book review: consider phlebas

I expected something different from Iain M Banks’ Consider Phlebas. I mean I knew coming in that it was science fiction, that there was a group in it called The Culture, who are kind of a post scarcity and everything else kind of society, and that there are a few books in the series. I also knew from interviews that the protagonist would be a rebel against The Culture, which it sees as too perfect, an evolutionary dead end. I didn’t expect it to read like a game of Traveller. A very good game, one filled with adventure and mercenaries and explosions and an alien war and crazy card games and stuff, but it was a lot less cerebral than I’d been led to expect.

I’d thought the rebellious protagonist would engage in debate with the Culture and that would be how it would all get illuminated. Instead it was a bunch of space opera action scenes. Which is cool and all. I just expected density. It was better written than the (similar) Alastair Reynolds books I’ve been reading in the last year or so (but with fewer cool ideas), and now I know what to expect.

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