Sep 22 2008


Published by at 11:56 am under Books

Speculative Fiction by Iain M. Banks (1996)

This the fourth book in the culture series appeared six years after “The Use of Weapons” and is definitely a Space Opera on a grand scale. A little too spacy for me, however. Most of the characters in the story are hyper intelligent minds who don’t act very intelligent. The human characters which get a lot of page time seem just along for the ride, and while part of the story, only a minor part.

An “Excession”, of the title, something out of context, unexpected, and extreme appears in the galaxy, and civilizations, including The Culture, want to investigate, understand, and if possible use it. This excession is a big black sphere which is mostly inactive (c.f. the black rectangular object in 2001; but different), is more capable and powerful than the Culture’s best minds and machines. In the culture, a clique among the minds try to use its appearance to start a war with an aggressive civilization called the “Affront”. A different clique is trying to find out what the Excession is and suspects a group is trying to start a war. Overlayed on this situation is a diplomat from the Culture to the Affront and his former lover that have only a loose connection to the war. Good bits of story telling pop up at points, but overall I found it unsatisfying. Others view it more favorably.

A couple of interesting gimmicks are the hyper slow motion description that supposedly arise due to the hyper fast ability of the ship born minds to think and sense. Makes for some interesting descriptions of complex events all of which take place in a second or two.

The story is partially told in email like communications between ship minds complete with headers, time stamps, etc.. That adds a little color, but unfortunately, that doesn’t help the story move along.

I’ll read the fifth and next in the series since I’ve already reserved it at the library. At least I’ll start it and then we’ll see. Like many series, this one seem in danger of losing my interest.

No responses yet

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.