A current under sea
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.
~ T.S. Elliot, from The Waste Land
I have not finished Iain M. Banks’s first Culture novel, Consider Phlebas, yet. But I wanted to comment on it nonetheless.
It’s quite excellent both in terms of good, imaginative science fiction and just in pure literary terms. Banks is quite the writer. Vivid language is coupled with a fast paced inter-galactic romp all against the backdrop of a vast star-system-spanning clash of civilizations. Like any good novel, the events only get worse and worse before they – presumably – get better.
There was, however, one scene in this book which had me feeling quite literally physically ill. I won’t go into detail – no spoilers here – but this particular scene had to be about the most graphic, terrifying thing I’ve read in about as long as I can remember. Those of you who’ve read the book probably know what I’m referring to, but in case you’ve forgotten it has to do with a particular religious cult on an island on the Vavatch Orbital. For those of you who have not read the book, let me just say it is not for the feint of heart or the weak-stomached.
That aside, the book is so far quite splendid. I’ll report back when I’ve finished the whole thing.