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Customer reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
257
4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 21 June 2017
Though perhaps not as well written as other space operas, with an excess of descriptions and slow but confident pacing, it opens up a grand vision of the universe in dramatic times. Perceived from the outside and mostly by its enemies, the Culture appears to be a stagnant and self conscious society suffering from a lack of purpose, with awe inspiring power but no soul or philosophical imperative.
The story is engaging and fulfilling to read, the main characters intriguing though the rest of the cast is flat, two dimensional.
As a stand alone novel it provides only the briefest futuristic satisfaction, but with sufficient alien uniqueness to intrigue the imagination.
Yet it's gravitas and import in the series is apparent from the outset. I look forward to reading more in the series, though I anticipate a change in course and style.
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on 2 January 2017
Bought to replace original. Love Iain Banks, great read. Always a si-fi fan. I have always thought that whatever the human brain can think of ultermatly it can do.
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on 12 May 2017
A superb tale, as imaginative as it is gripping.
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on 27 June 2017
Great book. Iain Banks has a fine imagination.
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on 26 April 2017
superb
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on 6 July 2017
It's readable.
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on 18 June 2017
A classic sci-fi adventure that has a broad story arc without attempting to create an enormous universe that the reader has to somehow keep track of. Recommended!
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on 16 July 2017
Couldn't get going with this book. The characters were incredibly flat, I was just not interested in turning the page.
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on 6 January 2016
Excellent
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I read Consider Phlebas slightly out of order, having read the second book in the Culture series first. As such, I'm not entirely well placed to comment on how it works as a first taste of the series. It's, as you might expect from Banks, a very well written book with lots of beautifully evocative writing. As an introduction to a sci-fi universe it's also very ambitious bringing with it a depth and breadth that promises considerably more than it can be reasonably expected to deliver. In that respect, it lives up to expectations.

For me, the key failing of the book is that it left me frustrated. It would drop a hint of something here, a passing mention of another thing there, offer a brief glimpse into a fascinating concept elsewhere, and then it would just dance on without developing it further. On one hand, this offers plenty of scope for the Culture series to evolve. On the other, I still felt lit-teased and so it doesn't help very much in terms of enjoying this one specific book. I suppose it does keep the plot moving at a fair old clip in a way that extended world building wouldn't, but for me the plot wasn't really as interesting as it could have been without that world building. It's hard to get an appropriate feel for the stakes when you can't properly judge the extent to which the things happening actually *matter*.

I don't think I'd recommend this as someone's first encounter with the Culture. Player of Games, which is an extraordinarily good novel[1], is both better than Consider Phlebas as a first *and* second book. However, I would recommend swinging back to Consider Phlebas relatively early. It's by no means a bad book, as the four star rating will show. It's just that I think you need a better grounding in the mythos of the universe before the events described within really demonstrate their full significance. In that sense, as a stand-alone book it suffers considerably from over-reach. However, in general I much prefer a book that over-reaches rather than under-reaches.

[1] A six star book in a five star system.
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