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I listen to my audiobooks as I commute (1.5 hours a day). It's amazing I'm still alive having been so engrossed in this book.
The story has all the wonder of Ian M Bank's vivid imagination. He conjours up fantastical species and worlds that require no effort on my part to suspend disbelief. A beautiful story that tries to describe the problems that might face species as they reache their full potential through scientific discovery. The author does so without coming off as pretentious, trite, or belittling the audience's intelligence. More than once he made my life seem very trivial when held against the vastness of existance. A tragic story, but captivating the whole way through.
Toby Longworth's narration is a credit to the story and Toby himself. Toby imbues each character with his/her/it's own personality without sounding at all ridiculous. You always know who's talking and get an incredible sense of who they are. I'd like to wax lyrically about Toby's performance, but to save you the pain of my inelloquant banter, I'll just say that it was superb.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
Iain M. Banks' Matter is an entertaining and intelligent space opera, using galactic civilizations of various humanoid and non-humanoid species at various stages of technological and cultural development, impressive artifacts (like giant shellworlds that house concentric, inhabited levels; intelligent battle suits that talk to you, shoot for you, and turn your urine into water; and AI spaceships who give themselves droll names like Don't Try This at Home), and exciting action and battle scenes to explore themes about matter, culture, power, freedom, growth, love, and human nature. The ending is shocking, fitting, and moving. The characters are compelling. The story is humorous, horrifying, awe-inspiring, and thought-provoking.
And the reader, Toby Longworth, is fantastic. His voice is appealingly gravelly but clear, he understands the story, and he reads it perfectly, effectively changing his voice for different characters, among them power-hungry lords, foppish princes, grizzled generals, cold killers, rustic and wise servants, strong women, drugged prostitutes, fanatic insectoid aliens, cool, caring, or inimical AIs, and more, all sounding just right for their personalities and situations. He even talks like a mild American for this amoral ex-Culture agent who's running an endless war (by recycling soldiers) on some planet for the vicarious pleasure of his alien employers.
All in all a great listen.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Such is the draw to a Culture novel that I was compelled to purchase as soon as the title became available.
As has been the way with recent Banks work, the story takes place on a number of levels. Matter, takes this one stage further and locates the narrative inside a shell world which itself is made up of a number of levels - cleaver.
Imagine a heraldic prince, not unlike Hamlet who stumbles upon his fathers murder and the action spirals out to threaten the whole world, drawing the attention of the Cultures elite soldiers, SC.
At it's heart, the story contemplates the very meaning of life, but don't expect Banks to answer that, if the best Minds of the Culture can't. If however, life really is all just a game, what does it really Matter!
If you are a fan then tell your loved ones you will be away for 21 hours and when you return you will be suffering from withdrawal symptoms.
Let's hope it isn't another 8 years until the next one, but however long it takes it will be on My Next Listen list.
23 of 25 people found this review helpful
I usually ration my listening to when I cycle to work or am sewing, but this was one book that I kept on far longer when I came through the door.
I was prepared for the abrupt ending, having read a previous review, but agree it was disappointing, particularly for someone like me who likes to have explanations. Even so, that didn't spoil my enjoyment of an engrossing book.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful