Cover design and photo: Blacksheep
A CULTURE NOVEL/
CULTURE BOOK ONE
IAIN M. BANKS
Publishing date: 23 April 1987
On the cover:
The war raged across the galaxy. Billions had died, billions more were doomed. Moons, planets, the very stars themselves, faced destruction, cold-blooded, brutal, and worse, random. The Idirans fought for their Faith; the Culture for its moral right to exist. Principles were at stake. There could be no surrender.
Within the cosmic conflict, an individual crusade. Deep within a fabled labyrinth on a barren world, a Planet of the Dead proscribed to mortals, lay a fugitive Mind. Both the Culture and the Idirans sought it. It was the fate of Horza, the Changer, and his motley crew of unpredictable mercenaries, human and machine, actually to find it, and with it their own destruction.
This is Banks' first Culture novel, but it is by no means set in an unfinished world, or more correctly; universe. There is plenty of references to other events and history here. And one of the strengths of the book is Banks' universe-building. Some of the places we see here are absolutely stunning, and adds a lot to the story.
The story has all the ingredients of a space opera. There's a huge war going on in the background, our hero is a rogue type character who is being hunted, and we have a quest that takes us to different locations. But this story is by no means hampered by Banks' use of the familiar. He writes a story that really stands out from the crowd. The characters are also interesting, and we get to know them pretty well as the story unfolds.
Consider Phlebas is pretty fast-paced. There is something happening all the time, but it is not stressful to follow what is going on. Some of the action sequences here are just mind blowing, and I have to say that I wouldn't mind seeing them up on the big screen.
Banks is very good at keeping the suspense up, and especially the ending keeps the reader guessing. There is not much of the techno babble that scare away newcomers and slows the pace down here.
This is the first of the Culture novels, but I would like to point out that it is a self contained story. There is no cliffhanger ending, and you should be no means be scared away from reading it just because there is a whole series of novels that follow it.
There is much to love here for fans of science fiction. And if you are a newcomer to the genre this, in my opinion, would be a good place to start. For myself, I've already bought the next Culture novel, and plan to purchase the rest.
Links: Iain M. Banks Orbit