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Surface Detail (Culture Novels) [Paperback]

Iain M. Banks
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (206 customer reviews)
RRP: £8.99
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Book Description

26 May 2011 Culture Novels

It begins in the realm of the Real, where matter still matters.

Lededje Y'breq is one of the Intagliated, her marked body bearing witness to a family shame, her life belonging to a man whose lust for power is without limit. Prepared to risk everything for her freedom, her release, when it comes, is at a price, and to put things right she will need the help of the Culture.

It begins in the realm of the Real. It begins with a murder.

And it will not end until the Culture has gone to war with death itself.

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Surface Detail (Culture Novels) + Matter + Look To Windward
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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: 4 x 12.5 x 19.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (206 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 21,013 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


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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
118 of 122 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wheels of Blood 9 Oct 2010
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
5.0 out of 5 stars The battle for Hell 7 Oct 2010
By Ripple TOP 100 REVIEWER
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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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Really enjoying the book so far... however, the Kindle edition I'm reading has some distracting problems with layout and missing punctuation and even missing words. I haven't compared with the print version to see if this is a problem with the text itself, my download of the book or whatever, but it takes you (or me, at least) out of the flow of the story when you find yourself wondering what happened right at the end of

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147 of 163 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great book, terrible Kindle conversion 15 Oct 2010
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a great addition to the Culture series of books - was very much looking forward to it, and enjoyed it an awful lot. I won't go into the detail of plot, characters etc. any more than saying that it was great, they were interesting, etc.

As a book, it deserves five stars. The hardcover version would have got this from me.

However, I read the Kindle version, and the Kindle version has been lazily put together, I'm guessing from an earlier manuscript version. It has missing or half completed paragraphs. Very frustrating.

It flows quite often from one sub-chapter to the next without a line break to let you know - you're reading the dialogue from one perspective, get confused after a few lines and a paragraph later realise that you've got to go back as it's actually another character's dialogue.

There are spelling / word usage mistakes - not hundreds, but definitely 30+, which sometimes you can skim past but a few had me furrowing my brow trying to think what Banks actually meant/wrote.

In short, I still enjoyed it, but am putting in a complaint to Amazon about their shoddy work.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Longwinded, tedious, disappointing
As this was Banks' first Culture novel released in a number of years when it was out, I was looking greatly forward to reading it.

I was sorely disappointed. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Peter Bjørn Perlsø
4.0 out of 5 stars I M Banks never disapoints
Creative and fully rounded, could be a smoother read or it would have been 5 stars. If you are a Culture fan not to be missed.
Published 1 month ago by nostalgic fifty
5.0 out of 5 stars Reckon this is my favourite
Think I've read most of these since he died. Some are better than others, but in general I've liked all of them. Read more
Published 2 months ago by matthenkes
4.0 out of 5 stars Surface Detail
Slightly confusing to begin with but gradually storyline fell into place. Enjoyable reading.
Look forward to reading more from this author.
Published 2 months ago by J M White
5.0 out of 5 stars Another brilliant Banks
Even if you're not a sci-fi fan you would love this book. A series of seemingly disconnected subplots gracefully fall into place and you just can't put it down. Loved it.
Published 2 months ago by J. Davies
5.0 out of 5 stars It's Banks. It's Culture.
Banks' Culture novels are generally fantastic and this is no exception. Well plotted, interesting characters. It's a shame there won't be any more.
Published 2 months ago by David in Herts
4.0 out of 5 stars An Enjoyable Space Opera, But a Little By the Numbers
As a teenager, I fell in love with Iain M. Banks' Culture series. There is something compelling and uplifting about his idiosyncratic brand of swashbuckling space opera. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Richard Bagshaw
3.0 out of 5 stars So so
Nice to immerse oneself in the Culture universe again but this is the weakest of the lot. Main plot is trivial, the side plot is very good, excellent detail again. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Donal Coghlan
4.0 out of 5 stars Very detailed and a long read, bit of a slog
Very detailed and a long read, bit of a slog.

Good story in the end, but it took forever to get there; this is usual for Iain Banks; this story not so entertaining as... Read more
Published 3 months ago by CjW
5.0 out of 5 stars popular appeal possibly
Mr Banks was great man who will be sorely missed, treasure his great imagination and consume whatever remaining works you have not yet read carefully because once they are gone... Read more
Published 3 months ago by JDA1979
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