Iain M Banks - The Algebraist

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Posted by gaspode (15th Oct 2004, 14:30)

I hadn't even noticed Banks had a new book out, so when I noticed a stack of The Algebraist sitting in the window of Waterstone's on Gower Street, I had to buy it and not wait for the paperback edition (I waited soooo long for Look to Windward to come out in paperback...).

The first thing that struck me about this book, before I even opened it, was how shiny it it. The cover is a very nice photo of the transit of Io over Jupiter (Unless my Jovian satelliet recognition skills are a bit sub par), with shiny gold title lettering. Very pretty.

Anyway, soon after opening it, I came to the conclusion that it was definitely Banks, and almost certainly not Culture. It started off OK, in fairly typical Banksian fashion with a huge sprawling civilisation possessed of a bloated bureaucratic administration. As usual, the narrative is littered with jargon, which Banks seems to love. At this point, I found myself thinking that it was really just Culture by another name. You have the sprawling civilisations, the galactic hegemonies, the excessive terminology. OK, some of the tech is different (wormholes and so forth), and the attitude to AI is different, but I still found myself drawing similarities to several of his previous works.

The central character was vaguely interesting, and the story had its moments, though in the end I found it unfulfilling. There were definitely some very good bits, but I found myself skipping pages here and there in other parts which weren't so interesting and didn't seem to add much to the proceedings. The style is the usual, with stark description and a sort of dislocated timeline (which, to his credit, is justified in the context of the Dwellers, and works quite well, even if it can be confusing). The gas giant Dwellers are an interesting civilisation in their own right - far more interesting than any of the others portrayed in the book, though I think that might perhaps be the point. The ending was disappointing, seeming rushed and a little predictable.

Overall I was disappointed. It was good, but not brilliant. It felt like a collection of rehashed ideas with nothing particularly new to add. Banks is definitely good at what he does, but if The Algebraist is anything to go by, he might have done it to death.

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read biography for - dormouse

 dormouse ( 15th Oct 2004, 16:57, Rank: Jedi )  reply

judging from his continual chortling and lack of sleep the last 2 days, karne has been enjoying this one. hopefully he will post a review too :)

read biography for - Dave

 Dave ( 17th Oct 2004, 10:05, Rank: Green Drazi )  reply

I donated a copy of this to the library last week, so everyone can read it!

read biography for - karne

 karne ( 18th Oct 2004, 14:14, Rank: GSV )  reply

Personaly loved it. More space opera than Culture, light, easy to read and very very funny in places. Particularly liked the 'Jovians'. Dave - thanks for the donate!

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