4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
The best culture novel,
This review is from: Consider Phlebas: A Culture Novel (The Culture) (Paperback)
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.