer horrendously, but Prin at least manages to escape and create havoc with what he reports.

In fact, the list of main characters doesn't stop there. Various Culture ship avatars have major roles, and there are more soldiers by the end who have chunks of story dedicated to them. Perhaps partly because I hadn't read a Culture story for nearly 20 years (Use of Weapons, which I did really enjoy), I found this one confusing, complicated and difficult to follow, especially with so many characters to keep track of. Perhaps it needs a second reading, or perhaps it's just me?

But what I was in no doubt of was the fantastic inventiveness of the now sadly late Iain M. Banks in conjuring up so many worlds, beings, and above all so many incredible ideas, both on the cultural front, as new societies cope with their technological progression, and the technology itself, with so many incredible gadgets either enhancing or protecting the lives of its citizens. The ships, with their sentient Avatars, were fantastic in themselves.

So I was very quick to forgive the perhaps over-complicated plot, because there is more wealth of ideas in this novel than virtually any other I can think of. To add icing to the cake, it is also at times funny, thrilling and often wildly entertaining. Because of this novel, I've decided to go back and read all the Culture novels from the first onwards, and can't wait to get my teeth into them. ( )
1 vote RachDan | Oct 9, 2013 |
My first impressions while reading this were “what a tour de force”! And then later, Banks being all feel-goody, hmm, strange”. Then after reading the epilogue, “Bloody hell, what a great big Culture mind **#@”!

Surface Detail is a highly imaginative, thoroughly enjoyable and an unusually amusing read. Banks gives us a battle for the afterlife, a dastardly villain, a damsel seeking revenge, sneaky aliens, some great culture ships, and what has got to be the most entertaining ship yet, “Falling Outside the Normal Moral Constraints ". How can you not love a ship with a name like that? This is vintage Banks and a great return to the Culture.
( )
1 vote TillyTenchwiggle | Sep 26, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 42 (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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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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