I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
In Excession, the Culture's espionage and dirty tricks section orders Diplomat Byr Gen-Hofoen to steal the soul of a long-dead starship captain. By accepting the mission, Byr irrevocably plunges himself into a conspiracy: one that could either lead the universe into an age of peace or to the brink of annihilation.
When I intially approached Iain M. Banks’ Culture novels, I was unconvinced that I was going to like them. Now, here I am, finished number 5 and I am a total convert. There was a lot going on in this one and I maybe didn’t love it all, but the Affront made up for it.
Yup, it was all about the revolting tentacle beasts! They are unremittingly patriarchal, violent, militaristic, all about meat eating, cruel, and anything else that the Culture stands against. Not only do they know that they’re an affront (hence their name) to the Culture, they are proud and loud about it. They are the villains that you can love to hate--such a caricature of the bad guy that they’re hard to take seriously. They’re so revolting that they’re adorable.
Add to that an espionage plot carried out almost entirely by super-intelligent AI spaceships, various people stored in one ship’s memory banks (are they dead or not in this state?) and an alien object apparently from another, older universe (the Excession of the title). However, I don’t care if you’re just a glimmer in some machine’s memory banks, I don’t think any woman would write a character who has chosen to stay 8 months pregnant for 40 years! I call bullshit on that, Mr. Banks.
Unfortunately, we lost Mr. Banks in 2013. I’m glad I still have a number of his novels as yet unread and can look forward to more time spent in the Culture.
Book 319 of my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.