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Yet Another Great Banks Culture Space Opera Science Fiction Novel,
This review is from: Surface Detail (Hardcover)
To say that Iain M. Banks opted to forsake modern literary fiction merely to write epic space opera science fiction novels within his acclaimed "Culture" universe, would be making light of him as a writer and criticizing his rationale for abandoning mainstream literary fiction. In plain English, to borrow William Gibson's phrase, Banks felt science fiction had a much better "tool kit" to tell epic tales rooted in morality and philosophy than contemporary mainstream literary fiction. He didn't abandon mainstream literary fiction merely to write genre fiction that would displease many hard-nosed literary critics and writers who remain dismissive of science fiction and fantasy. Instead, he effortlessly combined the convention and style of literary mainstream fiction with the toolkit of science fiction, producing a memorable body of work that will be hailed and remembered as the finest literary space opera science fiction ever written, and demonstrating that, at the time of his death from inoperable cancer on 9 June 2013, he was still among the most important voices in contemporary Anglo-American literature irrespective of genre.
"Surface Detail", one of Banks's last "Culture" novels, is definitely among his best, memorable as a riveting epic tale of revenge and murder played out in the far reaches of Culture-dominated space, replete with ample digressions into faith, philosophy and politics. Banks gives readers a most riveting meditation on the natures of reality and individuality, cloaked in a fast-paced thriller-tinged space opera. Condemned as one of the Intagliated, as someone bearing a physical mark for a family transgression, a young woman, Lededje Y'breq, seeks revenge for her murder, committed by the man who has dominated her life, Joiler Veppers, who, through his vast fortune, literally owns much of their planet. She finds an unlikely ally in a deranged Culture battleship, finding herself heading toward an interstellar war in which she isn't sure which side the Culture represents. Meanwhile there is already a war in the digital realm of Hells, possessing the souls of the dead, that threatens to spread into the realm of the Real; a war that includes as one of its participants, an individual who plays a central role in several other Culture novels. Replete with titanic space battles and memorable hand-to-hand fighting within the digital realm, Banks demonstrates here the excellent literary possibilities inherent in science fiction, especially within space opera, and a tale that is literally literary light years ahead of virtually anything else published recently in space opera science fiction.
RIP Iain M. Banks. You will be missed by many and your words will continue touching the hearts and minds of countless readers, including the generations yet to come.