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Iain Banks came to widespread and controversial public notice with the publication of his first novel, THE WASP FACTORY, in 1984. He has since gained enormous popular and critical acclaim for both his mainstream and his science fiction novels.
This rich, sweeping panorama of heroism and folly celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Culture, Banks's far-future semi-utopian society. The Gzilt, a civilization affiliated with the Culture, is only days away from leaving this reality for the Sublime, a condition of intense, hyper-real wonderfulness, when some of the Culture's self-aware spaceships catch hints that the Gzilt's decision to enter the Sublime may be based on a hoax. Vyr Cossont, a young, four-armed Gzilt musician, falls into the conflict as ships and their avatars try to figure out what's going on and then decide what to do about it, while powerful opponents attempt to stall the inquiry until time runs out. The action tumbles along at a dizzying pace, bouncing among a fascinating array of characters and locales. It's easy to see why Banks's fertile, cheerfully nihilistic imagination and vivid prose have made the Culture space operas bestsellers and award favorites. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Banks's latest Culture novel (after Surface Detail and Matter) is about the search for a 9800-year-old man. The hunter is a young musician who lives in -Girdlecity, a sculpted city that wraps around an entire planet. She's added a second pair of arms to her body to play that famously difficult instrument, the elevenstring. Her people are preparing to Sublime-to leave this universe and translate en masse to another, body-free plane of existence. Their holy book urges them to do this. The book always proved true in the past, but what if it is a hoax, foisted on them eons ago by alien tricksters? The 9800-year-old man may know the answer, but first she has to find him. VERDICT Banks's novels set in the alt-universe of the Culture are richly peopled with sentient beings, from energy people to ship Minds to all kinds of humanoids, insectoids, and what have you. No matter how exotic a detail, as Banks describes it, it's credible. And his stories grab your attention. Of interest not only to sf fans but also to lovers of good prose and plotting. [See Prepub Alert, 6/13/12; the author also writes noir fiction as Iain Banks.-Ed.]-David Keymer, Modesto, CA (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.