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48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thankyou Iain
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...
Published 15 months ago by Cannonball Stan

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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Consider this...
Consider Phlebas isn't the best book Iain Banks has written, but it isn't the worst. It follows one story against the backdrop of the destructive Culture-Idiran War, involving our hero's (or antihero's depending on your viewpoint) search to capture a Culture Mind. There are lots of good bits and lots of exciting bits. However there are also lots of long boring bits. In...
Published on 9 Feb 2009 by Hoverfly


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48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thankyou Iain, 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.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly enjoyable, 7 Sep 2011
By 
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.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great story well told, 23 April 2008
By 
Kevin O'reilly "kevinor" (ireland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The 20th century book, every Science Fiction fan should have read, 15 July 2014
Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have read all of Iain M Banks books, and I read Consider Phlebas the year after it was first published in 1988, and it has stayed with me ever since.

This is a Culture book. In fact more than that it is the first Culture book. It is interesting to speculate that when Iain M Banks wrote this story he definitely was not thinking about a series or a trilogy, but as a stand alone novel.

To recap The ten books of the Culture are: Consider Phlebas, 1987; The Player of Games,1988; Use of Weapons, 1990; The State of the Art, 1991; Excession, 1996; Inversions, 1998; Look to Windward,2000; Matter,2008; Surface Detail, 2010; The Hydrogen Sonata, 2012.

The story of Consider Phlebas, is not the tale of Phlebas. But it is the story of a hero. The hero in question is Horza the Changer. He is a shape shifter who has been caught up in a war between Culture and Idirans. Because both sides found their shape shifting capabilities useful, both sides have in turn used them, then exterminated them. Now only Horza is left.

Horza was once an Idirian spy, and is an implacable enemy of the Culture. His story is a tragedy, because amidst their war strategies, The Culture have dispatched one of their agents to try and save Horza, as they pity him the last of his species. I won't say much about the story, but it is 600 pages of deeply plotted, intensively complicated war, betrayal, stupidity, cupidity, death and destruction.

I think it is quite hard to grasp until one has dipped into this book, how much colour depth and complexity Iain M Banks puts into what is a very traditional Space Opera. In retrospect it is easy to say: Oh yes that always going to be a series, but that's not what the author thought when he wrote it, and there is a finality a completeness to this story which ranks it head and shoulders many other science fiction worlds.

I think is a really hard book, and although it is the first Culture Novel, I rarely recommend it as your first Culture book, Look to Windward and The Player of Games to me are much more accessible.

However this is one of the great works of the 20th century, and every science fiction fan should have read and enjoyed this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Giant Spaceships, Pirates, Cannibals & a Knife missile, 12 Jun 2014
By 
Sussman "Sussman" (London CA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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Warning Spoilers

Below is the very briefest of outlines or a snap shot if you will, of this very excellent Science Fiction novel by Ian Banks.

The book begins with a Culture factory spaceship creating a rudimentary space craft to carry an AI (as in Artificial Intelligence) to safety. Then the narrative moves onto Horza (assassin/gun for hire) who has some unique biological make up that makes him a `changeling' of sorts, as his narrative begins we find he has been caught and is scheduled for execution by drowning in the worsted way imaginable. However, Horza is rescued from drowning - at the 11th hour he is rescued - by his compatriots the Idirans; he is tasked by his rescuer with the retrieval of the AI core of a Culture vessel. This vessel made a daring escape from an Idiran attack and hid itself on Schar's World, a neutral and heavily protected planet. On trying to fulfil his mission is dumped into space in the middle of a space battle, captured by pirates, ambushed while trying to steal from a temple, captured again by cannibals, caught in the crush to escape a soon-to-be-destroyed giant orbital platform, and forced to punch his way through a gigantic spaceship in order to escape the Culture's clutches in the form of a female humanoid agent and her knife missile companion (is it other way round? - or is it the knife missile and its' humanoid companion, as Horza says it's hard to know who's the junior companion) plus he has time begin a romantic attachment.

In short a thrilling space opera with a fantastic backdrop and thrilling characters. When I read Ian Banks' Culture books it's for tapestry of flavour, colour textures, or for certain side incidents or conversational snippets and turns of phrase - for that extra detail which in turn basically is very high end reading entertainment. For example the Culture Spaceship names are good 20 percent of my reading enjoyment - on occasion I have burst out laughing on my daily commute, while reading a culture novel, which in turn earns me rather grim stares, but then these are the risks you take when reading some of Ian Banks books in public. For a good overview of who and what the Culture Universe is there is great Wikipedia piece on them on the internet.

A very good debut Science Fiction novel (as of 1987) and very highly recommended - I might add there a number of Culture and non-Culture based books, which are all very good in my opinion. It is very sad that Ian Banks passed away in 2013 he had such an amazing imagination - thank you for sharing it with us Ian.
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34 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Wasp Factory in space... brutally good., 4 Jan 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.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars sci-fi creation, 23 Aug 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.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Consider this..., 9 Feb 2009
Consider Phlebas isn't the best book Iain Banks has written, but it isn't the worst. It follows one story against the backdrop of the destructive Culture-Idiran War, involving our hero's (or antihero's depending on your viewpoint) search to capture a Culture Mind. There are lots of good bits and lots of exciting bits. However there are also lots of long boring bits. In particular, the ending is too drawn out and far-fetched. Some of the scenes are particularly filthy (pun intended - Banks would be proud of me) and put me off my dinner. However, the odd one-or-two unsavoury scenes or chapters are Banks's trademark and you get used to them in his books. I'd prefer not to have to read them but that's my problem.

What is interesting are the questions raised about the Culture's correctness: the book investigates the Culture's other side - its underlying and somewhat sinister nature.

So, three stars. Ok but not great. If you want to read better Culture books I recommend The Player of Games, Excession and Look to Windward. Start with the Player of Games, it's fantastic.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best culture novel, 26 Dec 2011
This first entry in Banks's Culture series is regarded by surprisingly many people as one of the lesser works, in comparison to the likes of Player of Games and Use of Weapons. However I very much enjoyed it, and I prefer Consider Phlebas to the four other Banks novels that I have read thus far.

The novel introduces the reader to the Culture, a non-hierarchical hi-tech utopian humanoid civilisation sustained primarily by "Minds" - artificial intelligences that inhabit giant spaceships, in which the humans live. The protagonist is a shape-shifting humanoid who is allied to the Idirans, a rival alien civilisation of a Spartan ethos. The Idirans' brutal expansion and annexation of surrounding peoples provokes the Culture to wage war against them, and the novel charts the protagonist's adventures as he plays his part in the conflict.

I found Consider Phlebas satisfying as escapism and as science fiction. It really is an engrossing tale, and Banks's is probably the most successful utopia that any author has described.

I was also impressed by Banks's neutrality in his treatment of the two competing civilisations - something that I feel is lacking in the other Culture novels that I've read. That the protagonist is on the side of the civilisation with whom the reader would naturally tend to identify helps in this regard.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The greatest SF movie they never made- yet., 18 Nov 1998
By A Customer
Hollywood claims to have a monopoly on big, action packed, eye-popping event movies. Nothing, they say, can match the excitement and adventure that the latest SFX-heavy film can offer. Step forward, Mr. Banks. Put simply, no film in the world can offer the scope, vision, and sheer adrenaline rush of Consider Phlebas. It is one of the prime examples of the sub-genre Brian Aldiss calls "Widescreen Baroque", a shockingly thrilling movie in your head with an infinite budget and a director who knows exactly what you want to see and how to portray it. Consider Phlebas is not the most cerebral of Bank's work (although being a Banks book, it's still devilishly clever), but it is certainly the most fun. Read it- and pray someone's bought the film rights. Someone with a lot of talent.
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