Excession

Discussion in 'Iain M. Banks' started by Diziet Sma, Jul 5, 2017.

  1. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Administrator Staff Member

    Excession is a difficult book to comment and I'm of two minds about it.
    On one hand, I’m in awe of Banks. His talent to imagine and create the Culture is truly unbelievable. Excession is an overwhelming read because of its tremendous scope, in a way is like dealing with a genius but out of control child. Banks uses the Big Dumb Object as a connecting thread in order to introduce not only new characters and living spaces, but most importantly new aspects of the Culture, at least new to me as I haven’t read Consider Phlebas or The State of the Art.

    The moral dilemma faced by citizens to find a meaningful life is not new as such, but it is used as a theme to amaze the reader further with new different aspects and possibilities of the Culture. And the Culture, with its different facets and wondrous potential, is what I have loved about Excension: From the Outside Context Problem, the Zeletic Elench Society, the Minds with their Interesting Times Gang and eccentric members. The myriad of biological citizens as well as artificial such as minds and drones, the different living spaces to the ambiguous concept of utopia, death, and sublimation. Astoundingly clever!

    Now, from a strictly tale-telling reading experience, I haven’t enjoyed Excession as much as I did Use of Weapons or The Player of Games. The reason being is I personally didn’t find it as gripping as a cohesive story. I have loved and laughed at its different sections and chapters, but precisely because of its magnitude introducing so many folds and intricacies, I have found it wasn’t as absorbing as a singular tale. My focus kept re-directing itself to the numerous and complex elements of the book, almost forgetting at times Excession original raison d'être.
    What makes Excession a formidable story, conceptually speaking, is in a way what detriments the tale telling flow of a well-balanced story. I suppose I have encountered my own personal out of context book, which it is unique in is own right and deserves a singular place in one of my bookshelves.
     
    Boreas likes this.
  2. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Great review!

    I always felt that the actual Excession event was less the point of the story, although the implications and potentialities it offers is pretty astounding! I loved Excession for all the turmoil and politics it brings out (relatively speaking) in a society that tries very hard to imagine itself above such mundane matters.

    And it's really the first Culture novel that gives a much wider view of Culture society and shows that while it is fairly homogeneous in one sense, it's also not with the different factions and splinter-Culture groups that do their own thing. This semi-crisis event brings the Culture's modus operandi into clearer view; how they form ad-hoc groupings to deal with situations that temporarily take on quasi-hierarchical structures in an almost completely non-hierarchical, diffuse civilisation.

    This Culture instalment also has some of the funniest moments/scenes/dialogues, another reason I love the book.
     
    Diziet Sma likes this.
  3. Diziet Sma

    Diziet Sma Administrator Staff Member

    The minds sections felt to me almost like a novella within the story and, as usual, Banks’ wit and sarcasm are best delivered by the artificial characters.
     

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