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Surface Detail (Culture Novels) Paperback – 26 May 2011


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Product details

  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit (26 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841498955
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841498959
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.7 x 4.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (227 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 11,414 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

One of the most entertaining Culture novels for a long time (SFX)

Famed for his profoundly dark and intelligent humour, Iain M Banks has succeeded in weaving another intricate tale that offers fascinating insight into the human condition (SciFi Now)

Book Description

SURFACE DETAIL is Iain M. Banks' new Culture novel, a breathtaking achievement from a writer whose body of work is without parallel in the modern history of science fiction.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

120 of 124 people found the following review helpful By Martin on 9 Oct 2010
Format: Hardcover
Real people - real cultures - are never simple, and are not likeable all the time. Having created the Culture: one of the most blissfully competent and (possibly) altruistic interstellar societies in science fiction, Banks has worked hard in his books to present many different aspects of it, always interpreted through its interaction with the lesser, equal or more advanced races that it inevitably rubs up against in his vividly-imagined galactic community. We have had the Culture as combatant, as meddler, maker of lives and destroyer of dreams. It has acted as a god and also like a technically-obsessed and frighteningly uninhibited auntie. Now, in Surface Detail, he gives us yet another view of the Culture, and this time it's not a particularly comfortable one. We are shown an underlying harshness that Banks has always hinted at, and he reveals the Culture's self-interest and cynicism much more clearly than ever before. Those communist aliens seem particularly like us this time round and things don't appear to be so - well, so effortless for them. There is no Kabe Ischloer here to shake his head indulgently over the endearingly strange ways of Culture citizens. There are no self-aware chuckles from its apologists about how splendidly crazy its people are.

There is, however, a lot of blood, violence and a central, screaming vision of virtual reality turned to horrific purpose that should make us all stop and think. It certainly gave me the shivers.

The book is, for me, a great return to first class science fiction writing by Banks, although I was starting to worry a little at the beginning.
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140 of 148 people found the following review helpful By Ripple TOP 100 REVIEWER on 7 Oct 2010
Format: Hardcover
It is perhaps appropriate for a book that centres around the battle for the afterlife to begin this review with a confession: this was my first encounter with Iain M Banks' Culture series of science fiction novels. At first, I worried that this put me at a significant disadvantage as for the first 100 or so pages, I spend most of the time being completely confused about what was going on. However, as the strands started to come together, it became apparent that this is partly Banks' style and indeed it's one he uses in his non-science fiction books too. Keep going, it does come together.

As in his non-sci fi works, Banks juggles stories and characters with dazzling effect. He takes a number of characters whose stories may or may not ultimately come together and switches between their stories. And just when you think one line of story is not going anywhere in particular, he twists it round and it all makes perfect sense. The confusion is compounded by the fact that he is covering both the `Real' and `virtual' worlds, and particularly in the virtual worlds, characters may take on different roles and identities. Sound confusing? Well, it is at first but it's also highly entertaining, not to mention clever.

To the uninitiated, the Culture is a fictional interstellar enlightened, socialist, and utopian society operating amongst other, less benevolent and lesser civilized civilizations. This is at least the eighth book to feature the Culture, which first started with Consider Phlebas (The Culture) featuring the Culture's religious war against the Idiran Empire. We are told that the events of Surface Detail occur a millennium and a half after this war.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John Kwok on 10 Jun 2013
Format: Hardcover
To say that Iain M. Banks opted to forsake modern literary fiction merely to write epic space opera science fiction novels within his acclaimed "Culture" universe, would be making light of him as a writer and criticizing his rationale for abandoning mainstream literary fiction. In plain English, to borrow William Gibson's phrase, Banks felt science fiction had a much better "tool kit" to tell epic tales rooted in morality and philosophy than contemporary mainstream literary fiction. He didn't abandon mainstream literary fiction merely to write genre fiction that would displease many hard-nosed literary critics and writers who remain dismissive of science fiction and fantasy. Instead, he effortlessly combined the convention and style of literary mainstream fiction with the toolkit of science fiction, producing a memorable body of work that will be hailed and remembered as the finest literary space opera science fiction ever written, and demonstrating that, at the time of his death from inoperable cancer on 9 June 2013, he was still among the most important voices in contemporary Anglo-American literature irrespective of genre.

"Surface Detail", one of Banks's last "Culture" novels, is definitely among his best, memorable as a riveting epic tale of revenge and murder played out in the far reaches of Culture-dominated space, replete with ample digressions into faith, philosophy and politics. Banks gives readers a most riveting meditation on the natures of reality and individuality, cloaked in a fast-paced thriller-tinged space opera.
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