Monday, April 29, 2019

Consider Phlebas (Culture #1) by Iain M. Banks

The first of the Culture novels, and one of the few that I have read before.
An Idiran Empire, which considers that it has a religious mission to conquer lesser species and bring order to their existence. It has encountered the Culture and is sure that they will soon conquer that peace-loving anarcho-communist society. At the beginning of the war, the Idirans were advancing and the Culture was retreating; however, in the long run, there really was no contest about the winner.
The book happens at the beginning of the conflict. Horza, a shape-changing mercenary, has been working for the Idirans. He is in a tight spot when he encounters a Culture agent, a worked for “special circumstances” (an organization which works as a kind of spy agency and as the first line military response for the Culture). The roles are soon reversed as Balveda is imprisoned by Idirans, who rescues Horza. And then the Culture forces attack the ship and they are separated - for a while. Ultimately, both are trying to find a Mind, a powerful AI which is stranded on a strange planet filled with deep underground caves. After several adventures, Horza manages to imprison Belvda and takes with him to the planet where the AI is situated.

The book was pretty episodic, especially for the first half, where there were adventures which didn’t really had much connection to each other. The last half formed a bit more of a coherent whole. The storytelling style was not black and white: the “hero” (or anti-hero?) of the book worked against the Culture and considered it abhorrent and demoralizing and promoting a decadent, lazy lifestyle, especially at the beginning of the book. But he later learned to see some good in it, also. Nice book, but perhaps a slight disappointment.

471 pp.

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