You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

My Photo
Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


Iain M. Banks' Matter is a novel set in an advanced civilization called the Culture, part of a tradition of science fiction about people with technology so advanced that human labor is not required. The Culture has a peer society called the Morthanveld who has equiv-tech (equivalent technology) but not as advanced to have AI minds with great power.

Djan Serijy is a woman who was recruited from her home world to be an agent of the Culture's Special Circumstances, a sort of combination CIA and Navy SEALs. When she learns that her father, a king, and her brother have been killed in a battle, she decide to travel home. Sursamen is a vast shell world created by an ancient extinct civilization. Her people the Sarl live on the Eighth level and King Hausk was making war against the people on the Ninth level. The Sarl are a more primitive culture and live as clients of the Oct, who are clients of the Nariscene, who are clients of the Morthanvald.

Unknown to Djan, her brother Ferbin is still alive. Ferbin and his servant Holse escaped and left the shell world to find her. Meanwhile, tyl Loesp, the king's counselor who secrectly killed him, is pursuing the war and plotting to kill the last prince, Oramen. Tyl Loesp pushes for the excavation of a huge ancient city being uncovered by a receding waterfall, and he has the enthusiastic help of the Oct, who control the towers that allow travel between levels.

When Ferbin finds Djan and tells her about their father's murder, she also discovers there are other forces that may be threatening Sursamen. They travel as fast as they can back to Sursamen on a ship that offers its help. Once there they encounter something unexpected that provides and exciting conclusion.

The powerful technology gives the author a lot of material to work with, even if it can provide some plot problems. Banks manages this well. The Culture is a fascinating place to read about. He describes the civilization itself and its relationship with other less advanced cultures. The characters are interesting, especially the duo of Ferbin and Holse. Both of them change and grow over the course of the story, especially the prince who leaves behind his profligate ways. Djan also is an interesting character, faced with the dilemma of her loyalty to her family and her new duties.

The plot occasionally drags at a few points, but it quickly picks back up. The contrast between the primitive and advanced cultures works well. The shell world seems fantastic at first, but Banks illustrates the details and makes it believable. The whole story was fun and often funny. I look forward to reading more of his novels. B+


Post a Comment

<< Home