The Culture group read (Organisational Thread)

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The Culture group read (Organisational Thread)

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Edited: Jan 9, 2014, 6:03 pm

I've been wanting to read The Culture books by Iain M. Banks for a while now, and 2014 seems like a good time to actually do it! It seems like a good candidate for a group read, too.

If you haven't heard of The Culture, let me quote Wikipedia:
The Culture series, Culture sequence or Culture cycle refers to a series of novels and short fiction of Scottish author Iain M. Banks. The stories center around the Culture, a post-scarcity semi-anarchist utopia consisting of various humanoid races and managed by very advanced artificial intelligences. The main theme of the novels is the dilemmas that an idealistic hyperpower faces in dealing with civilisations that do not share its ideals, and whose behaviour it sometimes finds repulsive. In some of the stories, action takes place mainly in non-Culture environments, and the leading characters are often on the fringes of, or non-members of, the Culture, sometimes acting as agents of Culture plans to civilise the galaxy.
So... who's interested, and how should we go about it? I plan to read all the books in order, but I think we should have separate discussion threads for each book (since they are all stand alone), so that people can jump in wherever they want.

Edited to add: We've decided to have a discussion thread for each book, plus one discussion thread for the entire series. Feel free to follow the whole group read, or just one thread!

Wiki page:

Discussion Threads
#1: Consider Phlebas
#2: The Player of Games
#3: Use of Weapons
#4: The State of the Art
#5: Excession
#6: Inversions
#7: Look to Windward
#8: Matter
#9: Surface Detail
#10: The Hydrogen Sonata
The Culture series (SPOILERS)

Dec 26, 2013, 5:10 pm

I'm in. I have read Consider Phlebas but am willing to re-read if we decide to step our way through the series.

Dec 26, 2013, 9:27 pm

I never even heard of this series before today, but the premise of it has captivated me. Count me in, too.

Dec 26, 2013, 11:33 pm

Yay, Jean and Margaret, welcome!

#2: I'm definitely going to be stepping my way through the series – I think we should have a separate thread for each book, though, since I think they're all fairly stand alone. I can make all the threads at once, or we could do one a month (there are ten books, so that would last until October).

Other ideas are encouraged!

Dec 27, 2013, 5:01 am

Hi, just came over from the Category Challenge group & count me in.

I am not sure if I will have time to read all in the series but I do want to read a few next. Hmm having said that reading them all in order seems fun though plus I haven't read anything past Matter either..

I think seperate thread per book is a good idea. I don't mind whether all at once or progressing through the series. With Sandman whoever started the next book in the series started the next thread at anytime, it worked but conversations got a bit spread out :)

Dec 27, 2013, 7:30 am

Count me in! I've already read several, but will consider re-reading some, and will definitely join you for the ones I haven't read! I'm excited for those of you that haven't read any of these yet, it's a wonderful universe you are about to explore. But it can be brutal - ready yourself for the odd bit of nasty torture and violence. Don't let that put you off though, these really are awesome books!

Dec 27, 2013, 12:18 pm

Welcome Claire and Hannah!

I think I'll start all the threads at once when the new year begins, and link to them in this thread. That way people know where the threads are without having to pay too much attention to when a new one is started.

I'll also make a general thread for spoiler discussion of the whole series. Does that sound okay?

Dec 27, 2013, 12:31 pm

I haven't read *any* of Banks's works, guess I will give it a try!

Dec 27, 2013, 12:49 pm

#7 by kgodey> that sounds great, Kriti!

Dec 27, 2013, 2:18 pm

Hi Kriti! I'm eager to read Consider Phlebas too, so even though I am the *world's*worst* at group reads, I'm going to give it a whirl.

Maybe you could announce the group read in the Science Fiction Fans forum! They have a monthly reading thread.

Dec 27, 2013, 2:53 pm

#8: Neither have I! And I've never run a group read before! :) Welcome!

#9: Thanks Jean!

#10: Hi Richard! Welcome! I've never done a group read either, I'm sure it will be fine. :) Announcing it on Science Fiction Fans is a great idea, I'll go do that now.

Dec 27, 2013, 3:22 pm

Hi, I'm Valda. I just came over from the science fiction forum and joined this group. I have read all of the Culture novels except the final one, and I am sure to read that in 2014. Iain M. Banks was one of my favorites and I love talking about his works.

My first Culture novel was The Player of Games and it looks like it will always be my favorite.

Dec 27, 2013, 3:27 pm

Hi there Valda, I hope you enjoy the 75er experience and come join some more conversations!

Dec 27, 2013, 3:34 pm

Thanks, Richard. I'm liking the vibe here already!

Dec 27, 2013, 3:42 pm

I can say that, from five years' experience with the 75ers, it's more usual than not to find the chattiness and friendliness of the group agreeable. Almost everyone can find a subset of the group to hang with on a regular basis. Shop around!

Dec 27, 2013, 3:57 pm

Welcome to the 75ers, Valda, hope you have a good time here.

Dec 27, 2013, 6:23 pm

#12: Hi Valda! Welcome to the group read and the group! It will be good to have an experienced Culture reader; many of us haven't read any of Banks' work.

Dec 28, 2013, 5:24 am

I've just come over from the Science Fiction group. This sounds like a fun project, and I'm looking forward to following and joining in the discussions. I've read several of the Culture novels before but it will be interesting to compare notes with others, and to refresh my memories of the books. Thanks for the invitation!

Dec 28, 2013, 12:31 pm

#18: Welcome, Claire! :) Glad to have you!

Dec 28, 2013, 5:40 pm

I've read nearly all the non-sci-fi Banks over the years, but only just started on the Iain M Banks this year with Consider Phlebas. Glad to see this group read is planned, as I hope to continue reading through these and should manage a few of them in 2014.

Dec 30, 2013, 1:31 pm

#20: Welcome, gennyt! I haven't read any of the non-sci-fi Banks books, I'd love to know what similarities and differences there are.

Dec 30, 2013, 2:57 pm

I have read them all, but am up for a re-read of my favourites ......

Dec 30, 2013, 3:12 pm

#22: Hi Alex! Each book has its own thread, so feel free to jump in whenever you reread.

Dec 30, 2013, 3:18 pm

I've made the discussion threads for each book – here they are.

Discussion Threads
#1: Consider Phlebas
#2: The Player of Games
#3: Use of Weapons
#4: The State of the Art
#5: Excession
#6: Inversions
#7: Look to Windward
#8: Matter
#9: Surface Detail
#10: The Hydrogen Sonata
The Culture series (SPOILERS)

These links are also in the first post of this topic so that people can find them easily. I'll also put them on the group wiki.

Dec 30, 2013, 3:23 pm

Excellent. Thanks. I just ordered The Hydrogen Sonata and will have it next week.

Edited: Dec 30, 2013, 3:24 pm

#25: That's exciting! I'm waiting for UPS to show up (today!) with my copy of Consider Phlebas. I already have The Player of Games – I found it at a library sale earlier this year.

Edited: Jan 2, 2014, 1:36 pm

I'm in after Kgodey recommended the group. It'll be a re-read of many of the books but it was so long ago and my memory isn't great so I'm sure it'll be like new. When I did read them, the books belonged to the chap I was living with at the time who was a huge sci-fi fan and thankfully got me into it.

So, joining in the group is a great excuse to buy new books (I'm just awaiting delivery of Consider Phelbas as we speak) and re-read what I remember being a great series :)

Jan 2, 2014, 4:00 pm

#27: I'm glad I could persuade you to join, lilywren! And any excuse to buy new books is a good one!

Jan 4, 2014, 4:13 pm

I'm reading through the Culture series in publication order. Last year I devoured the first three, and I'll probably buy and start reading The State of the Art some time next week; I fully expect to work my way through at least a few more this year. If my reading schedule allows -- i.e. if I don't have to wait too long to embark on the next volume -- I might join in at #5 or #6.

Edited: Jan 6, 2014, 2:52 pm

#29: Why not join us for The State of the Art? It's a read-at-your-own-pace group read :) Also, feel free to contribute to the discussions for the first three!

Jan 8, 2014, 12:41 pm

I read about this on the SciFi group and I'm game, though my favorite Banks ("Against a dark background") is not one of the Culture novels. I own and have read all of the Culture novels, but some of them I read many years ago and they're definitely due a reread.

Jan 8, 2014, 1:22 pm

#31: Yay! Welcome, Annalietta.

Jan 8, 2014, 1:48 pm

Would people find it useful if I created a dedicated Wiki page for this group read? We could track what books we're planning to read. Here's an example page (for the Vorkosigan group read).

Jan 8, 2014, 4:47 pm

That's a very sensible way to keep track of which of us is reading what! Perfect.

Jan 9, 2014, 5:58 pm

Okay, I've created a wiki page: I'll add it to the first post of the topic and to all the other threads too.

Edited: Jan 13, 2014, 9:59 pm

Imagine many have read this already, but it strikes me as fitting for the overall discussion here, and may answer some of our questions:

Iain M. Banks, A Few Notes on the Culture

ETA Mostly it appears to be the "assumed background" against which Banks writes individual stories, but there are items that could be considered spoilers within. I'm not personally too concerned about spoilers, my memory is porous enough to be almost infinitely forgiving in that respect, but I add this warning for others whose memory cells are more precise than mine.

Jan 14, 2014, 9:27 am

Ah: saw late this article was posted already to the Culture Series thread (using a different link). I'll participate there on any comments I have.

Jan 14, 2014, 2:05 pm

#36/37: elenchus, thanks for sharing anyway! It's a pretty cool article, and it deserves the exposure.

Jan 14, 2014, 7:09 pm

Thanks for that link. I've bookmarked it to be savoured later!
I have just ordered a copy of Player of Games to re-read along with others when the time comes! Looking forward to it, as it is one of my favourites! I also added to the wiki that I will join in when it gets to Matter. That's one of the ones I haven't read. I may join in on others as well, but those two are for definite!

Jan 18, 2014, 5:29 pm

#39: Hannah, I have a copy of The Player of Games ready to go, too. I'll probably read it in February; I'm trying to keep to a schedule of one a month.

Jan 19, 2014, 9:24 am

Ok! Copy of P of Gs received and ready to go for a February start! : )

Jan 21, 2014, 11:31 am

I'm adding this note about spoilers to the first post of every thread:

Posts with spoilers should be marked SPOILERS at the beginning, and the spoilers should be placed within <spoiler>spoilers here</spoiler> tags like this – spoilers here. Both are necessary because the spoiler tag feature is new and doesn't work for everyone yet.

Edited: Feb 1, 2014, 1:34 pm

I'm up for this...though I have read them all bar the last two. I swear I had Matter on the shelf but it's disappeared, so it was either a library book or has gone walkabout. Gah! Never mind, the last three are on order so I'll try and remember to join in when I get round to them.

To those who've never read the Culture before, you are in for a serious treat. I absolutely love these. I read Excession annually. It's my favourite of the series so far, so much so that I've been known to pick up second-hand copies and give them to friends and colleagues if they're into SF :-)

Feb 5, 2014, 4:12 pm

uh oh, another thread of books that I can't help but join in!

Last year I read both The Player of games and Use of Weapons. My notes state that I chose The Player of Games because it was a World Book Night pick (2012), which seemed a bit of an arbitrary reason for me because normally I'm a stickler for series being read from A- Z.

NOTE: both times when I was reading these books on the bus men felt compelled to strike up a small conversation about them!

Apr 12, 2014, 7:32 am

I've just signed up for the "middle" trilogy, because I'm curious to see how they work (having read them stand-alone, but never in such close proximity to their companions) and because I seem to have a Culture-shaped gap in my reading life this month after 3 monthly visits in a row ;)

Apr 14, 2014, 11:26 am

Hmm, would I be right to think it's the novella a The State of the Art that's the next in sequence (rather than the full collection of short stories?)

I ask as I'm finding the stories more miss than hit. Much prefer Banks in long form it seems!

Apr 14, 2014, 12:01 pm

>46 imyril: Yes, the novella is next in sequence, although you're welcome to also discuss the short stories in the book in the State of the Art thread.

Apr 14, 2014, 1:09 pm

>47 kgodey: Thanks :)

Apr 14, 2014, 2:12 pm

What about The Algebraist? How do you start a new wiki page?

Edited: Apr 14, 2014, 5:01 pm

>49 Alaskan_Bookie: We're only reading Banks' Culture books in this group read, so The Algebraist, Against a Dark Background and Feersum Endjinn are not in the scope.

However, if you want to start a group read for The Algebraist, go ahead and I'll link it in the first post.

Apr 14, 2014, 7:42 pm

Oh I forgot it wasn't a Culture book. I have plenty to read without adding it to my list -- I'll finish Use of Weapons

Apr 14, 2014, 7:43 pm

Are we supposed to read these in order?

Apr 14, 2014, 11:09 pm

>52 Alaskan_Bookie: No, you can read them however and whenever you'd like – that's why I set up a different thread for each book. :)

Apr 15, 2014, 4:24 pm

Thanks kgodey!

Apr 21, 2014, 11:38 am

Having recently completed Matter, and previously having read a number of other Culture novels, it strikes me that while I'd be very interested to see a movie (animated or live-action / CGI) within the Culture universe, those aspects of Banks's novels I'm most interested in don't lend themselves to the cinema experience. That is, the stories are themselves pretty straightforward (if confusing at times): someone has a mission, there's some obscurity about motive or who is behind the situation or whatnot, and it's seldom clear exactly what is going on until the very end, but it's not the plot that fascinates me. Rather, it's the world building, the AI, and the interactions between species / civilisations. I don't think that would come across so well in a fictional movie.

Now, maybe as a fake documentary, I could see concepts like Shellworlds, Orbitals, sentient ships, species going Sublime, the ethical dilemmas of Contact & SC ... then, perhaps, these concepts could get their due! Complete with an examination of the physics behind them, I'd love that.

Anyone know if Banks ever received offers for film rights? Is there perhaps even a film treatment out there of which I'm unaware?

Apr 21, 2014, 1:14 pm

>55 elenchus: I agree a lot would be lost in translation if you tried to dramatise one of the novels (I'm sure it could be made a lot of fun, but it couldn't capture all the nuances), but I like your intriguing idea of a series of fictional documentaries. I'm not sure that would ever get funding (it would be quite expensive to do well), but perhaps someone will Kickstart one some day!