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Crossing Over
August 30, 2009 3:27 PM   Subscribe

Transition, the latest from Iain Banks... or is it Iain M. Banks? Anyway, as well dead tree and audio, it's also a free podcast on Itunes...

...a novelty for so prominent a writer. Unfortunately the promotion of that caused a bit of a palaver re existing podcasters (read the comments). Sounds good anyway (review in the Independent). And if you need any more incentive to check it out, apparently there's bad sex in it... what would Jane think? (Previously)
posted by fearfulsymmetry (96 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
...why is this book being published under different aliases in the UK and US? This destroys the neat Scottish Fiction/Science Fiction dichotomy of Iain Banks/Iain M. Banks! Is it a marketing decision to use the M in the States? Because it's listed under 'fiction' rather than 'science fiction' on his website.
posted by Dysk at 3:34 PM on August 30, 2009


...why is this book being published under different aliases in the UK and US? This destroys the neat Scottish Fiction/Science Fiction dichotomy of Iain Banks/Iain M. Banks! Is it a marketing decision to use the M in the States? Because it's listed under 'fiction' rather than 'science fiction' on his website.

QFT

M = Awesome Culture-ness only imo
posted by dopamine at 3:37 PM on August 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


dopamine: M = Awesome Culture-ness only imo

Iain seems to disagree.
posted by Dysk at 3:40 PM on August 30, 2009


I actually prefer the US cover to the UK one, which is a bit unusual for me.

The Recent US Science Fiction covers have been sticking pretty close to the UK ones, so I guess if it wasn't M-less there it would have the same one.
posted by Artw at 3:42 PM on August 30, 2009


To answer my own question, from the BBC link:

Iain Banks’ new novel, Transition, is a landmark book in the writer’s career. Possibly best known for Wasp Factory and The Crow Road, Banks is also a highly regarded writer of science fiction which he publishes under the name of Iain M Banks. This is the first book to bridge the gap between the two genres and is also highly topical in its themes – exploring the use of torture, religious fundamentalism and the rights and responsibilities of those in power.
posted by Dysk at 3:43 PM on August 30, 2009


Hmm, kind of forgetting about The Bridge there a little.
posted by Artw at 3:44 PM on August 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yes, it appears that they are trying to eliminate the M-no-M split in the U.K. while preserving it in the United States. Transition clearly contains science fictional elements and so would, in the past, have been published under the Iain M. Banks name in the U.K. as well as the USA. I wish the U.S. publisher had gone along with the move to eliminate the divide but I guess they are afraid some people might get science fiction cooties without warning.

M = Awesome Culture-ness only imo

Are you suggesting that Against A Dark Background, Feersum Endjinn, or The Algebraist are Culture novels? That's an interesting assertion.

Bonus Best Culture Ship Names:

GCU Ultimate Ship The Second
GCU Killing Time
GSV What Are The Civilian Applications?

and last, but not least:

ROU I said, I've got a big stick
posted by Justinian at 3:51 PM on August 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Oh and just to add, despite what the article says the first part of the podcast is up on ITunes, now. I downloaded it last night
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:51 PM on August 30, 2009


Yes, the Bridge bridged that gap first.

Iain Banks is a genius. He also likes whisky. I hope the District 9 producers, having been refused permission to make a Halo movie, will consider doing a movie in the Culture universe (which coincidentally features a ring-world called "Halo"...)

Should I listen to an abridged audiobook? I haven't done it before, at least not knowingly. It seems like a bad idea.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 3:53 PM on August 30, 2009


Yes, the Bridge bridged that gap first.

pedant mode:

Walking on Glass (1985)
The Bridge (1986)

end pedant mode
posted by Justinian at 3:54 PM on August 30, 2009


East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94: Yes, the Bridge bridged that gap first.

Which gap? The Scottish Fiction/Science Fiction gap? The Bridge didn't have any SF in it, just usual Banks weirdness, some of which took the form of psuedo-fantasy...
posted by Dysk at 4:00 PM on August 30, 2009


Justinian, the GCU Lightly Seared On The Reality Grill has always been my favourite.
posted by Dysk at 4:01 PM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=329295577
posted by Morbuto at 4:03 PM on August 30, 2009


List of Ship Names in the Culture Universe

I always liked the ...gravitas ship names.
posted by knapah at 4:04 PM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Are you suggesting that Against A Dark Background, Feersum Endjinn, or The Algebraist are Culture novels? That's an interesting assertion.

No. I put an "imo" at the end of my statement because in my opinion, I don't think his non-Culture SF stands up to his Culture SF, so in my opinion, the M really only means Culturey goodness to me. Anything else, non-Culture SF included, might as well not have the M. In my opinion.

Not a popular opinion but it's still mine and I said it.
posted by dopamine at 4:07 PM on August 30, 2009


What would Iain [M] Banks readers recommend of his "non-SF" as a place to start?
posted by Saxon Kane at 4:17 PM on August 30, 2009


I think Against a Dark Background stands up pretty well against a lot of his SF. It's no Use of Weapons but then again, what is?
posted by Justinian at 4:18 PM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


What would Iain [M] Banks readers recommend of his "non-SF" as a place to start?

The Crow Road, or possibly The Crow Road, or if not that then The Crow Road.
posted by Justinian at 4:19 PM on August 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


(still hasn't decided whether italicized or bolded book titles looks better onscreen)
posted by Justinian at 4:19 PM on August 30, 2009


Saxon Kane, start at the beginning, with The Wasp Factory.

(Justinian, italicised if you must. Bold should be reserved for usernames and extreme circumstances. All with an "IMHO" disclaimer, of course.)
posted by Dysk at 4:26 PM on August 30, 2009


The Steep Approach To Basically The Crow Road is alright.

I've liked them all, really, except maybe Dead Air.

Oh, and Song of Stone is a very SFy non M one.
posted by Artw at 4:29 PM on August 30, 2009


Damn, this has me inordinately excited. My MA thesis deadline is Sept. 3rd, and this is making me seriously consider not going to the pub and drinking, but sitting in and reading.

Bloody hell.
posted by knapah at 4:35 PM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


That review in the independent sounds very interesting

What would Iain [M] Banks readers recommend of his "non-SF" as a place to start?

Um, The Crow Road as Justinian said, and maybe also Complicity, if you want something a bit more intense and can handle the (second person narrated) violence. Walking On Glass is good, but is sortof a hybrid, weaving in fantasy elements. Dead Air doesn't totally hang together, but has some great set pieces (the interview with the holocaust denier, the hungover life-or-death answer machine mission).
posted by memebake at 4:37 PM on August 30, 2009


If you're going to start with The Wasp Factory, you have to commit to giving him a second chance ahead of time. A lot of M-less Banks fans, myself included, think it's perfectly dreadful and not very representative of his work.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:41 PM on August 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you're going to start with The Wasp Factory, you have to commit to giving him a second chance ahead of time. A lot of M-less Banks fans, myself included, think it's perfectly dreadful and not very representative of his work.

It's the first Banks book I read, and it really made me want to read more of his work. So, mileage may vary.

I'd stay away from Complicity as a first read, it's a bit intense in my opinion.
posted by knapah at 4:45 PM on August 30, 2009


Not that that is a bad thing.
posted by knapah at 4:45 PM on August 30, 2009


I'd stay away from Complicity as a first read, it's a bit intense in my opinion.

I agree wholeheartedly. Starting with The Wasp Factory is a good way to get eased into the sheer disturbing batshitinsanity that Iain Banks does so well.
posted by Dysk at 4:48 PM on August 30, 2009


Oh, sure, not everyone hates it — not by a long shot. It's just deeply polarizing. Starting Banks readers on The Wasp Factory is like giving double IPA to novice beer drinkers. Some will be hooked for life, sure, but others will run screaming and never come back to give it a second chance, and that's a shame.

So, like I said, as long as you're committed to giving it that second chance, sure, start with the strong stuff. :)
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:58 PM on August 30, 2009


And, sure, I might overuse the word "sure," but I sure do feel sure about my literary preferences. Sure. You betcha.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:59 PM on August 30, 2009


I've a soft spot for Whit, though it is again a little Crow Road like.

No one really seems to like The Business, though I don't think there's anything terrible about it.
posted by Artw at 4:59 PM on August 30, 2009


(that's another one for vaguely SFy elements, as well)
posted by Artw at 5:00 PM on August 30, 2009


nebulawindphone: So, like I said, as long as you're committed to giving it that second chance, sure, start with the strong stuff. :)

My whole reason for recommending The Wasp Factory as a starting point is that it isn't the strong stuff, compared to other works such as The Bridge or Complicity. Well, that and the fact that I think it's excellent.
posted by Dysk at 5:03 PM on August 30, 2009


Against a Dark Background could be in the Culture universe. Sorta. Technically. Just pointing that out.
posted by geekhorde at 5:05 PM on August 30, 2009


I fear Iain has run out of really surprising things to say about the Culture; Excession sucked eggs, and I say that as someone who thought Use of Weapons was one of the best novels ever written, in any genre. Matter was better but wtf shellworlds? Meanwhile, The Algebraist was sheer genius.

Now I need to figure out what to do about my Dad's UK penpal who thought it would just be a swell idea to introduce him to Banks by sending him a copy of Feersum Endjinn.
posted by localroger at 5:06 PM on August 30, 2009


Sort of off in a corner somewhere?
posted by Artw at 5:07 PM on August 30, 2009


I liked The Steep Approach to Garbadale a lot, unlike most reviewers. It seemed to me that he was trying to use the old-school Forsyte Saga structures and tropes in a modern-day setting and having fun with it.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:09 PM on August 30, 2009


I recall one reviewer back in the day claiming that The Wasp Factory was "the most perverse novel ever written," but I'm not sure that person was familiar with K.W. Jeter's Dr. Adder which was also published in 1984.
posted by localroger at 5:11 PM on August 30, 2009


geekhorde, that's also true of The Algebraist, but neither it nor Against A Dark Background are Culture novels, regardless.

localroger, Excession is probably my favourite Culture novel, but then again, I have an unreasonable love for Minds as characters. Matter was good too, but the big fantasy-esque bits started to bug me as they dragged on.
posted by Dysk at 5:13 PM on August 30, 2009


Ok, as much as the bridge is kinda in the SF/F area, I think it's his best book either way. I've given it to friends as a first time read and hooked them. I've found his non-M stuff hit or miss for me, I gave up on Espidair Street and Complicity (Seeing the damage that he was about to inflict on his characters made me put it down). I liked Walking on Glass and A Song of Stone (which actually hit me harder than The Wasp Factory, which I loved). The books I couldn't finish weren't well written, I just couldn't get into them. Matter was decent, but I felt it could have been better, especially coming off of The Algebraist, which I think is his best SF book (heresy, I know).

Now I'm debating between downloading this to listen to it (given its abridged nature) and then buying it or simply buying it. Advice?
posted by Hactar at 5:21 PM on August 30, 2009


I enjoy how much variety of opinion fans of Banks always bring to discussions of his books. Favorites by one are judged nearly unreadable by others. I think that comes from how flexible he's been in subject matter and style. Consider Phlebas practically writes its own Jerry Bruckheimer treatment, whereas one struggles to even attach basic mental imagery or comprehensible dialogue to large stretches of Feersum Endjinn. I absolutely loved Song of Stone and The Wasp Factory (the first I read of him) but I suspect most people, even loyal Banks readers, couldn't finish either.
posted by Voivod at 5:31 PM on August 30, 2009


I enjoy how much variety of opinion fans of Banks always bring to discussions of his books.

Agreed.
posted by knapah at 5:39 PM on August 30, 2009


Hectar: Ok, as much as the bridge is kinda in the SF/F area,

Where are you detecting SF elements in The Bridge? Sure, there are interludes of fantasy, and a lot of it is quite steam-punky, but there are no spaceships or computers or anything.

Voivod, I've yet to encounter a Banks book (M or no M) that I didn't like, and there's only a small handful I haven't read.
posted by Dysk at 5:42 PM on August 30, 2009


My mother asked for a book recommendation once, I handed her Complicity, without really thinking... She took a look at the blurb on the back and said, "Maybe not."

COMPLICITY n. 1. the fact of being an accomplice, esp. in a criminal act
A few spliffs, a spot of mild S&M, phone through the copy for tomorrow's front page, catch up with the latest from your mystery source - could be big, could be very big - in fact, just a regular day at the office for free-wheeling, substance-abusing Cameron Colley, a fully paid-up Gonzo hack on an Edinburgh newspaper. The source is pretty thin, but Cameron senses a scoop and checks out a series of bizarre deaths from a few years ago - only to find that the police are checking out a series of bizarre deaths that are happening right now. And Cameron just might know more about it than he'd care to admit ...Involvement; connection; liability - Complicity is a stunting exploration of the morality of greed, corruption and violence, venturing fearlessly into the darker recesses of human purpose.


It was at that moment that I remembered the rather interesting (to say the least) deaths involved, and was rather happy she'd said no. I'm not sure what she would have thought of me if she'd read it.
posted by knapah at 5:53 PM on August 30, 2009


The Bridge didn't have any SF in it

Bar bs gur Oneonevna frdhraprf zragvbaf xavsr zvffvyrf.

The Crow Road, or possibly The Crow Road, or if not that then The Crow Road.

I disagree. Clearly someone should start with The Crow Road.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:54 PM on August 30, 2009


I must say it's annoying how some readers feel compelled to enforce imaginary dogma on which novels are or are not set in the Culture universe. Feck off! If I want to interpret the entirety of Feersum Endjinn as taking place in the idle computational cycles of a GSV AI, keeping the mental impressions of long dead former passengers amused, I am free to do so. I would go as far to say that my Culture universe is cooler than your Culture universe, so there!
posted by Voivod at 6:01 PM on August 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


I must say it's annoying how some readers feel compelled to enforce imaginary dogma on which novels are or are not set in the Culture universe. Feck off! If I want to interpret the entirety of Feersum Endjinn as taking place in the idle computational cycles of a GSV AI, keeping the mental impressions of long dead former passengers amused, I am free to do so. I would go as far to say that my Culture universe is cooler than your Culture universe, so there!

My word! The possibilities!
posted by knapah at 6:03 PM on August 30, 2009


Against a Dark Background could be in the Culture universe. Sorta. Technically. Just pointing that out.

Well, yeah, but so could The Crow Road, The Wasp Factory, or for that matter Lolita, or Ulysses.
posted by Justinian at 6:12 PM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I just finished Use of Weapons and I gotta say I'm mad at Mr. Banks. I should have seen it all coming. And I did when the whole chair thing was explained, but I didn't want to see it coming. It made me very mad.


That being said I just started Song of Stone and if it weren't for the fact that I just did a grand opening for the LBS I work for I would probably be done by now. I still like his work.
posted by Severian at 6:16 PM on August 30, 2009


ROU_Xenophobe, a brief mention (va n frdhrapr gung qbrf abg qrsvavgviryl npghnyyl unccra) does not a genre-crossing book make.
posted by Dysk at 6:31 PM on August 30, 2009


No, Lolita is set in the Buffyverse. You didn't catch that Humbert's a vampire? I thought that part was obvious.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:32 PM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


What would Iain [M] Banks readers recommend of his "non-SF" as a place to start?

I started with The Crow Road and The Bridge, and went through Against a Dark Background and The Wasp Factory. I didn't really like any of them, until I read Excession and suddenly everything clicked. I've since gone back and re-read the above, as well as everything else he's written. I think for a first time reader I would recommend Walking on Glass. I wouldn't say it is his best book, but it has a well balanced mix of incredibly creative fantasy, madness, and dark sexuality plus requisite castle. I think if you can't find some part to be intrigued by in Walking on Glass you're going to have a tough road in the Banks universe. Besides, you never want to start with the best books anyway (even though no one here is going to agree on what they are).
posted by oneirodynia at 6:48 PM on August 30, 2009


My mother asked for a book recommendation once, I handed her Complicity, without really thinking
Ha ha, I did exactly the same thing. It was only when she had finished it and handed it back to me the following week that I remembered just how f*cked up it was - especially as it starts off with some simulated rape.

I remember her saying it was: 'interesting'.

I was (and still am) really into sci-fi when I was a teenager and my dad was beginning to despair of me ever reading 'proper literature', so he gave me The Crow Road to read - I loved it. Imagine my delight when I stumbled across his sci-fi work while looking for more Iain Banks novels in the library. I read Consider Phlebas in one-sitting IIRC.

I'm afraid Iwill not be listening to the podcast before I read this one, even though I applaud the genre and format crossing aspect. I just think a lot of the time that audiobooks are an abridgement too far.
posted by JustAsItSounds at 6:59 PM on August 30, 2009


I'm currently listening to Matter as an audiobook (I read it when it came out, i like to read-then-audio Banks and GRRM). But I don't think I'd like something abridged, so I'll just pick it up at the store.

I'm a little burned out (and I hate to say that) on the Culture at this point. Consider Phlebas might be my favorite, or Excession. I've only read Use of Weapons once and I'm saving the re-read for a while. And I totally thought of The Bridge as SF. Against my judgement, once, my wife handed my mother the Crow Road to read. I almost didn't get that copy back!

But when I was last in Indiana a bought a stack of scifi pulp at Half Price Books and hope to work through that (Allistair Reynolds, Ken McCleod) while on this vacation.

Speaking of, I'm on vacation. I shouldn't be on Metafilter.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 7:22 PM on August 30, 2009


Big Frackin' Spoiler Alert!

The Algebraist is a Culture novel, but you have to read to that awesome twist towards the end to really get it.

Also, in my opinion, The Algebraist is his best book, but you have to read some of his other Culture novels in order to appreciate the context.
posted by ovvl at 7:26 PM on August 30, 2009


posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:54 AM on August 31 [+] [!]

I was wondering when you'd show up in this thread...
posted by Jimbob at 7:28 PM on August 30, 2009


ovvl, that was a most ineffective spolier alert. At least put the spoiler in small text, a good few lines down from the alert, or in ROT13. Ideally all three.
posted by Dysk at 7:55 PM on August 30, 2009


ovvl: I sent you a memail, but anyway, here's a spoiler in rot13 about The Algebraist that I think proves it is not in the Culture Universe. If you can tell me otherwise, then memail me.

DO NOT DECIPHER UNLESS YOU WANT TO KNOW ABOUT THE ALGEBRAIST!

Gur obbx vf frg zvyyraavn vagb gur shgher bs Rnegu. Gur Ibrua gbbx fbzr uhznaf sebz Rnegu ntrf ntb, fcernq gurz bhg naq vagrtengrq gurz vagb gur tnynpgvp pbzzhavgl, gurfr jrer nUhznaf (nqinaprq). Fb jura gur uhznaf gung jrer yrsg ba Rnegu, gur eUhznaf (hf, erznvaqre uhznaf) qrirybcrq fhssvpvrag grpu gb rkcyber fcnpr cebcreyl - jbezubyrf naq gur yvxr - gurl qvfpbirerq gung gurer jrer zber nUhznaf guna eUhznaf, naq gung fcnpr jnf nyernql gnxra. Urer vf gur eryrinag dhbgr sebz gur obbx.

"CERCCVAT. N irel ybat-rfgnoyvfurq cenpgvpr, hfrq yngryl ol gur Phyzvan nzbatfg bguref, vf gb gnxr n srj rknzcyrf
bs n cer-pvivyvfrq fcrpvrf sebz gurve ubzr jbeyq (hfhnyyl va pybabpynfgvp be rzoelbavp sbez) naq znxr gurz fhowrpg
fcrpvrf\fynirf\zrepranevrf\zragberq. fb gung jura gur crbcyr sebz gurve ubzr jbeyq svanyyl nffhzr gur Tnynpgvp
fgntr, gurl ner abg gur zbfg pvivyvfrq\nqinaprq bs gurve xvaq (bsgra gurl'er abg rira gur zbfg ahzrebhf tebhcvat
bs gurve xvaq). Fcrpvrf fb gerngrq ner rkcrpgrq gb srry na boyvtngvba gb gurve fb-pnyyrq zragbef (jub jvyy nyfb trarenyyl
pynvz gb unir qviregrq pbzrgf be bgurejvfr ceriragrq pngnfgebcurf va gur vagrevz, jurgure gurl unir be abg). Guvf
cenpgvpr unf orra onaarq va gur cnfg jura cna-Tnynpgvp ynjf (frr Tnynpgvp Pbhapvy) unir orra hcuryq ohg graqf gb
ernccrne va yrff pvivyvfrq gvzrf. Cenpgvpr inevbhfyl ersreerq gb nf Cerccvat, Yvsgvat be Ntterffvir Zragbevat. Ybpny-
eryrinag grezvabybtl: nUhzna & eUhzna (nqinaprq naq erznvaqre Uhzna). "
posted by knapah at 7:59 PM on August 30, 2009


Not that it's important or anything, I'm just procrastinating....
posted by knapah at 8:04 PM on August 30, 2009


The thing about ROT13 is that it was great on Usenet because all decent newsreaders would encode/decode ROT13 with a simple keystroke. As far as I am aware neither IE nor Firefox will do that by default. There may be add-ons but most people almost certainly don't have them.

In other words, can we keep the ROT-13 on Usenet where it belongs?
posted by Justinian at 10:45 PM on August 30, 2009


I enjoy how much variety of opinion fans of Banks always bring to discussions of his books.

Disagreed, but I'm just a typical homogenizing swarm.
posted by Free word order! at 11:22 PM on August 30, 2009


Disagreed, but I'm just a typical homogenizing hegemonizing swarm. (Damn interference.)
posted by Free word order! at 11:32 PM on August 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


The Algebraist is a Culture novel, but you have to read to that awesome twist towards the end to really get it.

Huh? Tommy-rot. No FTL travel, humans know where they come from, a galactic hegemony without AIs (well apart from the obvious). You're saying black is white there.
posted by wilful at 12:35 AM on August 31, 2009


In the novella The State of the Art the Culture visited Earth, so it's not quite the first time he's bridged the gap.

I've bought most of his books in hardback when they came out, but I was pretty disappointed by "The Steep Approach to Garbadale", so tempted to wait for the paperback or the library for "Transition".

Anyone read "Transition" yet? It was listed as available on Amazon UK a couple of days ago, though the official release date is September 2nd.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:55 AM on August 31, 2009


As far as I am aware neither IE nor Firefox will do that by default. There may be add-ons but most people almost certainly don't have them.

So what you're saying is that if you ROT13 something here, someone will only be able to read it if they really want to, and if they take some clear affirmative step to do so beyond a moment's whim, such as copying and pasting to rot13.com.

That seems a feature where spoilers are concerned.

Except for people who've learned to read ROT13 by eye. For them, coming across spoilers is just a reminder that some skills have negative utility.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:00 AM on August 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


The answer to perennial question of 'what non-M Banks to read first?' I think, boils down to three options a) The Wasp Factory (then the rest in order) b) The Crow Road c) It doesn't matter.

Just as the M novels can be broken into 'Culture' and 'non-Culture' the M-less can be broken down into roughly 'Nasty' and 'Nice' (although in the latter case 'Nice' is a relative term)

The Wasp Factory, Complicity and A Song of Stone are well in the Nasty category... the last one being exceptionally bleak.

And in IMHO the novels pre-Whit are, on a whole, much better than Whit onwards (though Canal Dreams is a bit of a duffer... even Banks admits to that).

Though I never thought even the 'nasty' ones were that nasty... but then I read a lot of freak-out Brit 70s horror as an impressionable lad...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:08 AM on August 31, 2009


Where are you detecting SF elements in The Bridge? Sure, there are interludes of fantasy, and a lot of it is quite steam-punky, but there are no spaceships or computers or anything.

iirc there's at least once reference to knife missiles . . .
posted by protorp at 4:28 AM on August 31, 2009


protorp, we've already dealt with that, and we did it in ROT13 for the sake of people who may not have read the books already. But yeah, cheers. A brief mention does not a genre-crossing book make.
posted by Dysk at 6:51 AM on August 31, 2009


I don't understand the people who love the Algebraist! I thought it was a step down from the usual "M" stuff.
Best Space Opera ever? Consider Phlebas, FTW.
posted by conifer at 6:55 AM on August 31, 2009


I don't care if he's publishing it under the pseud Flopsy McWigglesworth, I'm getting my fucking Banks fix. And free podcast!
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:16 AM on August 31, 2009


I thought Against a Dark Background was ok, Wasp Factory brilliant and Consider Phlebus excellent, but I really don't know if I want to read anymore of his work. There's too much else out there.
posted by Hickeystudio at 8:22 AM on August 31, 2009


I thought Against a Dark Background was ok, Wasp Factory brilliant and Consider Phlebus excellent, but I really don't know if I want to read anymore of his work. There's too much else out there.

Read the rest! Even if you just stick them at the end of your list.
posted by knapah at 9:07 AM on August 31, 2009


I must stand up for Excession as well. Any book that has the following paragraph has to noteworthy:

The usual example given to illustrate an Outside Context Problem was imagining you were a tribe on a largish, fertile island; you'd tamed the land, invented the wheel or writing or whatever, the neighbours were cooperative or enslaved but at any rate peaceful and you were busy raising temples to yourself with all the excess productive capacity you had, you were in a position of near-absolute power and control which your hallowed ancestors could hardly have dreamed of and the whole situation was just running along nicely like a canoe on wet grass... when suddenly this bristling lump of iron appears sailless and trailing steam in the bay and these guys carrying long funny-looking sticks come ashore and announce you've just been discovered, you're all subjects of the Emperor now, he's keen on presents called tax and these bright-eyed holy men would like a word with your priests.
posted by Ber at 9:59 AM on August 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


I love Excession - possibly not the first Culture book anyone should be reading though.

I really, really like Inversions, but again you should probably read another Culture book first.
posted by Artw at 10:38 AM on August 31, 2009


I really, really like Inversions, but again you should probably read another Culture book first.

Quoted for truth. You'd have no idea it was a Culture novel, or even that there was such thing as the Culture(!), if you started with this one. You'd have none of the context that informs the background of the characters, and makes the whole narrative make sense.
posted by Dysk at 10:42 AM on August 31, 2009


To refer back to Voivod's idea, it's even more amusing to read The Algebraist in that manner, given the nature of the predominant religion in that book.
posted by Electric Dragon at 10:54 AM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


The answer to perennial question of 'what non-M Banks to read first?' I think, boils down to three options a) The Wasp Factory (then the rest in order) b) The Crow Road c) It doesn't matter.

I fixed this for you. HTH. HAND.
posted by Justinian at 11:08 AM on August 31, 2009


I was delighted to find Transition on sale in Heathrow on Sunday morning, 4 days ahead of official release and perfect for my holiday. Relevant to this post, I picked it up with the latest Atwood "Year of the Flood", which is apparently thick with SF tropes, much as her previous "Oryx and Crake" was, but which she swears is non-SF because she appears to have her head up her arse about being classified as a genre novelist.

I'd give some review of the Banks but have been too knackered to get very far into as yet. Maybe later.
posted by biffa at 1:05 PM on August 31, 2009


Fuck, is Atwood seriously doing her "I don't write SF" bullshit again? Gah!
posted by Artw at 1:11 PM on August 31, 2009


Yup
posted by Artw at 1:13 PM on August 31, 2009


Hi Art, yeah there was a profile of her in the weekend Guardian where she was again insisting. She is also apparently insisting that she is on the the "greenest world book tour ever – not an air mile in sight", as she is coming to Europe not by plane but on the Queen Mary 2. All the data I have seen comparing cruising with just about any other public transport suggests cruise emissions are higher, considerably worse even than long haul flights, and that apparently liners are also pretty bad in other environemntal buses too. One can only assume Atwood is a moron who made not the least effort to check what she was doing before opening her mouth or signing on for the marketing people's spin. I assume she will be slated come the weekend papers.
posted by biffa at 1:50 PM on August 31, 2009


Surprised she's not using her 'long pen'

In the radio interview in the original post Banks and Murial Grey both openly laugh at Atwood's attitude re sf.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:37 PM on August 31, 2009


That's because Banks is a mensch while Atwood... isn't.
posted by Justinian at 3:54 PM on August 31, 2009


Talking squid in outer space
posted by Artw at 4:06 PM on August 31, 2009


There's too much else out there.

Examples please? As someone who loves Banks, but hates getting stuck in the rut of being obsessed with a single author for years at a time, please set me free and tell me who the hell else to read.
posted by Jimbob at 5:42 PM on August 31, 2009


It's funny how rot13ed text starts looking like Culture person and drone names.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 6:59 PM on August 31, 2009


Hey Ber,

I think I read your quote recently in Use of Weapons. I'm almost sure of it. As I haven't read Excession yet.
posted by Severian at 9:06 PM on August 31, 2009


Severian, I don't think so. Wikipedia agrees with Ber.
posted by Dysk at 9:12 PM on August 31, 2009


Darn, now I have to go and read Excession. *snaps his fingers with sarcastic resignation*
posted by Severian at 9:37 PM on August 31, 2009


Why Kelman's rage at the genrefication of Scottish literature concerns us all
posted by Artw at 11:18 PM on August 31, 2009


I thought Banks alternated between M and non-M novels, which leaves me wondering which he will do next. Hopefully another M since I really enjoyed Matter, and although I like the non-M stuff I've read, nothing comes close to a good Culture novel.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:17 AM on September 1, 2009


which leaves me wondering which he will do next.

In one of his recent interviews he says he's writing a Culture novel next, starting in January. So I'd expect it late next year or more likely early 2011
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:22 AM on September 1, 2009


Awesome.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 11:17 AM on September 1, 2009


So far it's got more of an M-less feel to it than a M feel, if you ask me.

Not sure I can be doing with this abridgment business.
posted by Artw at 11:59 AM on September 1, 2009


Examples please.

Ok. John Crowley's work is worth multiple titles, particularly his Aegypt series.

Also, I'm currently reading "A Glastonbury Romance" by John Cowper Powys and it's seriously bizarre.

I will get to more Banks I'm sure, though.
posted by Hickeystudio at 7:36 AM on September 2, 2009


Iain Banks: Even at my age I still have something to prove - interview in the Guardian
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:38 AM on September 8, 2009


I would dearly love to go for a pint with Iain Banks after seeing this video (and of course reading pretty much everything he's ever written).
posted by Happy Dave at 8:59 AM on September 16, 2009


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