I just finished reading one of Iain M. Banks’ “Culture” novels, Excession, and I have to say it was profoundly unsatisfactory. Rather boring. Self-involved, as if he was so fascinated with the space opera he was creating that he forgot to actually make it interesting. When you get to the end, you’ll understand that the book wasn’t about the Excession itself, but rather about the drama that surrounds it. The problem, of course, is that the drama surrounding it is rather boring. I can relate to a ship mind, or at least revel in imagining it, but the minds have to, you know, do things and stuff.
The Algebraist on the other hand has the same sort of ending with a semblance of a climactic sequence, but is much, much more involving. It is, in fact, quite a good scifi novel.
Even Consider Phlebas was better than Excession, and that’s not saying much.
The problem, I think, is that while the Culture and its foes are a great backdrop to what could be a great space drama, Iain M. Banks just can’t follow through with very much story. This is in direct opposition to Kevin J. Anderson’s Saga of Seven Suns which has, if anything, way too much story. Or to put it another way, Iain needs a little bit of Kevin, and vice versa.
Also, on a book-related note, I’m still waiting for the next Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen (very cumbersome tagline, that, but I like it). The preceeding novels were simply too dreadfully marvelous to not have a proper sequel.
dan (has written much about books)