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Matter [Hardcover]

Iain M. Banks
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (173 customer reviews)

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Book Description

31 Jan 2008

In a world renowned within a galaxy full of wonders, a crime within a war. For one brother it means a desperate flight, and a search for the one - maybe two - people who could clear his name. For his brother it means a life lived under constant threat of treachery and murder. And for their sister, it means returning to a place she'd thought abandoned forever.

Only the sister is not what she once was; Djan Seriy Anaplian has become an agent of the Culture's Special Circumstances section, charged with high-level interference in civilisations throughout the greater galaxy.

Concealing her new identity - and her particular set of abilities - might be a dangerous strategy. In the world to which Anaplian returns, nothing is quite as it seems; and determining the appropriate level of interference in someone else's war is never a simple matter.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit; First Edition, 1st Printing edition (31 Jan 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841494178
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841494173
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 16.4 x 5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (173 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 304,871 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


You can always expect the unexpected with an Iain M. Banks novel. So sit back and enjoy a tale with more than a twist or three in Matter. For a start, it's a rattling good story: a man accused of something he didn't do. Lots of action, lots of mind-boggling imaginative thought in this excellent piece of SF, read by Toby Longworth (Daily Express)

You can, if you must, draw clever comparisons between the conflicts in Matter and what's happening in Iraq. Or you can just sit back and listen to Toby Longworth's tongue-in-cheek reading of a very funny book (The Guardian)

There is now no British SF writer to whose work I look forward with greater keenness (The Times)

Confirms Banks as the standard by which the rest of SF is judged (The Guardian)

Book Description

The dazzling new Culture novel from a modern master of science fiction - a tour de force of brilliant storytelling, world-building and imagination.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A book of two halves 21 Feb 2008
I would agree with those who have said that this one's slow (by Banks' standards) until the last couple of hundred pages (when it focuses more fully on the Culture's involvement in the plot) in which it absolutely zips by. In the first section of the book, detailing the goings on on the Eighth level of the Shellworld, we have to make do with short interludes and the descriptions of the Shellworlds themselves for our dose of Hard Sci-Fi - the rest of it is all a bit 'swords and chainmail'.

Don't get me wrong, it's still a decent read, but Banks' Sci-Fi will always, for me, be marked against his very best Culture work, and against those standards it falls a bit short, hence only three stars.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As good as it gets... 30 Jan 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I've just wolfed down Iain M Banks' latest novel in a couple of days, and I agree with the earlier posters that it's up there with his best work. All the pleasures you'd expect from a Culture book are present and correct: the unstoppable inventiveness, the political machinations, the sense of a universe so vast that it defies understanding. But to me there seems to be an extra element (or perhaps I was just too blind to notice it in his previous books) of acute and thoughtful reflection on very serious and current topics concerning the relationship between more and less developed nations (species, in the book) and how these issues play out in present day world affairs. It's an excellent book, and a showcase for the contention (implicit in much of Banks' work) that science fiction is absolutely as capable of engaging with serious and relevant themes as writing in any other genre.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An average return to the world of the culture 21 May 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Matter is Banks' return to the world of the Culture after a lay-off of 8 years ( Look to Windward 2000) and focuses on the often mentioned mentoring aspect of the Culture, and more specifically
the shadowy Special Circumstances division within the Culture. The story focuses on the Shellworld Sursamen (Shellworlds are ancient artificial planet consisting of fourteen nested concentric spheres internally lit by tiny thermonuclear "stars", whose layers are inhabited by various different species. )

On the 8th level of Sursamen live the Sarl, a Humanoid race lead by the royal household of Hausk.
The story begins with Ferbin Hausk , prince of Sarl and heir to the throne witnessing the murder of his father the king at the hands of his friend and right hand Tyl Loesp. Ferbin is forced to flee his home with his man servant Choubris Holse and makes his way to the tower superstructures that support the individual levels within the shellworld and provide transport to the surface. His aim is to find his sister whom left Sursamen 15 years previous to join the Culture .

Presuming Ferbin dead, Tyl Loesp is installed as regent until Oramen , youngest of King Hausks children and now heir to the 8th is of age . Oramen is a studious youth , who having expected his role as 3rd son ( King Hausks oldest son was killed during the unification of the 8th) graciously accepts Tyl Loesp as his regent and mentor, having no idea of the truth behind his warlike fathers death nor Loesps true motives.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't come close to the earlier books 12 May 2009
One of my favourite books of all time is Consider Phlebas where I loved Horza and really wanted him to survive everything that happened to him. This book is nothing like that. Much of the book focuses on describing the Shellworlds and setting the scene. A lot of it is irrelevent though and not related to the story. I actually skipped some of it.

I didn't really engage with any of the characters like I did with Horza or Sharrow (Against a Dark Background). The terrible injustice didn't matter to me. I quite liked Oramen and the dramas unfolding around him but that amounted to nothing really.

The book was so slow and then when it got going it didn't really end with a bang, I felt it kind of fizzled out.

I loved the early books which were more character based and less sci-fi. I like to be told a story and there wasn't enough of that for me.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Long, reasonably complex, various levels and themes, as I find with his books-all of which I have read- you cannot pre guess the outcome, the writing is intelligent and provokes thought. Bear in mind, most other decent writers in this genre owe a lot in my humble opinion to Banks.
Whether this is your favourite or not just remember that he sets the benchmark.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars flawed but classic Uncle Banksie 7 May 2008
It could be that Uncle Banksie has taken a slight stumble with this one - especially the machina ex deus (yes, that's intentional) ending. I can understand all the gripes I'm reading in these reviews. However, certain set pieces are classic Banks, his imagination has in no way pooped out yet, and the writing is, as always, stellar. While I preferred Look to Windward (loved it, in fact) and the Algebraist, I'd say if you're a big fan of Banks' SF, go for it, you won't be disappointed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Patchy for Banks' high standards 9 April 2008
While I like the idea of the novel, its execution is too verbose and badly edited. It's a shame because the denoument is superb, vintage Iain M Banks action. I have a lot of time for the Culture and its AIs and on the plus side one comes away from the novel suspecting that even the main heroine was manipulated by The Culture to the point of her own destiny. However it seems to take far too long to get there and the main napoleonic style culture really grates. It relys on cliched plot devises and characters (the faithful, abused and wily retainer; the evil usurper; the fay second son; the pompous generals). So much so that it sometimes reads like a very poor Sharpe pot-boiler.

Despite this, there is still the heroine: I'd happily read 10 novels with her as the agent. She really does "kick ass" and I hope that she'll be back with more surreal spaceships and fewer 5 page "Tom Bombadiel" style diversions.

Talking of Tolkein, the epilogue seems to be lifted straight from Return of the King and the ultimate Mayoral destiny of Samwise Gamgee.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars The Culture at bay (slightly)
I have always been a fan of the space opera sub-genre of science-fiction, so the Culture series has long been a favourite. Read more
Published 4 days ago by Robin Monks
3.0 out of 5 stars weighty matters
A gift from my sister for my birthday. I've read most of the Culture books. Except for The Algebraist and Surface Detail. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Scubber
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous work!!
Slowly working my way through the rich world of the Culture. I have managed Use of Weapons, and Excession and stand poised to begin player of games on my kindle.. Read more
Published 2 months ago by F. J. Green
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoying every page
Matter is a sad reminder of what a loss he is. Full of imaginative sweeps and outright villainy - and memorable characters.
Published 5 months ago by Y. Hewett
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding
Complex and imaginative, worth reading many more times, what a pity IMB has gone, so there'll be no more Culture novels.
Published 5 months ago by Greywolf
4.0 out of 5 stars It grows on you.
I enjoyed this book more the second time I read it. Won't go into a large plot synopsis but its the not the space Oprea that Excession was. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Mr. Sandy McDonald
5.0 out of 5 stars Matter
Banks at his best again.

Another gripping story in the Culture universe.

Never the same story twice!

I love them all.
Published 11 months ago by Paul Crellin
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a read again book
There is so much in this book. I have read it twice and am looking forward to read it again in about six months. Read more
Published 12 months ago by keith
1.0 out of 5 stars A mess
Full of invention and some good characters but just doesn't deliver, too many complexities and no attempt to resolve them. I'm a huge M Banks fan but this is sadly a mess.
Published 13 months ago by Gav
5.0 out of 5 stars Wel worth a 2nd read.
When Matter was first released I rushed to the bookshop and grabbed a copy. However I was disappointed; to much medieval Disney, too many words and a storyline that just didn't sit... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Ruphen
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