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Iain M. Banks' Culture books - cont.

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Finally finished Excession. The book seemed to me like several small story lines that in the end I didn't care that much about, like the story of the man and woman who were in the tower 40 years ago. The wittiness of the ships and the little fun interactions are the best part of ship book. The fact that I read The Great Ordeal halfway through was a bad idea as I couldn't tell who was who among the ships in the end, but I think I got the general idea of what happened.

I'm still not sure if we're supposed to know who was involved in the "conspiracy" or not besides the ship that killed itself (Attitude Adjuster, maybe). I also couldn't tell if the Culture's relationship with the Affront changed by the end or not. In other words, did the "conspiracy" work?

Side note, the only thing I could think of while reading the epilogue was sologdin.

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Starting Look to Windward finally. I'm confused about a couple of things. If someone can clarify any of this I'd appreciate it.

Does the series refer to any member of a humanoid species (specifically the Culture itself) as 'human'? Or did the Culture citizens have a different name (like Homomda and Idirans)  to distinguish them from Earth humans? 

The main characters in Use of Weapons, Player of Games, and Excession who are part of the culture were all humanoids but not Earth humans, right? 

Did the Earth ever become part of the Culture? 

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Yeah, I did read that. I was wondering if it became part of it after that, I have no grasp on the timeline of these books whatsoever. But I guess that answers the question.

Edited by Hello World

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There's about 1800 years between Consider Phlebas- the earliest book- and the chronologically latest books in the series. Timelines are never hugely important though and dating is mostly done by references back to the Idiran/Culture war.

Earth really isn't a thing in the series. It might have become part at some stage but it's not important.

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3 hours ago, Hello World said:

I was wondering if it became part of it after that, I'm have no grasp on the timeline of these books whatsoever. 

Werthead wrote about the timeline of the Culture novels in this blog post.

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So I didn't like Look to Windward as much as Excession (the best book in the series so far) or Player of Games, but it's still somewhat an enjoyable read. The ending was just too anticlimactic for me. I was expecting some convergence between Quillan, the Culture EDust weapon, and some reveal about who's behind the whole thing... maybe because I was bummed by the ending of some other series. Quillan's story starting in the prologue looked very promising but then it fizzled into a depressed guy who doesn't do much. The side characters were also not as interesting as in the other books.

I couldn't help but notice a parallel between the Culture's interference with the Chelgrians and the subsequent civil war and the real world Iraq war, but this book was published a year before that. :dunno: (I read from others that it's a parallel to 9/11 which didn't occur to me at all. eta: it's been pointed out that 9/11 happened after the book was published...)

Overall, I'd rate the books so far like this:

  1. Excession
  2. Player of Games
  3. Use of Weapons
  4. Look to Windward
  5. Consider Phlebas
  6. Inversions
Edited by Hello World

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24 minutes ago, Hello World said:

(I read from others that it's a parallel to 9/11 which didn't occur to me at all.)


While 9/11 appeared to affect Banks deeply, that would be pretty amazing considering this came out in 2000. Mind you, Terry Pratchett wrote what turned out to be a pretty on-point book about 9/11 and the reactions both political and social to it in 1997, so... (but then, Terry Pratchett wrote a scathing takedown of the Credit Crunch a year in advance, so I think he was some kind of wizard).

Have to say, Look to Windward is my absolute favourite one. I'm not really sure why, but I love it.

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46 minutes ago, polishgenius said:

While 9/11 appeared to affect Banks deeply, that would be pretty amazing considering this came out in 2000.

Oh, right. :lol: I made the mistake of taking the date from one of the editions on Goodreads which said "Published November 1st 2002".

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19 hours ago, polishgenius said:


While 9/11 appeared to affect Banks deeply, that would be pretty amazing considering this came out in 2000. Mind you, Terry Pratchett wrote what turned out to be a pretty on-point book about 9/11 and the reactions both political and social to it in 1997, so... (but then, Terry Pratchett wrote a scathing takedown of the Credit Crunch a year in advance, so I think he was some kind of wizard).

Have to say, Look to Windward is my absolute favourite one. I'm not really sure why, but I love it.

Look To Windward is also one of my favourites. The themes of loss and trying to atone for past mistakes are common themes in his work but Banks does it so well here. I don't know if you have read any of his non SF work, but Stonemouth and Espedair Street are also favourites of mine. 

My daughter went to university in Edinburgh fr her teaching degree. I had sort of hoped she would meet Banks at a pub or such. She, however, just wanted to meet J.K. Rowling. :bang:

Edited by maarsen

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Tor is doing a reread of Consider Phlebas. Apparently, this book is considered pretty bad by most people and of much lower quality than the rest of the series? That's weird because I liked it. :dunno: I do remember there were a bunch of intermission type chapters that didn't go anywhere and I generally don't like McGoughin (or whatever the word is) type plots, but the Culture, the Idirans, the Minds, the Sublimed, that stuff was pretty cool.

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6 minutes ago, Hello World said:

Tor is doing a reread of Consider Phlebas. Apparently, this book is considered pretty bad by most people and of much lower quality than the rest of the series? That's weird because I liked it. :dunno: I do remember there were a bunch of intermission type chapters that didn't go anywhere and I generally don't like McGoughin (or whatever the word is) type plots, but the Culture, the Idirans, the Minds, the Sublimed, that stuff was pretty cool.

Agree with you. I've quite enjoyed it, and always have. But it's a terrific introduction to the setting, with a fairly complicated main character. I think perhaps when people say they dislike it, it's just in comparison to other, generally easier and more polished Culture novels (like Player of Games or Use of Weapons).

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2 hours ago, Hello World said:

Tor is doing a reread of Consider Phlebas. Apparently, this book is considered pretty bad by most people and of much lower quality than the rest of the series? That's weird because I liked it. :dunno: I do remember there were a bunch of intermission type chapters that didn't go anywhere and I generally don't like McGoughin (or whatever the word is) type plots, but the Culture, the Idirans, the Minds, the Sublimed, that stuff was pretty cool.

I think it got off to a bit of a rough start where Banks seems to introduce an excessive number of characters who we don't really care about and the initial plot wasn't all that interesting, but it starts to improve once they get to the Orbital and the story gets more focused. By the end of the book it did become quite compelling. I wouldn't rank it as bad, but it's got more flaws than most of the later Culture books.

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Speaking of Consider Phlebas...

Quote

Amazon is set to adapt Iain M. Banks’ first novel about the Culture, “Consider Phlebas,” into a space opera fit for streaming television. It’ll have help from Dennis Kelly (pictured above), who will write the TV series. Plan B Entertainment will produce, and Banks’ estate gets an executive producer credit.

 

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Wow. Unexpected. I’d have started with PoG or UoW as more accessible, for adaptation purposes. 

Also, don’t think it will be good. The heart of the story is very much interior to Horza.

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3 hours ago, Hello World said:

Speaking of Consider Phlebas...

That could be interesting. I think the weaknesses in the book I mentioned in my previous book are all potentially fixable in an adaptation. As Ran says, Horza could be a difficult character to really engage with on television because he's always concealing his agenda, although I wonder if they might build up the roles of some of the supporting cast a bit. It does have some potentially spectacular scenes, the escape from the GSV in particular, although I don't even want to contemplate a visual version of the scene with the cannibal cultists on the island.

2 hours ago, Ran said:

Wow. Unexpected. I’d have started with PoG or UoW as more accessible, for adaptation purposes.

I'd find it difficult to really know where to begin adapting the series. Use of Weapons  could be amazing if they pulled it off, but a simpler narrative could be a better choice for a first adaptation. I think Player of Games could work well if they could manage to figure out how to portray Azad in a comprehensible way.

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