Science Fiction Friday



Will writes from Washington, D.C. (well, Arlington, Virginia). You can reach him at willblogcorrespondence at gmail dot com.

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10 Responses

  1. Avatar rob says:

    which I now desperately want to read

    Do it. You are seriously depriving yourself if you fail to do it.Report

  2. Avatar rob says:

    Well, I’ve got rather conventional reading habits, so I started at the beginning, with Consider Phlebas, and have proceeded through the rest in the order in which they were written. That’s worked well for me.

    Others might tell you that Consider Phlebas isn’t the best starting point, as it (a) assumes a rather different vantage point on the Culture than the rest of the novels, (b) tells a more traditional space-opera than the rest and so isn’t a perfect stylistic representative, and (c) isn’t quite as good as the very best of the others. Still, it’s the only one (if I recall correctly) that is clearly chronologically prior to the events in the other books, so it makes some sense to start with it. If a, b, and c put you off, though, Player of Games is not a bad second choice as a starting point, as it is also early in the order of writing and so explains things about the Culture which latter books might take to be assumed.

    All the Culture novels are self-contained, though, so you can’t go too far off course, so long as you avoid Matter, which I think is considerably weaker than the rest.Report

    • Avatar Aaron in reply to rob says:

      While I read “Consider Phlebas” first, I would recommend “Player of Games” as a better starting point — Phlebas starts out considerably earlier than the other, chronologically, and like Rob said, has kind of a weird slant on the universe. But either of those two would be a good choice — don’t start with “Use of Weapons” or “Inversions,” though. Both great, but really outside the context of the rest of the series.

      Also, I liked “Matter” quite a bit — I thought “Use of Weapons” was by far the weakest. Just me, I guess.Report

      • Avatar rob in reply to Aaron says:

        Oh, I enjoyed reading Matter, definitely, but I thought the end was kind of perfunctory and frustratingly sudden — as if Banks had tired of the story and didn’t care to finish it.

        Excellent point about Inversions. There are also a couple of random Banks books which aren’t part of the Culture storyline — the Algebraist and Against a Dark Background — but that difference may not be entirely apparent from the covers in a bookstore.

        (You’re way off on the merits of Use of Weapons, though! But from what I hear Use of Weapons is the book which Banks fans are most split, so I gather that yours is not a rare opinion, and so the recommendation to not start with it might be exactly right.)Report

  3. Avatar Ian M. says:

    “Consider Phlebas” does a good job introducing major themes of the novels, conventions of the Culture universe and also is set during the Idiran War (which occasionally comes up in later novels). I’m very surprised not to see “Excession” mentioned so far – one of my friends started there and still thinks it’s the strongest Culture novel and I put it up with “Consider Phlebas” “Player of Games” and “Use of Weapons”. I started with “Use of Weapons”, which is an emotionally tough read as science fiction goes and not the best place to start. “Inversions” is just glancingly a Culture novel.
    I also liked Matter and the non-Culture novel “The Algebriast”. For the record I consider “Inversions” and “Look to Windward” to be the two weakest, but since many astute readers disagree over which is best or worst assume they’re all OK.Report

  4. Avatar JosephFM says:

    As he’s long been one of my Top Five favorite authors, I read that PKD article when it was first published, and it was definitely interesting. I’d certainly known about that part of his life from some other sources, especially from a collection of interviews from the last few months of his life regarding Blade Runner and his unfinished last novel The Owl In Daylight, but I definitely enjoyed some of the little details in that piece.

    Thanks for all the Iain Banks recs though.Report