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Consider Phlebas

Culture Series, Book 1
Narrated by: Peter Kenny
Series: Culture, Book 1
Length: 16 hrs and 25 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (252 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The first Culture novel, now available as an unabridged audio download.

The war raged across the galaxy. Billions had died, billions more were doomed. Moons, planets, the very stars themselves, faced destruction - cold-blooded, brutal, and worse, random. The Idirans fought for their Faith; the Culture for its moral right to exist. Principles were at stake. There could be no surrender.

Within the cosmic conflict, an individual crusade. Deep within a fabled labyrinth on a barren world, a Planet of the Dead proscribed to mortals, lay a fugitive Mind. Both the Culture and the Idirans sought it. It was the fate of Horza, the Changer, and his motley crew of unpredictable mercenaries, human and machine, actually to find it, and with it their own destruction.

Consider Phlebas is a space opera of stunning power and awesome imagination.

©1987 Iain M. Banks (P)2010 Hachette Digital

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic and exciting

Great character development, a wonderful story, and the performance by Peter Kenny is flawless. A great opening outing into Banks’ series. Horza is a super memorable character, as are some of the supporting cast. Definitely recommend to any fans of sci fi.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Brilliant universe. Decent plot and characters

Didn't focus on the things I found interesting like the Culture and the Idirans and their conflict, technology and ideologies. instead all of of that just formed a backdrop. The main character was unlikable at times and one chapter was hard to stomach but other than that a good read!

1 person found this helpful

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Witty, intelligent writing.

Although not hard science this book is rich in the possibilities of the enormous engineering constructions of the far future. Beautifully written, witty and intelligent. The reading is also superb.

1 person found this helpful

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Up and Down

Book starts well with some 'thats cool' moments and then descends into large sections of mediocrity. There are large sections of writing that are just boring, entirely irreverent to the story/plotline and it was a challenge to sit through because of how long they extended on and on. Did not like how it all ended.

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2 hours in and it goes nowhere.

I really did try to enjoy Consider Phlebas, but after 2 hours the purpose of the narrative was unclear. It felt like we were following a character on a tour of the galaxy, learning more about the state of the world rather than the characters and their motivations in it. Characters aside from our main exist only to introduce us to other species and their circumstances, and they are entirely disposable - thrown away constantly before they can go anywhere to introduce us to the next concept. I could not finish it.

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cool universe, boring story.

random chapters of time with great detail that lead nowhere.

final chapters became boring and repetitive and I ended up having to skip sections out of impatience.

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Awsome universe but normal story.

Unpredictable read that had many unusual peaks before an interesting finish.

Better than most but not a great book.

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good if somewhat longer than necessary

enjoyed the story but struggled to finish. i thought the postscript did not do justice to the story

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Disappointing ending

I loved the journey and the characters, the places and people/situations encountered it was entertaining and interesting. Peter Kenny os fantastic particularly at pronouncing those fantastic futuristic names and very realistic character voices. Unfortunately I was disappointed with the way it all ended, but loved the journey. Thanks Iain.

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Action Packed

Great combination of intelligent storycrafting and skilled oration. Really enjoyed the foreshadowing of small events and the blindisiding of major ones.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Jacobus
  • 24-12-2010

Peter Kenny makes the book worthwhile

I enjoyed Iain M. Banks' book because of an excellent narrator. I am not sure that the story itself is so great... although it falls probably in the genre of tragedy.

This is the first book in Banks' Culture series and is a must to read or listen to should you be interested into being initiated into his universe where man and machine have become equals in the sphere of existence. Set against the background of the Culture (humans and machines) and Iderian war, Horsa, the main character, must find his own way through the maze of loyalties. Horsa chooses against artificial life, just to... well read or listen the book to find out.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Michael
  • 03-07-2014

outstanding reading, so-so plot

Would you try another book from Iain M. Banks and/or Peter Kenny?

I'd try Iain Banks again. I read another book of his which is very good. But this one tales off badly, despite some good ideas. It's like he was a chess player who learnt a lot about openings but had no experience in end games. It goes off like a damp squibb.Ok, this is the first in the series, and others say later books are better and this is necessary background. That might be so. But it doesn't stand alone.Granted, this was one of his first books, written nearly 40 years ago, but it's not that the technology is dated. He just didn't know where his story was leading; at least within this book.

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

More of a sense by the end of why we should have been interested in the book

Which scene was your favorite?

Peter Kenny's reading is outstanding. His capacity for different voices and accents, consistently maintained is very impressive. He makes the listening very interesting, and rarely if ever gets the sense of a sentence wrong.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

No

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Peter
  • 21-11-2010

Routes of The Culture

A good listen. All the technological depth and character development you could want in a sci-fi novel. If you like "Ring World" or "The Mote In God's Eye", you'll probably like this more.
Only four stars out of five because it mainly lacks the humour of his later books. "Matter" (by the same author) was just brilliant!

Though this is Iain M Banks' first sci-fi novel, it is a 2010 audio production.
Once again, Peter Kenny excels as narrator.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Mr
  • 28-11-2011

Classic, intelligent sciFi

Read this years ago: an absolute classic of sciFi. The novel works on many levels - as a story line, as a set of believable characters, and as a created world of its own. The sciFi environment which envelops the characters is convincing and deeply thought through - right down to the subtlety of the relationship between humans and the highly evolved AI computer systems who jointly form the 'Culture'. The novel is told through the character of an enemy of the Culture, again a thoroughly thought through interpretation of how a genetically modified species might interact with other species and cultures. Mostly though, the sciFi world created is convincing enough to allow the reader just to enjoy the battle of wits between the two principal characters.

Some of the scenes in the book are reflective of the extremities of behaviour which might be expected by extrapolating extreme character traits over immense populations, and I must confess I found them a bit strong - but they do contribute to the depth of characterisation and the sense of urgency in the story line.

The performance from Peter Kenny is well paced and compelling - to quote Jerry Pournelle in the golden days of Byte magazine - 'recommended'.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Urulai
  • 10-03-2020

Overrated

Alarm bells should have been raised about the Culture series for me when in the at least two decades the series has had to seep into pop culture that I've never heard any praise heaped on its stories. Turns out there is a reason for that. Scenery porn and verbal diarrhea dominates this work. No likeable characters anywhere and plodding pacing makes this writing as fascinating as listening to paint drying maybe even constituting a form or audible torture. The only hint at redeeming quality in this work was the narrator who brought his best to book but even his delightful skill couldn't save this dumpster fire of book from going into the annals of obscurity. Save yourself the trouble and read a wiki about this series. It's more interesting.

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  • Kaustav Chakravarthy
  • 19-01-2019

A brilliant book if ever there was one.

Breathtaking story set in an expansive, incredibly diverse and well-designed universe. Strong, well fleshed-out characters one really begins to care about. An intelligent, beautifully written story that reads more like poetry than prose. Wonderfully narrated, with each character having a consistent, distinct voice and the right intonation for every situation. What's not to love about this performance! Downloaded the second book in the series before the first one was even finished.

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  • Kevin Newman
  • 29-10-2017

Banks is a master

If you like Banks, you'll like this. If you like cerebral sci fi, you'll love this. If you're looking for more adventurous, action or discovery driven sci fi, this book will seem odd to you. This is more like the kind of sci fi that explores human conceits, morality and achievement. It's the kind of sci fi that explores intellectual ideas that concern society, rather than what is out there in the future for us.

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  • Wayne Davis
  • 20-08-2017

Very good narration / Excellent Story to a point

First two thirds brilliant, then goes off the rails ending too abruptly leaving reader unfulfilled.

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  • Chrisps
  • 01-07-2017

Snorefest

What could Iain M. Banks have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

Edit out 50%.

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Consider Phlebas?

Edit everywhere.

Any additional comments?

Painful degree of detail. Are all his books like this? "He placed his right foot on the ground, feeling the weight first in the heel, then across the arch, then in the toes." OK, I exaggerate... but you probably know the sort of book I mean. INCESSANT detail that just doesn't matter to the story, and, in fact, dilutes what are good ideas way past the point of boredom. My first book from the famous Banks. Just couldn't do it. Definitely not for me. Won't read another of his books.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 26-06-2017

A nice start to something that really grew up

Culture novels in their infancy are still good reads (listening). Not quite the level of some later installments by Mr. Banks but entertaining space-operas for a bit more mature audiences.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • scotty
  • 09-04-2012

A Truly Great Sci-Fi Novel

Consider Phlebas (CP) is without doubt a conceptually stunning piece. The breadth and depth of the concepts and constructs is breath-taking. There are throw-away ideas in CP that would be an entire book for another author.

OK, CP is a linear tale lacking some of the structural fun and games of the later novels and character names can be a bit of a challenge, remembering who's who, but all credit to the narrator for helping out with strong vocal work. Seriously, have you ever tried to narrate even a chapter of a book? Creating, remembering and switching voice personas is extremely challenging, so a quick round of applause for Mr Kenny.

Banks' style is engaging and the action or fight scenes are incredible but without doubt the single most captivating aspect of the book is The Culture and the Minds that enable it. All of the incredible robotic menace of the Matrix or Terminator genres is tossed on its head by the super-artificial intelligences that provide for the needs of every citizen... Because the AI's seem to want to keep people around and happy. Is it symbiosis? No, what do organics add to the AI's? Interest and entertainment certainly but it does seem to be an almost 'master-pet' or 'farm' relationship except there seems to be no negativity.

I digress. Stunning concepts. Intelligent prose. Challenging ideas. Gripping action.

What more do you want?

Seriously, I'd give it 5 stars but I know what's coming later in the series and if you think this one is good, the later novels will knock your socks off!

Enjoy!

48 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Peter
  • 01-03-2011

Enjoyable

This is the first of the Culture novels and the second one I have read after 'Matter'. This book introduces a fascinating universe and I can see why Banks has kept it alive through the series of books he has set in it. the story is pretty easy to follow once you have adapted to the names, characters, technology and politics and it is fast-paced enough not to become bogged down like other space operas I have read. The story is linear and self-contained with a good ending. Well narrated and recommended to those that like the genre - it is a good example of its type.

20 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Adam
  • 16-12-2010

Ideal Banks for Audio

Coming back to Banks thru Audible I found this a gripping reintroduction to his work - weaving threads of characters thru the whole with his typical skill & artistry and totally absorbing as an audio book.

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 26-12-2010

A good book brilliantly read

Peter Kenny's reading is 5 star. Consider Phlebas is Iain M. Bank's first sci-fi novel. Whilst a great rolling space opera it lacks the tightness and narrative tricks he applies to his non sci-fi novels and later sci-fi works, so only 4 stars.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Misspelt
  • 13-07-2018

Bit long winded for what it is.

Not too bad but it is saved from mediocrity by the excellent narration. The story could have been much tighter and pace and interest kept high but we wandered on to excessive detail with no benefit than to pad things out.

Good ideas but not griping enough to score highly.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Steve Leyden
  • 04-08-2016

an excellent storyline

An excellent plot which keeps you wanting to listen and the narration maintains a level of excitement throughout the production. I would highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in science fiction.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Toby
  • 14-06-2011

Underwhelmed

Having heard and read so many positive reviews of Iain M. Banks' work I was looking forward to this book. Maybe my expectations were too high, maybe I just didn't "get it" but for whatever reason I found this book very ordinary despite the good narration and voice characterisation by Peter Kenny. From the beginning of the story I found it hard to engage with the various characters and by the end of the book I just didn't really care about any of them or the societies they represented. Although the pace was pretty good some of the scenes seemed superfluous such as the episode with The Eaters. I wasn't sure of the purpose of that scene, it almost appeared to be there just to add to the word count. The ending of the book and it's epilogues just seemed to lead to nowhere particularly interesting. Certainly not a dreadful book but also not as good as I had been lead to believe.

24 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Patrick
  • 30-05-2015

Epic and tragic

A staggering story in terms of its breadth and ambition.

I've listened to it twice over the past couple of years but this time it really took me this time and, whilst on a long run, I had to stop and have a cry.

Fabulously narrated by the always high performing Peter Kenny.

Thoroughly recommend to even non sci-Fi fans.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Anthony
  • 07-04-2013

Phlebas Considered

I'll confess up front that I'm a huge admirer of Iain Banks' science fiction. Banks has created an epic utopia/dystopia that is utterly involving, thought provoking and rewarding.



Peter Kenny is a brilliant narrator and brings life to the many characters that are introduced throughout this first 'Culture' novel.



Highly recommend this and the series as a whole.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Sue Bayliss
  • 14-12-2012

There is nothing like a bit of Banks

I like Iain Banks work, so am bias. It's been many years since I read this book and thought I would try the audio book. It didn't disappoint. If you like science fiction give it a try.



I also like Peter Kenny narration of the book very much.

3 people found this helpful