9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
The Banks magic is there but........,
This review is from: Matter (Hardcover)Aaarrrggghhh! You wait all that time for another Banks/Culture masterpiece, you finally get it in your sweaty little paws and what happens? Well, not much actually.
Sure the elements are all there (though in somewhat strange - and often diminutive - proportions) but somehow he doesn't seem to have knitted them all together to deliver the highly satisfying experience that was "Excession" or "Look to Windward".
Having found his last three novels all excellent (Dead Air/Algebraist/Garbedale) I suppose my expecations may have been impossibly high and destined for an anti-climax, but then I suppose I had developed a strange belief that Mr Banks had reached a point in his art where he could defy such earthbound phenomena as human fallibility.
Nevertheless, it was still a decent read, it just lacked some of the expected potency - where was the usual visionary display of technology in combat? The space-opera set pieces that tax your ability to visualise? The trademark unguessable twists that force you to pause your fevered reading to absorb what he has just revealed?
Perhaps the inclusion of a glossary gives a clue to one piece of the problem. Part of the Banks magic (in my opinion) was that he induced you to involve yourself in the story by introducing some elements without explanation, though with enough context that you could extrapolate and fill the gaps with a good guess. You then later had the reward of Mr Banks nonchalantly confirming you were largely correct in your extrapolation just in time for him to take matters off in a delightfully breathtaking direction.
This time round though, it seems he has opted for visible complexity. Sure there are a lot of elements species/locations/characters etc on display but they seem to add substance but little depth. Everything is a little too clearly defined and part of the journey is travelled for you. However, despite this slight disappointment, my faith in Mr Banks' skill remains undiminished - it may have not been the helter-skelter I was expecting but I'll still be waiting eagerly to buy my hardback-ticket for his next ride.