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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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1,514604,886 (3.96)1 / 69
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

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Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks (Author)

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English (58)  French (2)  All (60)
Showing 1-5 of 58 (next | show all)
Banks' series of Culture novels stands, in my humble opinion, alongside any of the great Space Opera sagas. And this is Soace Opera writ large, bursting with wit and invention and ideas. Banks manages to tell a story that covers a lot of ground, with interweaving plot strands and a large cast of characters but without the humourless po-facedness of much science fiction.

Banks' last Culture novel, Matter, was good, but for my money this one is better. For one thing there's more of the actual Culture in it, from the inventively named Ships to Special Circumstances and numerous other features familiar to anyone who's read previous books. But what he tackles here is a Big Idea, namely, what if, once total electronic transference of a consciousness becomes possible, you create virtual afterlives for those souls to experience. And what if several civilisations decided to create Hells to punish those deemed 'unworthy'.

There is a virtual war going on to decide the fate of those Hells but, with the anti-hell side starting to lose, the war threatens to spill over into the Real. Banks' descriptions of one of those Hells is stunning, bringing to life the unremitting horror of such a thing and the suffering of the souls trapped in it.

There are various plot strands at work here, from the uber-capitalist Veppers and his double-dealing, to the nefarious dealing of SC agents and the appallingly behaved, but hilariously funny warship avatar Demeisen. One thing is certain, Banks thinks capitalism is a bad thing and the venal, grasping Veppers embodies all that is wrong with that system. The Culture is by contrast some kind of ideal society, not without flaws, but one where people don't feel the need to step on others to get ahead.

With consummate skill, Banks bring all the various plot strands together to a satisfying conclusion and despite being 600 pages long, the book is an easy read. A veritable page-turner.

For newcomers to the Culture stories this is probably not the place to start. Try The Player of Games, or my personal favourite Excession before tackling the later books. You won't regret it. ( )
  David.Manns | Nov 28, 2016 |
I really enjoyed this book.

There is a war between the civilizations that maintain virtual hells and the civilizations that want the hells to end. I agree with the argument that eternal torment is wrong.

I loved avatar Demeisen of the ship the Culture war ship `'Falling Outside The Normal Moral Constraints'. His enjoyment of the thought of going to battle was so fun. He is a very funny character. ( )
  nx74defiant | Nov 27, 2016 |
This one came highly recommended and hand picked by an avid Iain Banks fan. It was certainly entertaining and the author has quite the knack for inventing compelling and surprising sci-fi concepts. In particular, the story arc involving consciousnesses being placed within simulated hells was particularly thought provoking. Unfortunately, he surrounded those interesting bits with loads of blockbuster movie like action that kept the pace of the book moving rapidly, yet didn't allow for the space to allow the more subtle themes to gestate. Overall though, an entertaining read with plenty of high-minded sci-fi elements scattered throughout.
( )
  Matthew.Ducmanas | Mar 18, 2016 |
Oh, I love Iain Banks.
He consistently manages to create books which are compelling, complex and challenging while remaining action-filled, exciting and even humorous.
This is the latest of his Culture novels (the ninth, if I'm correct). As with most of the books, it works as a stand-alone, with only a few tie-ins to other books for the pleasure of the devoted reader.
This novel entwines the story of Lededje Y'Breq, a woman seeking revenge against her former master and abuser, with the story of an interstellar conflict over the right to maintain virtual "hells" in which the preserved consciousnesses of the deceased are tormented.
As the topics imply, there's in-depth exploration of questions of ethics, all wrapped in a kick-ass story with plenty of space battles, virtual conflicts and grisly, violent action. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 58 (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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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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