Post-Scarcity and Sarcastic Suitcases
“Iain [Menzies] Banks (16 February 1954 – 9 June 2013) was born in Fife and was educated at Stirling University, where he studied English Literature, Philosophy and Psychology. [...] He is acclaimed as one of the most powerful, innovative and exciting writers of his generation: The Guardian called him “the standard by which the rest of SF is judged” and the New York Times-bestselling William Gibson described Banks as a “phenomenon”.“ Iain Banks dot net / About
Banks was not my first science fiction author. But he is now the one I scream at people as a recommendation. His Culture series changed my life. We always had the books, as my husband is the ultimate science fiction fan. And he was heartbroken when he learned of Iain M. Banks' death in 2013.
I broke into the series with the audiobooks. Audiobooks suit me better as I get older (shut up, my brain says I'm 28, but every other part of me is 38). I am a child of Radio 4 dramas and Sunday night story-time. It's no surprise that I enjoy a good dramatised audiobook. Peter Kenny narrates the Culture series, another narrator I would walk through fire for.
The Culture series is listed as a ten-book series; however, only nine are complete novels. And when I say full novels, the audiobook for The Algebraist clocks in at 24 hours and 3 minutes. Some print Culture books can be used in self-defence or as yoga blocks.
The series introduces a post-scarcity society (of the same name)—which is the dream. The series deals with the interactions between The Culture and other underdeveloped and less forward-thinking civilisations. Though sometimes not immediately apparent, there is always a pie in which The Culture has its finger. The stand-out reason for my enjoyment of the series is the lack of lecturing. Modern Sci-Fi-Lite always has a point to be made, some very obvious social commentary as if you were a clown being hit in the face with a pie. I am looking at you, Red Rising by Pierce Brown.
Banks doesn't sort people into houses and doesn't present each character as if Banks is reading out their Top Trumps card. Why is this important to me? Because social commentary works best when it catches you out. I read these books, enjoy them, and then realise what they're trying to say. Therefore making me question myself; why did I enjoy them? It isn't a black-and-white judgement of humanity. We're not talking about (again) Young Adult writing, which cookie-cuts out a villain for you as if they used TVTropes as a writing aide.
The Culture series is the definition of a Space Opera. There are big ideas, significant events, and prominent characters. The least of which are the AIs.
So, go on and get stuck in. Make up your mind about your favourites. Iain M. Banks has created a world you can get lost in for a few months.
Each book is wildly different, and I only re-read certain books. My top rated in the series are:
- The Player of Games – ISBN 1-85723-146-5
- Excession – ISBN 1-85723-394-8
- Look To Windward – ISBN 1-85723-969-5
- The Hydrogen Sonata – ISBN 978-0356501505
Beir bua agus beannacht.