5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
The 20th century book, every Science Fiction fan should have read,
This review is from: Consider Phlebas: A Culture Novel (The Culture) (Paperback)
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.