Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop Black Friday Deals Refreshed in Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now DIYED Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Paperwhite Listen in Prime Shop Now Shop now

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars209
4.1 out of 5 stars
Format: PaperbackChange
Price:£6.74+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item

There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

70 of 72 people found the following review helpful
on 5 April 2013
In the light of the news of the author's terminal cancer, I wanted to say something that could maybe express my condolences to him and thank him for creating a collection of stories that have, quite simply, outshone anything else I have read in my 46 years.
The Culture series have formed the bedrock of my reading for the last 24 years, since I first picked up Consider Phlebas. Subsequent novels have expanded and complicated the Culture universe, but for me this first book is the best. The final section set in the underground tunnels is so evocatively written it gives me goosebumps to this day just thinking about it. Beautifully paced and pitched, devastatingly emotional in the juxtaposition of the close-up personal tragedies it describes and the ultimately futile, almost unnoticed effect of the episode on the war itself. I have re-read Consider Phlebas many times and I am in awe of the man who could dream up such fantasy and tease out so many emotions in the reader by the manner in which he writes. Thankyou Iain for the legacy of your talents. I am (selfishly) bereft that there will be no more Culture novels, but that pales next to the news you gave us two days ago. You are the writer that gave me the gift of reading, and for that I will be ever grateful.
66 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 23 April 2008
This is my first Iain Banks Novel and proved to be an absorbing and thrilling read. (Thks Mark). The plot (set in the backdrop of a Galatic war between the Idirans and the Culture) moves along at a nice pace and develops characters to a degree that you quickly sympathise with them even when they're diametrically opposed.

Bank's imagination is un-surpassed as you experience orbitals, GSV's, quirky robots,a life threatening game of poker called damage and much more..

The ending is a little disappointing but serves to emphasise that you have just read about the experiences of a small band of mercenaries, caught up in huge conflict played out over unimaginable distances spanning many years. (Also liked the small appendices at the back of the book detailing the reasons for the war)

On the whole this is a good introduction to Ian Banks and I would not hesitate in recommending this book to anyone.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 7 September 2011
I don't usually read science fiction but I picked this up just to try something different. The title, the list of contents and the small font all gave me the feeling that this was not going to be an easy read. I was wrong! One's interest is captured early on and empathy with the main character stays with you through to the end. That does not mean that Horza is a nice character or a good character - it is just that you sympathise with his plight.

The characters develop well as the story unfolds and the outcome is always in doubt. Much is left unresolved at the end but the end is not an unsatisfying one. For all the adventures and achievements of one person in a war, ultimately they count for little in the scale of things.

Whether an author's fantasy is founded in fact or is just pure imagination, science fiction allows the author to get away with the most ridiculous nonsense which is why I tend to dislike the genre. Banks clearly lets his imagination run riot and has some fun with it but the reason this book works is that this imagination is not the core of the book. Rather it is a vessel in which to play out a morality tale of someone caught between two sides in a conflict and his attitudes to and relationships with those on either side or none.

Banks never lets the absurdity of the imagined worlds and behaviours over-power the moral dilemmas and relationships at the heart of the story and as a result one keeps turning the pages. Despite the fears this was a genuinely enjoyable read.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I read Consider Phlebas slightly out of order, having read the second book in the Culture series first. As such, I'm not entirely well placed to comment on how it works as a first taste of the series. It's, as you might expect from Banks, a very well written book with lots of beautifully evocative writing. As an introduction to a sci-fi universe it's also very ambitious bringing with it a depth and breadth that promises considerably more than it can be reasonably expected to deliver. In that respect, it lives up to expectations.

For me, the key failing of the book is that it left me frustrated. It would drop a hint of something here, a passing mention of another thing there, offer a brief glimpse into a fascinating concept elsewhere, and then it would just dance on without developing it further. On one hand, this offers plenty of scope for the Culture series to evolve. On the other, I still felt lit-teased and so it doesn't help very much in terms of enjoying this one specific book. I suppose it does keep the plot moving at a fair old clip in a way that extended world building wouldn't, but for me the plot wasn't really as interesting as it could have been without that world building. It's hard to get an appropriate feel for the stakes when you can't properly judge the extent to which the things happening actually *matter*.

I don't think I'd recommend this as someone's first encounter with the Culture. Player of Games, which is an extraordinarily good novel[1], is both better than Consider Phlebas as a first *and* second book. However, I would recommend swinging back to Consider Phlebas relatively early. It's by no means a bad book, as the four star rating will show. It's just that I think you need a better grounding in the mythos of the universe before the events described within really demonstrate their full significance. In that sense, as a stand-alone book it suffers considerably from over-reach. However, in general I much prefer a book that over-reaches rather than under-reaches.

[1] A six star book in a five star system.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 2 July 2012
My first exposure to Iain M. Banks was through his standalone novel 'The Algebraist'. Interested by his scope and ideas for space opera, I found myself buying this and 'The Player of Games', the other introductory novel to the Culture series.

With this series, Banks creates a rather epic setting. The driving force in this book is the galactic war threatening the Culture and a species known as the Idirans. Almost uniquely in my experience, the main character in this novel is on the wrong side of this war. The Culture is shown to be almost as perfect as a civilization can be, whilst the Idirans are portrayed as rather crude by comparison.

Banks' sheer skill at creating worlds draws you into it. The characters are engaging and distinctly different from each other, with exotic technology and settings providing the backdrop. However, this can not be said to be a pleasant book. Depressing in parts and sickening in others, this is not a book for the faint hearted. Overall, however, this is a brilliant book and, in my own opinion, the best introduction to the Culture.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
34 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on 4 January 2004
Just as Iain Banks' first novel "The Wasp Factory" was a calling-card for his somewhat twisted world-view, so "Consider Phlebas", his first SF novel as Iain M, gives you a pretty clear idea of what to expect in his subsequent SF. Extraordinary as it may seem to anyone who has read much of his other work, this book takes first prize for scope of ideas and - most particularly - inventive emotional brutality. This is emphatically not an easy read. Yes, it's space opera. Yes, it's a gung-ho adventure story. No, it's not like any of the other 5 million books in this genre. For its sheer skill at leaving horrible images in your mind as a result of really quite limited violent episodes the only comparison which springs to mind is Julian May's "Intervention".
The story sees a man - well, not exactly a man - caught on the wrong side (defined as the one which is going to lose) in a galaxy-wide conflict. His efforts to assist his alien allies lead him into a spiral of death and destruction where even his identity is gradually stripped away. The pointlessness of his desperate struggle is finally confirmed in the appendix, where in a couple of lines Banks creates the final, overwhelming message of the book as a whole. Of course, he gave it away in the title.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 23 August 2007
Consider Phlebas is an intricately woven novel, set against a sci-fi backdrop.

Although the sci- part sometimes gets a bit too intricate for its own good, the main characters are well-developed to have a depth of personality allowing the reader to like, dislike, be ambivalent about and empathise with them. This is as well as a depth of context which allows the reader to wallow in the fictional history of the characters and their various cultures.

The novel is set within an inter-galactic war of opposing ideologies, and charts the main character's mission. He travels through various adventures with the novel exploring the customs of the sci-fi civilisations created by Banks, which is where the combination of sci- and fi- really becomes potent.

The plot is fairly quick-moving and cohesive and although as with other Banks' novels I've read, is not particularly memorable, what is memorable and makes the book worth reading are the imaginary world and cultures created by Banks.
11 commentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 19 July 2014
I loved the whole tone and execution of this book.

Basically about a bunch of space pirates storming locations and stealing treasure who become entangled in a political war between two advanced cultures.

There are a number of episodic set pieces such as blasting their way through the hangers of an enormous circular space station due for demolition, dropping on an isolated jungle ziggurat supposedly poorly protected.

Under the leadership of shape changer Horza they finally enter an enormous underground bunker and rail network to track down an advanced navigation computer mind, with terrible consequences at which point it goes all Guns of Navarone.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 11 October 2014
Bora Horza Gobuchul was an interesting main character. The plot follows him from a questionable mission impersonating a man someone had presumably killed, to a mission to capture and presumably ‘kill’ (as much as it was possible) an artificially intelligent computer Mind. The actual motivation for any of this was ever unclear. Horza was on the side of the Idirians in a war with the Culture: two (literally) galactic empires fighting for reasons that never became clear. Neither do Horza’s obvious attachment to the Idirians become clear. In fact, if anything, it became murkier as the novel went on.

It was a book that spoke to me mostly about blurred lines, rash decisions and irrational hatred. It was a book about humanity. Which is odd, considering the main topic for debate within the book itself and between its characters, was all focused around the machines that ran the Culture. The artificial intelligence got on with all the hefting, carrying, thinking, making and doing – leaving the humans in the Culture to live life without worries, cares or any kind of capitalism. Our hero, Horza is very much against this AI controlled anarchist haven. Why, we never find out.

Banks said in interviews that he hoped Consider Plebas would offer an alternative to the lone warrior trope in Sci Fi where one man can effect massive change. Without giving spoilers, he does this well.

All this is very interesting, but unfortunately, my retrospective enjoyment of what Banks was trying to do does not quite make up for the slog it was to get through some part of Consider Phlebas. There were times, like the excessive game of Damage, a card game played at the end of a world, and the frankly bizarre section about a group of insane millenarians where I was at a complete loss to know where the book was going.

There were elements that were utterly brilliant, and others that were honestly naff and cliched. This was paralleled in the characterisation. Horza and the Culture agent Balveda were very well drawn characters that were understandable if unlikable. The rest of the cast were less so. Even Yalson, the closest thing to a love interest in the book, began well, but petered off towards the end.

The world of the Culture and the Idirians was interesting. Although the variety of humans but lack of many other alien races was slightly confusing, I enjoyed the world building. The sheer size of the galaxy (whilst obvious) was explicitly discussed, and added to the sense of complexity and individual futility. And despite a rather suffocating amount of detail, there was very little excessive explaining of the way the cultures differed from our own: lots of showing and little telling.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 1 October 2014
There are several superlative things about this novel, one good, one bad and two according to taste

Good: It has three or four outstanding episodes. Banks at his best finds interesting science fiction themes and exploits them with brilliant imagination and wit. I won't spoil it by saying anything specific about them.

Taste: Most of the book comprises people killing each other, trying to kill each other, or some kind of threat or suspense leading to further killing. The number of times laser, plasma or other superpowered weapons are fired is remarkable. Given how these advanced beings scorn something as puny as an AK47, it is also remarkable how often their amazing weapons hurt people without killing them.

Taste: There is very little characterisation. The culture agent is smooth and intelligent. The guy who pilots the rocket gets excited about the prospect of driving a train. The alien warrior considers it honourable to die fighting and hardly cares who the enemy is. It doesn't get much deeper than that.

Bad: The last quarter of the book went seriously downhill. It was predictable, unconvincing and pointless. I will give a couple of small examples that won't be spoilers. A robot was damaged and interrupted someone by talking gibberish. The first time it was funny, the second unnecessary. By the tenth time, I was positively wincing.

A train is travelling for what feels like about half an hour, during which the narrative switches an interminable number of times between the main characters and the driver so that we can hear what he is thinking (which varies between nothing and the same thing that he was thinking last time). Why spin it out so far? It doesn't make sense - we know the journey can't have taken more than a few seconds since some people have just walked that route and we are told the train is travelling at 190 kph.

If I had stopped half way through I would have given it 4-5 stars but overall I can't give it more than 3 for "ok".
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
The Player Of Games (The Culture)
The Player Of Games (The Culture) by Iain M. Banks (Paperback - 10 Aug. 1989)

Use Of Weapons (The Culture)
Use Of Weapons (The Culture) by Iain M. Banks (Paperback - 26 Mar. 1992)


Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.