The Hydrogen Sonata (Culture)

This is slightly more difficult to review, mostly because I was sad during the entire reading of the novel as it was the very last of the Culture series. This has been my favorite series in all of science fiction (even with the up and down of some of the more experimental volumes) and with the untimely passing of Mr. Banks, there will not be another. Ever.


Surface Detail (Culture)

Another Banks masterpiece. This was a very well-crafted story written in the post-modern literary style of a very talented author.


Matter (Culture)

To say this was a complicated book would be to undersell the very notion of complex. Not that it wasn’t comprehensible, far from it, but without the appendix provided at the back, managing the mental gymnastics of all the characters, species, ships, planets, etc. would have been excessively burdensome. It’s still a little shocking to read a piece of fiction which requires an appendix, but there it is.


Look to Windward (Culture)

Playful. Witty. Magnificent. Masterful. These are just a few descriptors I could apply to this incredibly well built story from Iain M. Banks. I really loved The Player of Games but Look to Windward may have surpassed it.


Inversions (Culture)

Every book I’ve read by Banks has been different from the last. Inversions, is no exception. In many ways, Inversions is the answer to the question, “What would it be like if Banks wrote a political intrigue fantasy novel?” A most unusual addition to the Culture series, this book takes place entirely on one planet, there are no space ships, there are no drones, and it is limited in feature entirely to a medieval planet.


Excession (Culture)

I consider Banks to be one of the finest writers I've ever read, full stop. While I enjoyed this book, it had a number of confusing exchanges and the plot itself was more complicated than the majority of fiction I've read. An open mind comfortable holding many separate threads of activity in apparent orthogonality will be required to enjoy this book fully.

The State of the Art (Culture)

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around short stories lately. Mostly, if not entirely, based in his Culture world, Banks tells several smaller tales and one larger one that range from really weird to quite good. Ultimately I was awed again by his writing skill and fascinated by his concept of the future as embodied in the Culture themselves. Since it builds on an existing world, it’s difficult to compare to other collections. It also struck me as very experimental in form, like Banks just had to do something different with each story.

Use of Weapons (Culture)

Well, this one was a bit befuddling. The choice of structure, where the storyline proceeds forward on odd chapters and backwards on even -- while clever -- ultimately made the book more difficult to appreciate.

The Player of Games (Culture)

I read quite a few books this year that belong on canonical Best of Science Fiction lists, The City and the Stars, The Three Body Problem, and so forth.


Consider Phlebas (Culture)

Finally back to science fiction, this brainy work is an interesting introduction to the Culture series. Originally piqued by the SpaceX naming of their recovery barges after characters in this series, I'm interested to see how it develops. While I enjoy the vivid imagery of this first book, I wasn't particularly in step with the characters or their motivations. Still, it was an interesting read and I've been told the series only gets better.