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The Next Culture or the Nature of Existence?,
This review is from: Transition (Paperback)
Many people have already tried to summarise the plot so I won't bother as I think in this case it is almost irrelevant as this novel is about big ideas and also introduces us to "The Concern".
I must say that I had originally loved Banks' novels about Culture - but I think the concept has become a bit tired and he clearly doesn't want to go back there - so the Concern brings the same sort of idea a bit closer to home and also takes it more into "Conspiracy Theory" territory.
Banks explores the nature of existence through the shady organisation of the Concern - are events fixed in time, can they be changed by our conscious acts of will and is it the case as per some Quantum Theory, that every event creates a new universe in an infinity of such possibilities?
It's also about how we come to terms with death - some members of the Concern want to avoid it, but Banks is saying that we need death to regenerate our society and avoid stagnation.
Transition also explores what consciousness means - is it limited to our physical bodies and the big question is whether our attitude to that, means that we live too much in our minds - just waiting to be released from our physical limitations.
It's quite dangerous to slip into solipsism and much like in the film "Inception" - it would be very easy to slip into a self-imposed limbo of inaction where you will never escape.
So much for the ideas - but the style of the book is quite difficult - it jumps about and you are not sure where you are at times? But then this must be how the characters feel - Banks is creating the kind of uncertainty for the reader, that his characters must feel in world where you can jump heads. This idea is a bit like what happens in Stephen King's "Dark Tower" series and is a staple of Fantasy/Sci Fi from Moorcock's "Eternal Champion" The Tale of the Eternal Champion onwards.
But Banks inserts enough personality and character to make this his own - with lovingly-crafted descriptions of places and what it means to be a particular person. The detail is important - how do we orient ourselves in this kind of situation?
I would say that the writing style is well-matched to the subject and leads us to consider what it would be like - so as I say the plot is in many ways irrelevant and it is the experience that we have, as we follow these characters across universes.
I see this as the beginning of a new strand and will be happy to read more about the Concern and Mister Oh!