The Algebraist audiobook cover

The Algebraist by Iain M. Banks

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The Algebraist had been heartily recommended to me by a friend, and heartily recommended against by another. Naturally, I had to pick it up. My take: it’s not at the top of my reco list, but it’s not in my hall of shame. I enjoyed it, found it somewhat thought-provoking, and thought the plot twists were interesting. My opinion might be biased to the negative because I had just (finally) finished Iain M. Banks’ Matter, book 8 of the Culture series, and hated it. It’s fair to say I was a bit put off by Banks’ style in The Algebraist after forcing myself to finish Matter. Even with that negative bias,

I still enjoyed this one. It’s a very large stand-alone novel that takes a bit too long to develop for my liking—at least for a novel that really only follows one character in depth. I don’t mind a long read, but I want to dig deep on multiple characters like Peter F. Hamilton does. For this length, I wanted more than just one main character. 


Genre: Sci-Fi
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Use of Weapons audiobook cover

Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks

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There’s something about “Use of Weapons” that I absolutely love, but can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe it’s the planet-hopping 007-super-agent? Or the ruthlessness the Culture’s special agents employ to guide and shape civilizations? Or maybe its Banks’ character creation, exploration, and growth? 

It could be all of the above… and the unique chapter structure of the novel. I’m going to co-opt a review from Audible who explains the structure better than I could:

“The prologue establishes an event at a particular point in time, call it time t-zero. The story then begins at time t plus 13 and is told in alternating chapters, half of them moving backward toward t-zero, and the other half moving forward from time t plus 13. You arrive at the end of the book when the backward narrative reaches t-zero just as the forward narrative reaches a climax that reveals the real meaning of the events in the prologue. It is cleverly done, but you really do have to pay attention.” 


Genre: Sci-Fi, Space Opera
Series: Culture |
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The Player of Games audiobook cover

Player of Games, The by Iain M. Banks

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Two books into the series, and I am absolutely loving this universe. As a mystery-thriller-drama, The Player of Games is a completely different book from the action-adventure of Consider Phlebasbut—but still thoroughly enjoyable. Banks expands the universe further with this novel, and thinks through what a post-scarcity society would be like in the far-far future. I’ve often thought about how the post-scarcity is a socio-economic state to strive for as humankind. Anyway, that thought process is my own, and not what the book is about. It’s a great read and I recommend continuing with the series.


Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Culture |
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Consider Phlebas audiobook cover

Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks

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This was my first Culture series book, and is so far is still my favorite. It’s a far-reaching novel with a protagonist you really want to root for, even if you don’t fully understand his motivations. He’s always in awful situations, jumping from frying pan to fryer again and again, but always has something up his sleeve to barely escape by his teeth—pun intended if you’ve read it. As I get more into the Culture series, I appreciate this book more and more. It’s an incredible adventure set in the middle of a vast universe. 


Genre: Sci-Fi
Series: Culture | Subjects: Rich’s Reco’s
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