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The Algebraist [Kindle Edition]

Iain M. Banks
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (125 customer reviews)

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Book Description

It is 4034 AD. Humanity has made it to the stars. Fassin Taak, a Slow Seer at the Court of the Nasqueron Dwellers, will be fortunate if he makes it to the end of the year.

The Nasqueron Dwellers inhabit a gas giant on the outskirts of the galaxy, in a system awaiting its wormhole connection to the rest of civilisation. In the meantime, they are dismissed as decadents living in a state of highly developed barbarism, hoarding data without order, hunting their own young and fighting pointless formal wars.

Seconded to a military-religious order he’s barely heard of - part of the baroque hierarchy of the Mercatoria, the latest galactic hegemony - Fassin Taak has to travel again amongst the Dwellers. He is in search of a secret hidden for half a billion years. But with each day that passes a war draws closer - a war that threatens to overwhelm everything and everyone he’s ever known.

As complex, turbulent, flamboyant and spectacular as the gas giant on which it is set, the new science fiction novel from Iain M. Banks is space opera on a truly epic scale.

Product Description

Amazon Review

In The Algebraist, Iain Banks returns to spectacular space opera but not to his familiar Culture universe. His new setting is a complex, war-torn galaxy with an entirely different history going back almost to the Big Bang...

For short-lived 'Quick' races like humans, space is dominated by the complicated, grandiose Mercatoria whose rule is both military and religious. To the Dwellers who may live billions of years, the galaxy consists of their gas-giant planets--the rest is debris.

Our human hero Fassin Taak is a 'Slow Seer' privileged to work with the Dwellers of the gas-giant Nasqueron in his home system Ulubis. His life work is rummaging for data in their vast, disorganised memories and libraries. Unfortunately, without knowing it, he's come close to an ancient secret of unimaginable importance.

Though Ulubis is currently cut off from the galactic wormhole travel network, two interstellar battle fleets are racing for this secret. The hissable arch-villain Luseferous--whose tastes run to torture, atrocity and genocide--seems bound to arrive in overwhelming strength before the Mercatorian rescue squadron.

So Fassin is reluctantly conscripted into security forces, and enters the hell of Nasqueron's atmosphere to seek the magic key (code? signal frequency? equation?) that might save everything. Even at their most helpful and charming, though, Dwellers are maddeningly elusive. For ancients, they seem bumbling and whimsical, far more interested in hunting, kudos, and extreme sports like GasClipper Races or Formal War than in saving humanity's skin. Their ramshackle transport and awesome yet run-down floating cities suggest that Dweller legends of hypertechnology are sheer bluff. But are they keeping something dark?

Fassin's journeys and discoveries are exhilarating, witty, sometimes mind-boggling. Exotic weaponry abounds. The Dwellers are engagingly eccentric, like AI Minds in the Culture books--but the Mercatoria has banned artificial intelligence as Abomination, and this too is a plot strand. Additionally there are human revenge, intrigue and betrayal subplots; surprises and upsets; and the mother of all shaggy-dog revelations. Once again Banks is having enormous fun with space opera, and his exuberant enjoyment is infectious. Highly readable stuff.--David Langford


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)

Explosive (Sunday TIMES)

Gripping, touching and funny (T.L.S.)

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 817 KB
  • Print Length: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit; New Ed edition (4 Sept. 2008)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841492299
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841492292
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (125 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #74,079 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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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.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not so fast, Mr Banks... 19 Oct. 2011
Iain Banks has written some of my favourite novels, both SF and non-genre, but just occasionally you get the faint feeling that he's running out of ideas. That's okay; not many truly great novelists (i.e. those at the core of the literary canon) have written more than 4 or 5 books you really need to own, but still - it's your money, so why buy this book?

The plot revolves around a mysterious artefact which the lead human character must find amidst an alien species. He - and his whole society - are in a great hurry, as there is an invasion fleet (also human) incoming. However his alien hosts may be genial and superficially co-operative but they are also, as befits a four-billion-year-old race whose members live many millions of years, devious, inscrutable and ... incredibly ... frustratingly ... slow. In scaling back to the pace of his hosts our protagonist discovers a perspective on his own culture which pushes him to reconsider what that culture, in which humanity is just a minor player, is doing (and has done) to the human race.

On the down side, this contains many of Banks' stock plot devices. There are huge, galaxy-spanning civilisations and a small-scale relationship catastrophe among friends/lovers. There are wizzo interstellar battleships and convoluted human politics. Speaking of politics, there's an arch and not particularly subtle parody of current and potential near-future political structures here on dear old Earth. And of course there's an alien race who at first seem comical but turn out not to be. So far this could be a review of "Excession" with no modification at all.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Banks in poetic form. 8 Jan. 2006
Whilst not a direct addition to the splendid Culture saga, The Algebraist is still a highly compelling slice of grandiose space-opera, containing most if not all of the usual Iain M Banks trademarks.
We have a delightfully evil boo-hiss villain in Luseferous, who has a particularly inventive mind when it comes to devising methods of extreme torture. We have a sumptuously observed exotic alien species in the Dwellers; near-as-damn-it immortal, this arrogant, hedonistic race can switch from an irritating blasé aloofness to endearing earthy (or Nasqueron-y perhaps?) humour at the drop of a hub-kilt. We have a cunningly evolving plot with machiavellian twists, double and triple-crosses, sacrifice, redemption, heroism, further insights into the machine soul (a theme explored oft-times before by Banks), shocks, thrills, many laughs, a little sodomy, battles on an unimaginable scale and enough technical minutia to keep the geekiest of sci-fi addicts more than happy.
The sheer humanity and ordinariness of the hero - Fassin Taak, means he strikes a chord with all of us and we can empathise with his experiences throughout the story, whether he be reliving the tragedy in the derelict spacecraft, gulping the chill of gill-fluid in preparation for his "delve", or merely strolling through his garden with the vast bulk of the gas-giant filling the sky above him.
The measured pace of The Algebraist perhaps delivers /slightly/ less visceral thrills and visionary wonder than the pure genius of Consider Phlebas, Use of Weapons or Look to Windward, but it certainly won't disappoint the faithful and just might turn new readers onto Britain's best living sci-fi author.
The elegiac epilogue was genuinely profound and moving, and rang faint echoes of Voltaire's Candide - "Il faut cultiver notre jardin".
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The blurb promise didn't disappoint 28 Mar. 2006
I find a lot of science fiction leaves me feeling a little cold; perhaps it is the writing style, perhaps it is the need for matter-of-fact descriptions in order to set the scene and describe the technological environment. So it is rare for me to take a chance on an author I haven't already tried and enjoyed.
I am so glad I did take that chance with this book; indeed it has prompted me to read further sci-fi from Iain M Banks, and the other titles so far have been well worth the effort.
This is not an easy book to read; it is disjointed, with flashbacks and plots introduced gradually through brief teasers. It is lengthy prose with sentences that I found myself re-reading to ensure I'd absorbed the information. But it is a highly rewarding read, with an epic scale, fantastic imagination and a touching humanity (if humanity can be used to describe some of the portrayals of the frequently alien protagonists!).
There is an easy wit, the characters are thoroughly brought to life, and there are many plot twists. It took me quite a long time to read, but I felt thoroughly rewarded for doing so. To me, this type of book is what grand-scale science-fiction is what it all should be about - literate prose, argument and humour; complex but clearly developed and explained plot; wild but credible imagination; and a true sense of vision anchored by well-rounded characters.
I have seen more negative reviews and I can appreciate that this book is not necessarily for all tastes, but it certainly pushed all the right buttons for me.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Banks at his very best.
Ian Banks at his imaginative best. It is not one of his classic Culture novels but a stand alone space opera that draws you in and holds your attention from start to finish. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Robert E. Burns
5.0 out of 5 stars To sum up: a great read: I love it.
This was the first scifi book by the great master Iain M Banks that I ever read. Despite having gone on to buy and read (over and over ! Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mr. R. A. Flood
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Difficult if you start this genre here....but might be worth the effort.
Published 4 months ago by Edmund Dantes
5.0 out of 5 stars a hard read but worth it
i have been a fan of Iain M Banks for many years and he is one of the few authors that i not only eagerly await their next novel and buy as soon as it is released, buy in hardback... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Ant Newson
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible novel (that got me into science fiction)
This book introduced me to Iain Banks, and I haven't been disappointed yet. This novel is a fantastic work full of depth, and the astounding imagination of the author is sometimes... Read more
Published 5 months ago by HB
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Pucca book rocks!!.
Published 6 months ago by Ian Cleggett ( Cleggsta).
5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting story, but for me the Culture story were always more...
The Algebraist is a Hard Science Fiction Space Opera, but it is not a tale of the Culture.

Following on from Look to Windward, 2000 Iain M Banks decided to write a... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Sally Ann Melia
2.0 out of 5 stars Not an attention grabber
I've read some of Iain's books before and enjoyed them. I haven't really 'got' this one. It reads like I've started it half way through a series, there's too much variety in the... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Malc
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent again
Published 7 months ago by DaveK
1.0 out of 5 stars Dial M for mediocre
I have read ana enjoyed a few of the "regular" Iain Banks novels (The Wasp Factory, The Business, Dead Air) but this was the first of his 'M' scirence fiction novels I have... Read more
Published 8 months ago by J. Shanks
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