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4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
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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 16 February 2017
Couldn't quite give this 5 stars as I didn't find it easy to relate to the protagonist. Otherwise very good - well written sci-fi, recommended read.
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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 6 January 2016
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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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This is my first Iain M Banks novel. I have known *of* him for a long time, and thought it was high time I read some of his work.
So, I asked a friend to recommend one sci-fi and one contemporary work, and this is the former nomination (thank you Dazey!).
For me, starting a sci-fi book is a perilous time. I need to be convinced within the first few pages, else I will be turned off. And in sci-fi, getting convinced can take some doing.
But Banks pulls it off with consummate ease. He is a truly natural story teller, and his writing has great fluidity and reality whether the location is Glasgow or Schars World.
And so to the specifics of this novel.
We follow the adventures of Horza from the first page of the book, where he faces certain death, to the last, where... he faces certain death!
Along the way... yep, you guessed it, he faces certain death.
Horza lurches from one disaster to the next, but all along he is following a path which seems to be destiny. A return to Schars World, where his past, and his love, were left behind.
These are not normal times in the galaxy. The backdrop to Horza's odyssey is a war raging across 100,000 light years, fought between the Culture and the Idirans. The scale of this war is breathtaking, with billions dying and battle ships that are kilometers long.
In such times, the journey of Horza and his rag-taggle company could pass unnoticed, except that Horza has been working for the Idirans, and Schars World holds something that both sides of the conflict are desperate to capture.
Thus Horza becomes a mortal in a war between Gods. That sounds like a greek reference, and indeed there is more than a hint of greek mythology in the epic tale.
Where this book really *works* for me is in the meshing together of this personal odyssey and the galactic war. Horza as a tiny piece of flotsam on a stormy ocean.
Along the way he constructs a very credible universe, a convincing hero and manages to find time for humour, pathos and tragedy.
Consider Phlebas is space opera of the highest, most defining, variety.
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on 22 January 2017
I'm a fan of Clarke and Asimov. I consider their writing to be true sci-fi: well drawn characters living through and exploring scientific concepts and hypotheticals. This is just space opera with long boring descriptions of super ships and crashes of super ships into super other things. Interesting concepts do play a part but just as backdrop to characters that aren't compelling in any particular way on a quest that never drew me in. Two thirds in I just gave up. I was so bored.
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on 20 August 2014
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on 20 August 2014
A forever classic. RIP Mr Banks
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on 9 April 2017
Decidedly average I was expecting much more given the hype around the culture books and the cost. I have read much better a less than half the price. Will not be reading more of this series unless the price becomes more reasonable.
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