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A book by Iain Banks

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Complex space opera

  • Jul 26, 2002
  • by
Another of Banks' Culture novels, this one languished on my to-be-read shelf for a couple of years. Since Banks writes about a book a year, if one does not keep reading him steadily, it is easy to fall behind (as opposed to, say, Howard Waldrop).

I'm a fan of Banks mainly for his easy, breezy style and the modernist trappings of his characters. Yes, he writes space opera (when he writes SF), but this is no Star Wars--the characters are never so easily swept into categories of good and evil, nor can the science be so easily removed from the plot to reveal a western in space. A Culture novel would not be filmable, although it would be interesting to see someone try.

The title refers to a spatial anomaly that threatens to change the universe. It is big and spherical and obviously not a part of the "normal" universe, so it triggers the machinations of several conspiracies (what the Culture's Minds are best at) and a new war between the Culture and the aggressive Affront. The usual cast is there under different names: an independent human male envoy for Contact, a wronged woman, a spunky girl, some old and patient Drones, and some devious Minds. The Affront are interesting as foils to the utopian leanings of the Culture (I think I remember Banks saying that the reason he created the Culture as a utopian society was to show just how inherently unstable such a thing was).

This one jumps around a lot, switching various storylines so often that it is difficult to keep everything straight in your head, especially if you read this over multiple days. Don't. Read it in one sitting for the pure pleasure of it.

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More Excession reviews
review by . July 15, 2000
Except for Star Wars, I'm never been much into sci-fi. I bought Excession partly on the strength of Banks' 'straight' fiction (especially The Wasp Factory), but mostly because it was the only English language book on the shelves of the Venetian bookshop in which I found it. The outward signs were not good: the edition I purchased is illustrated with one of those ghastly airbrushed spaceships favoured by the direst of pulp sci-fi publishers. But one shouldn't judge a book by its cover. Nor did I …
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Glen Engel-Cox ()
Glen is a forty-something communications professional living near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He grew up in Texas and has also lived inLos Angeles, Colorado, Washington State, and Washington, DC. Glen also … more
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About this book


It's not easy to disturb a mega-utopia as vast as the one Iain M. Banks has created in his popular Culture series, where life is devoted to fun and ultra-high-tech is de rigueur. But more than two millennia ago the appearance--and disappearance--of a star older than the universe caused quite a stir. Now the mystery is back, and the key to solving it lies in the mind of the person who witnessed the first disturbance 2,500 years ago. But she's dead, and getting her to cooperate may not be altogether easy.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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ISBN-10: 0553575376
ISBN-13: 978-0553575378
Author: Iain Banks
Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy
Publisher: Spectra
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