- Paperback: 216 pages
- Publisher: Orbit; New Ed edition (27 May 1993)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1857230302
- ISBN-13: 978-1857230307
- Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.5 x 19.6 cm
- Average Customer Review: 74 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 53,117 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The State of the Art Paperback – 27 May 1993
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'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 peculiarly gnarly energy and elegance' William Gibson 'Few of us have been exposed to a talent so manifest and of such extraordinary breadth' The New York Review of Science Fiction 'Unfailing inventiveness and wit' Guardian
The first ever collection of Iain Banks's short fiction, this volume includes the acclaimed novella, The State of the Art. This is a striking addition to the growing body of Culture lore, and adds definition and scale to the previous works by using the Earth of 1977 as contrast. The other stories in the collection range from science fiction to horror, dark-coated fantasy to morality tale. All bear the indefinable stamp of Iain Banks's staggering talent.See all Product description
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Before I continue with the rest of the Culture novels I thought I'd give this collection of short stories a go. Well, I have to say I'm not impressed and I'm so glad I didn't start here instead of with Consider Phlebas.
"Road of Skulls": Not bad, a traditional style short story with a thrown in twist.
"A Gift from the Culture": I couldn't see the point.
"Odd attachment": Just annoying. A ridiculous play on "She loves me, she loves me not..." with a juvenile ending.
"Descendant": Quite good but a rather obvious ending.
"Cleaning Up": Liked this one.
"Piece": Really liked this one.
"Scratch": Yes, scratch this. If I wasn't reading the Kindle version I'd consider this a waste of valuable paper and ink.
And finally the main feature of this collection "The State of the Art". This story charts the first contact of the Culture with Earth. So we have Minds and GCUs and fields, hyper-space and all the other great tech but ... well, just not near enough. A GCU stumbles (purposely) across Earth and sends down some people as a ground surveillance, to mop up the vibe so to speak. But that's it: basically the story is simply a vehicle for Mr Banks to expound his gripes, grievances and wishes for the future of Earth's civilisation. Granted this is an underlying theme of many novels SciFi or otherwise, but this is so blatant it comes across as a rather dry lecture on what's wrong with humanity. Very poor.
Read if you want but if this is going to be your first dip into the "Culture" I strongly suggest you start elsewhere or you might never pick up another one - and you would be missing out.
Although it contains some Culture short stories, the quality is far lower, and when you are 3 books into the Culture series, it stands out badly.
If you read the series, find yourself a fan of Banks, or his Culture books then this book is a little something extra you might like to buy, but it is in no way on par with the rest of the books in the Culture series. Or any of Banks full novels, so I recommend you skip this book in the series, and just buy something else, Against a Dark Background, Feersum Endjjin, are both excellent books by Banks, though not in the Culture series, but will give you much better value for money.
With one or two exceptions, the stories appear as an isolated episode from what one might suppose is a longer narrative. It's almost as though I'd picked up a novel in a friend's bookcase, read a few pages at random and made a mental note to obtain the whole book.
The eponymous story is a gem of a tale that blends the blemished reality of 20th Century Earth with the ideals of the Culture. As such, it's a hybrid between Banks with and without the "M". It's longer than a "short" story, yet too abbreviated to be a novel. I was captured by its drama and ideas.
There aren't many pages so you are not getting as much for your money compared to the full novels.
I am a recently converted Iain Banks fan, so I enjoyed the stories but I am not sure they would be to everyone's taste as quite a few of them end abruptly leaving the reader wanting more.
I think I will forget most but a few I will remember: "Odd Attachment", "Piece", and of course the main course, "The State Of The Art".
This last story concerns the discovery of present-day Earth by the Culture, and what to do about it. It's a good story, and provokes thoughts about where we are as a species and where we could be, but one thing bugged me throughout: while many of the Culture members present are rightly appalled at the warmongering going on on Earth, the theme of the Culture's ability to destroy Earth with no effort came up again and again (and is even advocated, presumably jokingly, at one point). This annoyed me as I do not believe the Culture would be so hypocritical in its decision-making - I thought Iain's other books I have read so far explored the subject of dealing with lesser civilizations better.
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