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The Hydrogen Sonata (Culture 10) [Paperback]

Iain M. Banks
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (322 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
Price: 5.59 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

10 Sep 2013 Culture 10

The Scavenger species are circling. It is, truly, the End Days for the Gzilt civilisation.

An ancient people, organised on military principles and yet almost perversely peaceful, the Gzilt helped set up the Culture ten thousand years earlier and were very nearly one of its founding societies, deciding not to join only at the last moment. Now they've made the collective decision to follow the well-trodden path of millions of other civilisations: they are going to Sublime, elevating themselves to a new and almost infinitely more rich and complex existence.

Amid preparations though, the Regimental High Command is destroyed. Lieutenant Commander (reserve) Vyr Cossont appears to have been involved, and she is now wanted - dead, not alive. Aided only by an ancient, reconditioned android and a suspicious Culture avatar, Cossont must complete her last mission given to her by the High Command. She must find the oldest person in the Culture, a man over nine thousand years old, who might have some idea what really happened all that time ago. It seems that the final days of the Gzilt civilisation are likely to prove its most perilous.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit (10 Sep 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0356501493
  • ISBN-13: 978-0356501499
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.4 x 4.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (322 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,138 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


25 years after Banks's first Culture novel he is as exuberant, slyly funny and mind-stretchingly imaginative as ever (SUNDAY TIMES)

Epic in scope, ambitious in its ideas and absorbing in its execution (INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY)

One of the most enduring and endearing visions of the future (GUARDIAN)

Sharply satirical and packed with brilliant action scenes, this space opera proves British SF's big beard still plays the best tunes (BBC FOCUS)

Book Description

A Sunday Times bestselling Culture novel from the UK's leading SF writer

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
So this was my journey through this book. Excellent a new culture book arrive from Amazon. Great cover love the title. I open it and it starts well. I do like the promise to explore the topic of sublimation, it's an interesting premise, and I love the usual great world building in the shape of the ablate and the sculpt worlds.

Hmmmm this great secret the Gzilt are trying to avoid must be pretty huge to explain all this death and mayhem. No doubt we won't know what it is till the last 50 pages. Hold on I am just about half way through and the great secret is revealed and it's really not that great. Nah.....that cannot be it. There is almost half the book to go, there must be more to come. Oh look lots of talk about simulation and a comedy android that thinks everything is all a simulation. Now that would be interesting. Could the Gzilt all just be a simulation, but simulated characters that are actually sentient enough themselves to sublime? Now that would be interesting. Nope it's not that. Oh wellnver mind there are only 50 odd pages to go and the rest of the big secret from the dawn of the Culture is about to be revealed. Here we go, the rest of the big secret is...... actually no different from the what we already know from much earlier.

The big secret is really just not big enough to explain all the death and mayhem. Indeed the level of chaos and high level deceit introduced to attempt to supress the secret seems worse than the sublimation threatening disruption the plotters fear that the revelation of the secret would cause in the first place.

In short as ever I loved the journey but the destination was surprisingly disappointing.
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99 of 106 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Back to what I like... 11 Oct 2012
As a long time Iain M. Banks fan I must admit I have been a bit disappointed with some of his latest stuff. For example Surface Detail and Matter, while good reads, left me feeling like maybe the prime had been passed. So I didn't have huge expectations for this latest Culture novel. However I was very relieved to find that The Hydrogen Sonata was what might be described on a back cover as a rip-roaring return to form for this master of whatever it is he does when he writes a good Culture Novel.
In Short, if you loved 'Excession' and 'Look to Windward', if you love the way Mr. Banks can craft a single paragraph that somehow manages to take the plot forward, deepen the mystery, enrich the characters and be an elaborately crafted joke while commenting on the contrasts between The society of the Culture and our own, then don't be afraid to go into this book with high expectations.

....Well, I liked it anyway.
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62 of 67 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Mundane disclosure first: I have been a huge Iain (M) Banks fan for a long time, so I won't pretend full objectivity. In fact, had this been a new author's work it would have been a 5 star review. Banks novels set the bar so highly for me that I may be slightly more critical of them than I would be otherwise.

For fans of the Culture series, however, this is a worthy addition: not quite the best (Player of Games remains my all-time favourite, followed closely by Consider Phlebas and Look to Windward - the latter not shared by everyone, I know, and I also have a lot of time for Surface Detail). I found myself, however, looking for any opportunity to return to this whenever possible and, as so often with Banks's novels, am disappointed it's over.

The humour of the Minds is sparkling in this book - Banks's gods in the machines (literally) always remind me of slightly squabbling Olympians, with all those human foibles the Greeks projected onto their deities. However, there is one element that does grate with regard to the book: lots of people die in this novel - including some significant characters (no spoilers) - but the culture of the, ah, Culture is such that the major ones are pretty much all backed up (there is one exception to this, but even that is not, in the end, completely final). I offer this in contrast to the (early) George R R Martin novels, where you come to feel greatly for major characters who then die. Gone. That's it - no coming back (and even Martin baulks at this in later novels). Banks seems to have written himself into a tight spot re. tragedy where the Culture series appears unable to deal with it on the profoundest level. And yet, in Consider Phlebas I really felt the waste and tragedy of the Idiran war.

One note re.
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49 of 54 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Just doesn't compare to previous work 23 Oct 2012
I'm really sorry to write what will be a fairly negative review of this book. I have greatly enjoyed many of Banks' previous works - particularly his sci-fi and I absolutely feel that he helped to create a genre within the genre as the uncontested king of space opera. Despite my growing preference for his earlier works - some of which constitute masterpieces in my view - I was still excited to get the newest offering. Unfortunately I was ultimately disappointed.

I can't deny that the writing style remains almost as good, but for me, there is none of the passion and conviction that Banks used to demonstrate. The characterisation is weaker, the narrative / plotting equally so -I got to the end of the book and thought - "Well, so what? I don't care!". Which is really sad. I think ultimately, this book explores a topic that possibly merited a short story and with a braver editor it may have made a great novella - instead I found myself reading what is essentially technical rhubarb and - shock, horror - skim reading pages. If I want weapons specs there are better authors out there for that type of sci fi - what I want from Banks is the grandiose - the awesome. I think perhaps the attempt to cover the issue of subliming is meant to cover that from a philosophical perspective - but I don't think he achieved it. The eventual denouement is practically 'phoned in' I'm afraid.

I've read earlier books several times each, connected with the characters, thrilled at the plotting, held my breath at the amazingly complete, exciting - stunning worlds (galaxies/ universes / realities) that Banks created.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The fabulous Mr Banks never fails
An amazing gift for a fan of the late, great author. Compellingly told and packaged conservatively so not a shelf hog. The recipient is eternally grateful.
Published 2 days ago by Bookgeek
4.0 out of 5 stars for the ships
so the last culture novel before the sublime. Thought provoking as ever, and amusing with it. What more could you want? RIP
Published 10 days ago by Paul Warman
4.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, but not great
An interesting novel if you are a Culture fan, but I found the subliming process and people's attitudes to it rather unconvincing.
Published 18 days ago by Jon Storm
3.0 out of 5 stars not the best
But still worth the read. My second favourite Culture characters are the ship Minds and, apart from the Mistake Not... Read more
Published 21 days ago by Baz
5.0 out of 5 stars Last of The Culture novels I guess.
I am a huge fan of Iain M Banks, who sadly passed away recently. All of his Culture novels are amazingly well written in my opinion. This one no less than the others. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Gamer
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably the best Culture novel ever...
This is the best novel I have ever read, that revolves around the idea of the Human utopia known as the Culture. And I have read nearly all of them... Read more
Published 1 month ago by General Actus
5.0 out of 5 stars His last and most Beautiful Book
I loved all his books like part of my life memories and where I was when I read them!
This is an amazing read and does justice as his farewell book.
R.I. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Jonathan May
5.0 out of 5 stars The End
Very sad to reach the end of the last Culture novel. Such an excellent read as always choc full of a universe I wish I lived in.
Published 1 month ago by Garth colorado
4.0 out of 5 stars Sublime
The Hydrogen Sonata is an absurd, impossible, unlistenable piece of protest art that requires 2 pairs of arms and a mastering of a monstrous, 11-stringed instrument. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mr Blue Sky
4.0 out of 5 stars For a culture novel average....but still pretty good
Some quality scenes and exchanges ( culture ships chin wags were witty ) but sometimes dropped into the big bad hole of dullness. The elevenstring ? four arms ? Read more
Published 1 month ago by Stephen
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