After an old colleague of mine told me about Iain M Banks’ Culture series, I was intrigued and wanted to delve into Banks’ universe. I bit the bullet earlier this year and Consider Phlebas became my commuting book. I’ve read some Ian Banks before, namely the Wasp Factory and Transition, which I both thoroughly enjoyed. As a sucker for science fiction, I couldn’t wait to get stuck into this iconic series.
Consider Phlebas stars Bora Horza Gobuchul, a Changer who is working for the Idirans (a three legged war like race). He’s been tasked to retrieve a rogue Mind, which are AI machines built by the Culture, which have continually evolved to become hyper intelligent, way beyond their creators. The Culture, by the way, is a interstellar anachorist utopian society. You can live a perfect life, where you don’t have to work, money doesn’t exist and everything is looked after by sentient robots. Pretty cushty.
This elusive mind has landed on a dead planet, controlled by a god-like non-corporeal alien race called the Dra’Azon. It’s pretty handy to the Idirans that Horza used to be part of a small group of Changers that lived and worked on the planet.
This essentially sets up the entire narrative thread, and from the very first scene you’re whisked from spaceship to spaceship to Orbital to planet. I do love me a novel that takes you a whistle stop tour of the galaxy.
One of my favourite aspects of the novel, is that it is centred on a tiny conflict within a greater galactic war. The narrative boils down to one guy’s mission. No big stakes, no galactic hero i.e. Star Wars. I do love a personal story within the confines of space. It seems a lot more potent to me then big heroes destroying the evil empire.
Banks has definitely captured my imagination with this novel, and I cannot wait to see what else he has in store for me within his universe.