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Lededje Y'breq is one of the Intagliated, her marked body bearing witness to a family shame, her life belonging to a man whose lust for power is without limit. Prepared to risk everything for her freedom, her release, when it comes, is at a price, and to put things right, she will need the help of the Culture.
Benevolent, enlightened and almost infinitely resourceful though it may be, the Culture can only do so much for any individual. With the assistance of one of its most powerful - and arguably deranged - warships, Lededje finds herself heading into a combat zone not even sure which side the Culture is really on. A war - brutal, far-reaching - is already raging within the digital realms that store the souls of the dead, and it's about to erupt into reality.
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By Steven on 11-21-10
Reading is a major part of my profession and it is not fun. For my own pleasure, I read science fiction almost exclusively (Patrick O'Brian being a major exception). I have read a science fiction book every week since 1978 except for those weeks when I read more than one. I mention this because Iain M. Banks has practically ruined my favorite reading pastime. If you don’t know why, you have only to read one Culture novel and then recall the dialogue of any computer on any Star Trek video or book. Surface Detail is virtually the last nail in the coffin.
Most science fiction is crap. For example, I have never read a “space opera” that could not be fully converted to horseback. I continue to read science fiction because of the surprising quality of the jewels that can be found in the rubble (consider “An Exchange Of Hostages”). Then comes Iain Banks and his Culture; Science fiction that actually takes notice of the age of our universe and the, presumably, perseverance of intelligence. After I read “Matter”, I purchased all of his novels in bulk. I read them, loved them and then re-read them. I was convinced that “Excession” was the best of the best. I then discovered that “Surface Detail” was about to be released in the United Kingdom (and much earlier than in the U.S). I made the purchase on-line in the UK and had it shipped. It was brilliant and his best novel to date. I then purchased the Audible version which I play on my truck stereo I-Pod. The audible version is icing on the cake.
I can tolerate (barely) a space opera now because I can imagine the story line in circumstances where the Culture has declined to make contact. What I can’t tolerate, is Mr. Bank’s insistence on having a life. He is active and apparently has activities outside of writing his next story. Damn!
24 of 24 people found this review helpful
By Sarah on 11-16-10
Excellent story, excellent narration
I'm a big fan of Iain M Banks (and Alistair Reynolds, Richard Morgan, etc.) - what they call 'hard science fiction' or sometimes 'space opera' - so it wasn't really surprising that I liked this latest Culture novel.
I WAS surprised at how well the narrator did with this - the story was so complex, and there were so many characters, that I was really impressed with Peter Kenny's ability to keep up with it all. The names are difficult sometimes, but Kenny did a great job of making the voices and personalities very well distinguished from one another, so it wasn't too problematic. No doubt I'll listen to this again in another month or two for all the bits I missed.
One caveat: Iain Banks and Iain M Banks books often have a certain amount of unflinching violence in them, and this one was particularly gruesome in parts. Some of the scenes in the hell worlds were difficult to take. So I wouldn't recommend giving this book to a 12-year-old or even someone with delicate sensibilities - definitely some nightmare-inducing scenes in there (and of course the writing is so good, you really do end up thinking you were there).
But otherwise highly recommended!
19 of 19 people found this review helpful