Surface Detail

Surface Detail

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When sex slave Lededje Y'breq is murdered by a politician on the planet Sichult, the artificial intelligence running one of the Culture's immense starships resurrects her so she can seek revenge. Meanwhile, the Culture is uneasily watching the conflict over whether to preserve virtual Hells for the souls of "sinners" or give them the release of death.
Publisher: New York : Orbit
Copyright Date: ©2010
ISBN: 9780316180498
Characteristics: 1 online resource
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Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc. - Distributor

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IJ89
Feb 23, 2019

Warning: this comment contains mild spoilers.

I've been enjoying getting to know the Culture books, and this book provided more of that enjoyment. This, however, was the first of Banks' Culture books I've encountered which included really grisly, evocatively described first-hand violence and death. I wasn't expecting it, and nearly set the book aside after a carefully-described murder in the first chapter, and distressingly specific descriptions of the torments of the Pavulian Hell. This doesn't necessarily detract from the quality of the story or writing, but it was unexpected and shocking, and I wish I'd known about them in advance.

Many of the plot threads initially appear unrelated, and only become more clearly intertwined as the story progresses. The payoff of the various plots coming together is good, though some of them remain relatively abstract and disconnected from the main part of the story; they're part of the world and help paint the big picture, but the only direct connection is tenuous and fleeting near the end of the book. The book demands that readers pay attention and keep track of a disparate cast of characters without a lot of coddling from the author. Fortunately, the characters are all distinct and different, and there's no sense that each character is just a subset of the author's voice.

If you're a word nerd, Banks throws some excellent $64 words into this book. This is a man who clearly enjoyed playing with language, and digging out the odd gems from the deeper strata of English. That combined with his imaginative stories and nearly limitless playground of the far future keep me coming back for more.

s
starkradio
Mar 03, 2015

I love Iain Banks, and am really unhappy about his death last year, which came too soon, too soon.

This is an extraordinary book.

g
GregKush
Jul 09, 2014

If you're reading other books in the Culture series, you won't want to miss this one. The story is complex and very rich, adding one of the more original ideas I've come across in some time in science fiction: virtual Hell and the concept that the Hells of different galactic races are somewhat intertwined. This is handled with more than a passing notion -- there's serious attention paid into some key characters in this virtual realm.

For this book to really have the most meaning, you're best off reading "Consider Phlebas" and "Use of Weapons" first. There's enough background from those two books to make this one feel that much richer.

m
monikak1
Aug 01, 2012

Read about a quarter of book. Not my style. Very confusing

p
ptupper
May 10, 2012

After enjoying "Matter" a great deal, I didn't like Banks' follow-up Culture novel as much.

While "Matter" had several parallel plots, "Surface Detail" has a lot of tangled plots that only loosely interconnect. Banks also develops a bad habit of jumping around in time in a single scene, when there's no particular reason not to tell the scene in a linear way.

There are also some logic problems. Much of the story revolves around the concept of Hells, virtual afterlives of punishment and torment. Some activists infiltrate their society's Hell in order report back what really happens. We're later told that the Hell's real purpose to make the living behave properly from fear of punishment. If so, why is what happens in Hell kept secret?

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myuseraccount
May 05, 2015

9th book in the Culture Series

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