Author(s): Iain M. BanksDownload
In a world renowned within a galaxy full of wonders, a crime within a war. For one brother it means a desperate flight, and a search for the one – maybe two – people who could clear his name. For his brother it means a life lived under constant threat of treachery and murder. And for their sister, it means returning to a place she’d thought abandoned forever.Only the sister is not what she once was; Djan Seriy Anaplian has become an agent of the Culture’s Special Circumstances section, charged with high-level interference in civilisations throughout the greater galaxy.Concealing her new identity – and her particular set of abilities – might be a dangerous strategy. In the world to which Anaplian returns, nothing is quite as it seems; and determining the appropriate level of interference in someone else’s war is never a simple matter.
Some Reviews: 930 in Goodreads.com
This book is an enormous achievement. Enormously complex, arguably to its detriment (as even its author admits) nevertheless, it can’t be disputed that Matter is an astonishing novel. I’m loath to criticise it, because although it’s long and at points heavy going I didn’t feel like it needed better editing or anything like that. The narrative is unusual and unwieldy, and there simply doesn’t seem to be a short way to tell it. This is the first Culture novel that I’d read, and I might have found it a bit less ponderous had I got some background beforehand.
In summary, I highly recommend this book. In spite of the density of the read, losing the book in a box while moving house, having a baby and being distracted by other books and things I still managed to finish it. And, despite all those issues, I was still blown away by the end. This book is a commitment, but a deserving one.
This was another example of everything that Mr. Banks’ writing has been in the others I’ve read: interesting characters (especially Holse and Ferbin – hilarious), not as deep of digging into the futuristic technology or as frequent of action as I prefer, and [SPOILER] basically everyone dies at the end, as usual. [END SPOILER].
Most importantly, it included some of the remarkable moments that keep me coming back to this author, frequently contained in sidenotes or backstory where he shows a deep understanding of humanity, and the power to capture it beautifully in words. I can’t think of another author from whom I write down quotes or passages that affect me deeply.
A few things to differentiate this from others: part of it felt like a fantasy novel (low tech, kingdoms and battles and flying creatures), and there was more explanation of the overall galactic social structure between the Culture and all the others.
Really great. Still processing the ending, but I loved the motifs of hierarchy (the shellworld itself, the mentorship/levels of species), punctuated equilibrium (the waterfalls, civilizational status quo broken by murder), proxies and voyeurism, etc. Interesting and varied characters, lots of intrigue and action intermingled, long Silmarillion-esque passages of world-building — I loved it all. Only two small complaints: maybe a little less obsessing over the physical form of the waterfalls, and maybe a little more time with the Big Bad. Overall I read slowly and with relish. Highly recommended.
Another entertaining read in Banks’s Culture universe. It has the usual space operatic themes of intragalactic civilisations, warfare, political wranglings and implacable ancient alien threats.
The shellworld of Sursamen is well thought-out and explored (perhaps over-explored), and is satisfyingly strange.
My main criticism is that the book is perhaps twice as long as it needs to be. The story really doesn’t get properly going until the 400 page mark – all the earlier stuff is either just set-up or slow journeying. A tighter bit of editing would have improved the novel up to the 5 star mark. Although a little predictable towards the end, the conclusion makes sense and the epilogue ties up a loose end.
Out of the dozen or so books by Iain (M.) Banks that I have read, Matter is my least favorite, and it still received 4 out of 5 stars.
It took about 70 pages or so to get into the story, but once I did the book was hard to put down. All of the “Culture” books that I have read have an epic story with layers and layers of content and undercurrents of many subjects, some subtle and some not so subtle. Yet, they are still character driven stories with enough advanced and wondrous technology that will satisfy even the most ardent science fiction fan.
The beginning of the book goes into great detail about “shell worlds” an ancient technological device (some questions remain about the purpose for which they were created). Kind of a “species” made hollow planet with different layers (floors), each floor has been settled by a different life form. Some life forms are more advanced than others.
The description of the shell world was so detailed that for a moment I was convinced I could build one or at the least draw up a blueprint to have one built. So much detail made the story drag a bit, but it also gave me a great understanding to the world the characters lived in.
The flow of the writing style in Matter changes throughout the book. There are plenty of detailed descriptions of technologies, species, characters … etc., parts felt like a well written suspense/thriller, and there are a few speeches that felt reminiscent of Shakespeare. I feel that this changing flow will annoy some readers.
I still found this to be a great read, but if you have never read a “Culture” book, I wouldn’t recommend this as a starting point. The only drawback to “Matter” for me was that the ending didn’t meet my expectations for the usual Banks standard (but it was still excellent). So far, it is the only book by Banks that I figured out the ending before I got there.
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