Matter by Iain M Banks (Fiction)

posted 18 Feb 2010, 18:11 by DP Durlston-Powell   [ updated 14 Apr 2010, 15:05 ]
Backcover blurb:

In a world renowned even in a galaxy full of wonders, a crime within a war. For one man it means a desperate flight, and a search for the one - maybe two - people who could clear his name. For his brother it means a life lived under constant threat of treachery and murder. And for their sister, even without knowing the full truth, it means returning to a place she'd thought abandoned forever. Only the sister is not what she once was; Djan Seriy Anaplian has changed almost beyong recognition to become an agent of the Culture's Special Circumstances section, charged with high-level interference in civilisations throughout the greater galaxy. Concealing her new identity - and her particular set of abilities - may be a dangerous strategy, however. In the worlds to which Anaplian returns, nothing is quite as it seems; and determining the appropriate level of interference in someone else's war is never a simple matter.

My thoughts:

Absolutely superb book. Banks is a prolific writer, yet this is the first of his books that I have read and I kick myself for having missed him thus far. Starting with a death near a battlefield of a king from barbaric race on a planet within a planet (within a planet...) this tale expands into one of a sweeping galactic scale drama. Ranging from low tech (think of medieval Europe) to the most astounding space stations and ships that can be measured in thousands of kilometres, Banks delivers a rich, diverse and convincing universe. Thoughts on the nature of war are many layered and examined well, but at no cost to the grand plot that clips along at a good pace. This was not a quick read (it took me well over a week when most books only last 1-2 days) as some of the more comples passages require revisiting - particularly the speech of the Oct - but the richness and depth of the prose and plot repay the effort manyfold. I just wish that things finished better for Djan.

Verdict:

A multi-layered delight that tackles big questions whilst also being a great read. I want to read more - all of - the Culture books. And I want them in hardback so that I can keep them and reread them!
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