The dazzling new Culture novel from a modern master of science fiction - a tour de force of brilliant storytelling, world-building and imagination.
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.
©2010 Iain M. Banks (P)2010 Hachette Digital
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Like all of Iain M Banks' Culture novels that I have read, this one was vast, mind blowing and in parts hilariously funny. The best part about Banks in audio is that my mind can wander during detailed descriptions of space (or other) battles, and not have lost the thread when the interesting (to me) stuff starts up again.
The narrator gave a unique voice characterisation to every one of the many major and minor characters, making sections of the story that I think I may have skimmed in print utterly engaging in audio. I'm sure the book has its faults, I've seen other reviewers complain about Veppers being a cardboard cutout pantomime villain, and they're right. I just didn't mind though, so much did I enjoy the personalities of the rest of the characters, especially the ships' Minds.
"Probably Iain M. Banks best Culture novel"
Playing with the concept of life after death in the advanced Culture we've met in 'Consider Phlebas' Banks brings a new twist to his Culture novels. While his other novels were almost all tragedies, this novel comes over more philosophical and succeeds in making the reader think about concepts like 'soul, consciousness, mind' and 'being.' While the story is most of the time straight forward, Bank's captivates with interesting characters that he bring together in an unexpected way. Peter Kenny's interpretative reading is topnotch. I never opted out and he kept the characters very alive and interesting. This audio book comes highly recommended.
"Banks' imagination knows no boundaries"
Once again I was completely immersed in the universe of Iain M. Banks: both in the Virtual and the Real, although the lines tend to blur frequently. He does not spare us in his depictions of the virtual hells - even Hieronymus Bosch would feel queasy at times - but his quirky inventiveness shines throughout.
The first-time visitor to the Culture would probably feel overwhelmed by the cornucopia of Minds and intelligent life forms, pan-human and otherwise. I would recommend an introduction through 'Look to Windward' or 'The Player of Games' before attempting this, his greatest work to date. I have read every book of his and this is the first audiobook of the series that I've listened to. I had thought it would be an impossible task for a single narrator to cover the incredible range of characters, but Peter Kenny has done a fantastic job fleshing them out. I did not want it to end. Can't wait for the next one!
"Better read this book instead if listening"
The narrator's performance is fantastic but it's not an easy to follow plot line for an audiobook. I kept wishing to flip back a few pages to untangle the layered story line.
"A Ripping Good Yarn"
I enjoyed revisiting the Culture once again with this almost thriller. Peter Kenny's narration once again makes this a gem.
"Too much detail, not enough plot."
This is a very pleasant listen. The narration, concepts and language were all excellent. However, I was not enthralled by the plot and I found that I "could put it down". I would still recommend this book to you if you are a SF fan.
"More magic from the King of SCIFI"
Great narration brings Banks’ characters to virtual life in another space epic from Banks who has lost none of his inventiveness. Brilliant and witty as ever...
"The finest Culture novel yet!"
Over many years I've keenly tracks Banks' development in his wild and wonderful Culture universe. I couldn't put this one down - a work of sheer SciFi genius! Detailed yet expansive, bizarre yet familiar. Philosophy, war, religion, technology, physics, dream. More please Iain! Also masterfully narrated by Peter Kenny across a galaxy of different characters.
Looks like I'm the only one who doesn't think this is the best of the Culture novels so far. Don't get me wrong, I still thoroughly enjoyed this book, but found it rather slower in pace -- a little heavy on its feet perhaps. There seemed to be far more humour in this one, and that's not a bad thing. Also, one of my favourite minor characters of all time appears: the ship's avatar for the Falling outside Normal Moral Constraints, and Banks's florid imagination is, as usual, stunning. I actually found the reader to be far too fast (maybe I'm just a slow processor) -- I had to check that my iPhone wasn't set to 2x speed. But he does the characters brilliantly.
All in all, I thought both Matter and The Algebraist more compelling, but I appear to be in the minority.
"Banks + Kenny = Pefection"
Peter Kenny is incredible. Basically I'll listen to anything he's done, his talent is that good.
While this is definitely a Culture novel it feels more like "Look to Windward" in the sense that much of the main action takes place away from Orbitals, GSV's and Drones. Although don't worry - there's a fair share of Culture elements, including some wonderful "Ship" names.
Kenny's description of "hell" is pretty spooky.
It's a long book, ideal for a holiday. There are five or six key characters and the plot jumps location for extended periods, so it's an idea to try an nail this is a few sittings rather than 30 minutes a day.
Iain M. Banks died last week. It's a terrible shame for his fans as I'm sure there were another two dozen Culture novels waiting in his incredible mind.
"Imagination that encompasses the universe"
From the first page of the Wasp Factory to the last words that Iain M Banks and Iain Banks writes I will cherish the imagination of a genius. In all the science fiction novels Iain M Banks has created a universe such that his descriptions of the people and things that inhabit it culminate in the reader or listener being able to inhabit that same universe. Peter Kenny has the tones of characterisation just right. But Iain M Banks is the Master of modern Science Fiction. Listen and read. You won't be disappointed.
Well written and very well read. This is sci fi at its best. The reader puts such character into reading. So much so that I found the "ship" to be the star of the book.
"Excellent, slightly disturbing Culture novel"
I loved this. The tyranny of virtual hells was a frightening invention by Banks, and a clear target as a plot focus. There's a pretty decent rendering of a villain, probably the clearest, least ambiguous baddie to feature in a Culture novel. The narration was excellent.
The only caveat I have is the suggestion that this novel probably doesn't sit as well as others in this audio format: the plot twists and array of barely comprehensible character names mean you have to invest more attention than you would with print, because of the difficulty in flipping back through the story to remind oneself of the various story arcs.
"What a " Culture " shock."
I. M. B writes a good book. But I find I need to read it at least once more before I feel I fully understand the story. However the Culture books are both imaginative and well crafted and the narrator excellent.
"the best audio book performance I've heard"
I love Ian m banks, and the culture novels.
Peter Kenny is a fantastic story teller, performer, and voice actor. This is by far the best audio book I've heard. His performance is the only reason I'm writing a review, which I normally do not.
"A wonderfully satisfying culture book."
The audio book versions of Iain M. Banks works continue to astound me. Having been an avid reader of Banks for many years, I have been slowly working through the audio book versions of said books. What a fantastic way to bring to life an already colourful universe. Surface Detail delivers everything a culture enthusiast would want.. Lots of tech, lots of ships, and lots of plot twists and turns. It has all the elements you would expect from the fantastic Iain M. Banks and does not fail to keep you entertained throughout the whole book. There are some very interesting moral questions in this book and a very surprising (or actually maybe not if you know the character!) revelation in the epilogue. Peter Kenny has once again done an amazing job of bringing this book to life. I have yet to hear another artist achieve anything close to his style and enthusiasm he brings to his reading. His range of 'personalities' and accents makes following the book a breeze and you just know that he is enjoying reading it as much as we are enjoying listening. I particularly loved the audiobook version of Demeisen. When I read the book Demeisen didn't particularly stand out to me.. I tend to read books in a bit of a monotone. Peter Kenny really brought this character to life for me and I found myself with a big grin on my face after each visit of the character. And this reason is why audio books and particularly books read by Peter Kenny work so well. They bring another dimension to book that you just can't get from reading. Like others have mentioned here, I find myself following the works of Peter as much as I do Iain M. Banks.
The personal vendettas are brilliant as always but it is the virtual hells and the war over them which made the book perfect for me. There was depth and philosophy along with the death and destruction, excellent.
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