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Matter Paperback – 5 Feb 2009


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Product details

  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit; paperback / softback edition (5 Feb 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841494194
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841494197
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 4.2 x 20.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (181 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 67,111 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

Review

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)

Widescreen, baroque science fiction . . . Another fine addition to Banks's Culture series (Guardian)

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

Book Description

The dazzling new Culture novel from one of the most exciting science-fiction writers of modern times - a tour de force of brilliant storytelling, world-building and imagination.

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By G. M. Johnson on 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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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By J. Heaver on 21 Feb 2008
Format: Hardcover
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ian Powers on 16 Dec 2008
Format: Hardcover
I've read most of Iain M. Bank's output over the last few years, and for me this story holds up well compared to all but a few of those that came previously. The authors imagination is clearly running on top form and this book is a treat for readers who enjoy detailed and immersive descriptive writing.

Unlike some other reviewers, I particularly enjoyed the contrasting plot lines of hard sci-fi alongside medieval political intrigue. Maybe it's a sign that I need to branch out into some serious fantasy reading, not a genre I have paid much attention to before.

There is a vast kaleidoscope of characters, human and alien (although I wish I had discovered the glossary at the end of the book while reading it!) While everything starts off light and humourous, as the story progresses a dark intensity takes over. It's probably wise to pace your reading so you get to the last 1/3 of the book at the start of the weekend, if you are like me you will need to read that part in pretty much one go.

So, I can't justify much in the way of criticism as I was unable to put it down and have spent most of the last few days absorbing myself in the fantastic world it has created. However, on reflection, it is a 'typical' Banks culture novel, there is a strong taste of formula here. It's obviously one that creates sucessful books, but maybe it was just a little too predictable.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By D. Woodford on 9 April 2008
Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
er by Iain M. Banks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have read all of Iain M Banks Books and this one Matter #8 in the Culture series is a good strong tale of familial strife set against the background of impossible planet sized structure.

To recap The ten books of the Culture are: Consider Phlebas, 1987; The Player of Games,1988; Use of Weapons, 1990; The State of the Art, 1991; Excession, 1996; Inversions, 1998; Look to Windward,2000; Matter,2008; Surface Detail, 2010; The Hydrogen Sonata, 2012.

The tale of Matter is the tale of a strange homeland called a Shellworld. This is described on p63 as:

The Shell Worlds are mostly hollow. Each had a solid metallic core fourteen hundred kilometres in diameter. beyond that, a concentric succession of spherical shells.

Each of the shells forms a level of the Shell world, and distinct civilisation live on each including water worlds, gas worlds, fixed stars and moving stars. The levels are connected by vast lifts, and sometimes the custodians of the Shellworld allow the inhabitants of different levels to pass from one to another, sometimes with evil intent.

As always with Banks culture stories e have an amazing unthought-of science fiction setting, and this is just the start. A prince is falsely accused of fratricide, who has to flee... So starts a long journey to find a long lost sister and ultimately to save his world.

I really liked this book. I liked the artefact at its heart. I like the way it is only partly understood, and quarrelled over by great powers of the galaxy. I loved the story of the innocent fleeing finding himself on the most amazing pan-galactic road trip.

Highly recommended.
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