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Excession [Paperback]

Iain M. Banks
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (136 customer reviews)
RRP: £8.99
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Book Description

15 May 1997

Two and a half millennia ago, the artifact appeared in a remote corner of space, beside a trillion-year-old dying sun from a different universe. It was a perfect black-body sphere, and it did nothing. Then it disappeared.

Now it is back.

'Banks is a phenomenon ... wildly successful, fearlessly creative' William Gibson

'Thrilling, affecting and comic ... probably the finest science fiction he has written to date' New Scientist

'Banks has rewritten the libretto for the whole space-opera genre' The Times

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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit; New Ed edition (15 May 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 185723457X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857234572
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (136 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 10,408 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Iain Banks came to widespread and controversial public notice with the publication of his first novel, THE WASP FACTORY, in 1984. He has since gained enormous popular and critical acclaim for both his mainstream and his science fiction novels.

Product Description

Amazon Review

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 the Hardcover edition.


Gripping, touching and funny (TLS)

The story is vital and urgent and has a brilliantly subtle resolution ... wildly enjoyable (INTERZONE)

A dizzying adventure (DAILY MAIL)

Explosive but tender (SUNDAY TIMES)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Rise of the Machines 13 May 2003
In this book, for the first time in Iain M's work, the people are clearly less important than the machines. But who cares when he writes such brilliant machines? Let's face it, the amount of detailed characterisation Banks puts into the principal players - mainly spaceship Minds and a few drones - hugely exceeds that which most writers of self-consciously "literary" fiction bother with for their human characters. Even the opening few pages of rather off-putting and heavily cryptic inter-ship communications turns out to be useful and entertaining a few chapters later. As always in Banks he invents an alien species who play a critical part in the plot but are probably there mainly to allow him some extremely funny scenes - the story of how this species came to be known as "the Affront" is one of his best.
The Excession itself - a powerful artefact beyond the Culture's understanding - is a bit of a McGuffin, because the main story is about how the Culture behaves when it wants something really badly.
Overall, Excession is a highly entertaining read, probably second or third place in his output - which means better than most other science fiction writers could ever manage.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars His finest SF work to date 17 Jan 2005
I may be slightly biased towards Excession, as it was the first Banks SF novel i read (i have since read them all).
As it was my first (and hence i had no idea what 'The Culture' was or what it was about), the first few pages completely baffled me. However, sticking with it, i was blown away.
There is no doubt that the minds are the stars of the show, so to speak. I found it warming that entities of such immense power that can think millions of times quicker than humans can be petty, vindictive and deceitful (and above all, they just 'wanna have fun' (The land of IF)). The human/alien characters, taking something of a lesser role, were also excellent. Byr/Ulver/Gestra, whilst living in a perfect society, all have their own little quirks. The Affront are a creation of genuis (i loved the history of how they got their name). The Excession itself remains an enigma throughout, with only cursory details of its abilities. Banks plays his cards very close to his chest here.
To sum up. The plot is tight and intricate, and the dialogue is excellent (not to mention, very witty). Above all though (and for me, this is the marker of any great book), i approached the last few pages with a feeling of impending dread, because i didnt want the novel to end.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I hadn't read a Culture novel in a long time. Searching through my Amazon recommendations, I saw the title and immediately remembered the impression books like "Consider Phlebas", "The player of Games" and "Use of Weapons" (but also his non-sci-fi "Wasp Factory") had made on me years ago. So I bought it... and now I am hooked again. Banks is a great writer. His books are entirely believable, the language and general writing style is masterful and the plots are deliciously convoluted. You can't read Excession absent-mindedly, you need to devote your attention to it, but the resulting reading pleasure more than compensates you for the effort.

What I particularly liked about this book was that the moral/ethical dilemmas of war vs peace, action vs inaction, secresy vs publicity, the good of one vs the good of millions faced by the protagonists of the book were extremely interesting, very well incorporated in the plot without being thrown at our faces but also, thankfully, their "judgement" was left to us readers, as Banks kept his opinions to himself, although of course we are free to guess them. I also immensely enjoyed his non-human and yet so human protagonists, the Minds and Ships... If this is what the future holds in store for us, then I can only use Shakespeare's words "oh brave new world that has such creatures in it"!

I didn't give Excession 5 stars, which I reserve only for masters such as Herbert and, in another genre, Tolkien, but I do wish Amazon allowed a 4.5 rating. Overall, this is a great book, and, for me, a reason to re-read my old copies of other Culture books and, in general, re-start reading Banks. If you like books not only for the plot, the imagination, the characterisations and the amusement, but also for the sheer pleasure of reading, I suggest you do the same.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond sci-fi 3 Oct 2004
Iain M Banks is clearly blessed with what I can only describe as the most richly powerful imagination that I have ever encountered. Having been a devotee of "standard" fiction for years (and having read the majority of his Iain Banks works) I was finally persuaded to read Consider Phlebas by a friend, which I thoroughly enjoyed; however, Excession (which I finished last night) is one of the finest books I have ever read. I count it among the best of Murdoch, Fitzgerald, Peters, Waugh and all the other literary heavyweights: Banks conception of the Culture and the little of the surface he allows you to scratch is pure genius.
The strange thing is that the plot (though being original in its detail) is not such an extreme idea: anarchic, hedonistic, even perfect society hundreds of years in the future is presented with the ultimate threat, an entity which they cannot control, and which threatens to destroy them. However what Banks acheives is to maintain a high level of cutting edge sci-fi (the Minds, neural laces (I want one!)etc.), a gripping, convincing plot, and the ultimate page-turner, sympathy with the characters. The philosophical arguements amongst the minds, the idea that even in a idealised culture there can still be selfishness, conspiracy and betrayal make the whole of the book greater than the sum of its parts.
Complicated? You bet. Hard work? At times, yes; but this is not only one of the UK's finest authors at his very best, it is an eye-opener. Just imagine Britain, seen from a mile or so up. Then imagine a spaceship that measures the same distance from London to Coventry in length and from Oxford to Cambridge in width... Sceptical? Then read the book and blow your mind.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic
Coming back to this again, in Kindle form, was a joy.
One of the greatest series ever they will be great movies eventually.
Published 1 month ago by Mr Nicholas A J Allen
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
One of his best, sharp, witty, innovative.
Published 1 month ago by n j pace
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 1 month ago by A. P. Buckland
5.0 out of 5 stars Greatest Sci-Fi ever written
Re-read so many times. Geek/Philosophy/Action. The culture's flaws exposed and the total perspective vortex gains another layer. "Metamathical!" - Finn the human
Published 1 month ago by Nick Brown
4.0 out of 5 stars A solid read.
Not my favourite Banks (that's Player of Games), but a solid sci-fi story!
Published 2 months ago by Mr. O. J. Proctor
5.0 out of 5 stars Culture ships pitted one against the other, and the most fun aliens...
ally Ann Melia reviews Excession by Iain M Banks, a fantastic story pitting Culture ships one against the other, while in the middle are the most fun aliens you will ever meet the... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Sally Ann Melia
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A good read.
Published 2 months ago by Alexander Wylie
4.0 out of 5 stars slightly too far out
Gets a bit confusing two many minds but a very well written book not enough adventure really for my own sci fi likes
Published 3 months ago by michael parry
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent
I think this is the first time I have given 5 stars to a science fiction book - it's certainly the best Culture book I have read. Read more
Published 3 months ago by DB
5.0 out of 5 stars Ripping sci-fi Yarn - classic Banksie
Right from the start, you know that this one's going to be a page-turner: mysterious appearance of inexplicable phenomena at far reaches of galaxy; political wranglings by the... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Richard Curtis
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