Post a Comment. Over the top villain. Strange and funny alien races. Quest for singular object that leads through space.
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Post a Comment. Over the top villain. Strange and funny alien races. Quest for singular object that leads through space. Multitudes of battlecruisers, space wings, and dreadnaughts converging at a single point. Boxes ticked, Iain M. Banks makes no bones about it: The Algebraist is unabashed space opera, for better and worse. A smaller version of the blimp-like floaters Banks created in Look to Windward , the Dwellers live for millions and billions of years, accumulating knowledge, enjoying life, and remaining aloof of the cyclical rise and fall of power humanity and other species experience.
When word gets out that the Dwellers may be owners of a secret document containing the coordinates of wormholes which would interconnect the whole universe, multiple groups and species head to the gas giant, Nasqueron, to get their hands on it — by coercion of violence.
Among them are the ever-evil Luseferous complete with diamond teeth and his Empire-esque rebel horde who hope the document will pave the way for their rise to dominance. A leaf falling free, the language, thought, and descriptions roll off the page real-time.
Less planned and therefore less thematically honed than the Culture novels, the novel comes across as exceptionally detailed entertainment with little commentary. A secondary result of this tactic, or lack thereof, is that the story often lacks focus. There are more than a few random plot digressions.
As is the norm with Banks, The Algebraist is filled with gorgeous set pieces - the main strength of the novel. The gas giant Nasqueron, where most of the story occurs, comes to sulfurous, swirling life. Fully at home in this setting riding in his gel-filled gas-craft, Fassin and his plight take center stage for the majority of the novel, his character more developed for it. What lack development, however, are the secondary characters.
Furthermore, the Dwellers, while often stated as an intelligent species, are nevertheless portrayed as Dionysian clowns, wholly detracting from the strong effort at world-building and content. The tweedle-dee tweedle-dum twin Dweller which appears does not help matters. But if worldbuilding and space battles are your thing, by all means have a go. Labels: Banks , culture , hard science fiction , space opera. No comments:.
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THE ALGEBRAIST – Iain M. Banks (2004)
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I don't even care for the opening that much it read like one long, often sub-Douglas-Adams, infodump to me , and the resolution to the quest annoyed me royally because it's blindingly obvious where the wormholes are going to be from about 50 pages into the book, and yet we're expected to believe that it hasn't occurred to anyone, ever. But you're completely right about the pacing and balance issues towards the end. I suspect everyone else who comments will tell you that the Banks to read is Use of Weapons. Regarding the Hugos I agree that Air and Light should have been on the ballot I'd have kicked off the Stross and the Banks to make room ; I suspect they were hampered by publication schedules Brits might not have realised that Light had extended eligibility, and they probably hadn't even seen Air , since it was only published over here this past July.
Imagine that the storyteller has a well-educated and thoughtful mind with which he fills you in on all the details of these new worlds and peculiar personalities, and that he has the skill to paint in words the most breathtaking portraits of our universe on levels from the chemical to the personal. Imagine that he is hugely enthusiastic and charming, and that his thoughtful analyses of contemporary human politics range from the individual to the mass, from theory to action, from ideology to consequence. For those not acquainted with large-scale SF, The Algebraist is a perfect place to have your mind blown to smithereens with all that its vast canvas delivers. In particular, if you're used to the less ambitious and necessarily less physically astonishing pleasures of contemporary fiction, you might want to take out insurance on the integrity of your skull. The Algebraist marks a return to the happy hunting grounds of Banks's early SF, replete with all the whizzy boys' toys, wildly improbable extreme sports, damning character assassinations and good-humoured condemnation of all that's wearying about humanity. The Culture, the great civilisation of many of his previous SF novels, is absent, but it's been replaced by a baroque sweep of aliens in capitalist overdrive, providing more than adequate fuel for the author's twin obsessions of sociopolitics and having fun, the two always riding hand in glove, switching with enviable effortlessness between the intimate and the cosmic.
If the kind of science fiction dubbed "wide-screen baroque" by Brian Aldiss has a reigning grandmaster, it's probably Iain M Banks. Since Consider Phlebas , the enviable career of literary novelist Iain Banks has been paralleled by the equally enviable trajectory of Iain M. The latter's tales of The Culture, a post-scarcity far-future civilisation in which unlimited plenty has enabled a fruitful union of hedonism and socialism, have mostly proved witty, scarifying, endlessly inventive and delightful. It should therefore bode well that, once again, he has put The Culture on hold. This novel is about as close to routine space opera as Banks has so far allowed himself to get. This is not to suggest that The Algebraist is devoid of good things. The master's characteristic touches are present in great abundance: the snappy, demotic dialogue; a highly intriguing alien race, The Dwellers, so long-lived that they are, to all human purposes, immortal.