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Consider Phlebas: A Culture Novel (The Culture) Paperback – 14 Apr 1988

4.1 out of 5 stars 228 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit; New Ed edition (14 April 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857231384
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857231380
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 2.9 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (228 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 11,659 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Banks is a phenomenon: the wildly successful, fearlessly creative author of brilliant and disturbing non-genre novels, he's equally at home writing pure science fiction of a perculiarly gnarly energy and elegance (William Gibson)

There is now no British SF writer to whose work I look forward with greater keenness (THE TIMES)

Poetic, humourous, baffling, terrifying, sexy - the books of Iain M. Banks are all these things and more (NME)

Book Description

The first Culture novel - a tour de force of brilliant storytelling, world-building and imagination --This text refers to the Perfect Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Possible 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 trying to a fashion a rudimentary space craft to carry an AI (as in Artificial Intelligence) to safety, with what materials it has at its disposal. The narrative next moves onto a humanoid by the name of Horza (an 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, the very same AI that the Culture factory ship was trying to save. 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 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? - is it the knife missile and its' humanoid companion, as Horza states it's hard to know who's the junior companion) lastly he finds the time begin a romantic attachment.

In short this is a thrilling space opera with a fantastic backdrops and thrilling characters.
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