View Full Version : Consider Phlebas - Iain M Banks

13-05-2002, 08:32:33
Just finished reading this one - hmm - feel a bit underwhelmed by it. The whole ending, down in the control centre, driving the trains around, just, I don't know, didn't really seem to fit? And is it me or is his "Culture Orbital" idea totally copied from Lary Nivens "Ringworld", or did I imagine it wrongly?

It's not a bad book, but, I just feel a little underwhelmed by it.

13-05-2002, 12:09:25
In Banks's essay, "A Few Notes on the Culture", he confirms that orbitals are directly inspired from Niven's ringworld, and he's not the least bit ashamed of that.

I actually liked the ending to Consider Phlebas, myself. It was intensely personal, which is a direct counterpoint to the whole Culture-Idiran war. It showed just how futile and meaningless all these people's efforts and sacrifices were. I wasn't terribly impressed by the set piece of the underground complex, but really enjoyed the character interactions and evolution of the plot into that tight, trapped space.

Overall, the only portion of the book I didn't enjoy was the segue with the Eaters. It just felt arbitrary and unnecessary. The character's reactions there served to alienate him from me as a reader, and disconnected the flow of the plot for me.

One side note to those who have read the other Culture novels, didn't the gang's escape from the GCU where they blasted through a bunch of walls and such sort of give the lie to the rest of the novels, which portray these ships as being somewhat omnipotent within thier own hulls? In particular, I'm thinking of the passage in Use of Weapons where the statement is made that the ship was capable of suppressing a thermonuclear detonation within its service bay.

13-05-2002, 12:29:53
Unless the GCU wanted them to escape. They can be contrary.

13-05-2002, 13:47:17
Jesus will you people stop! all this reviewing Iain Banks novels is really annoying! I log on for a quik lurk and boom- I am made to feel I have to post something:mad: How can I be lazy under these conditions!

And I really hate being predictable too>sulk<

I enjoyed Consider Phlebas too, and I also didn't like the Eaters scenes, but mainly coz I'm squeemish and found I have a good imagination for sights I don't want to imagine. I liked the set-piece at the end with the shinney trains, and I liked the set-piecedness of the set-piece. I felt sad when Gernau Gurgeh... well, you know, and interesting that the prodigal Mind decided to call itself what it did.

All in all I think my sense of literary enjoyment is not as developed as some peoples, coz I never seem to have particular things that annoy me about a book, either I enjoyed the whole thing or I didn't. I'm starting to feel like the guy who goes to a wine-tasting session with the local wine club- and glugs everything down and beams wide and sez "Yup! that sure was good wine, >hick<, hey, what you spitting it out for:confused:".

I hope you feel proud of yourselves.

13-05-2002, 13:56:19
I can't believe you drank all the wine!

I know what you mean though, all the over analysing spoilt a lot of books for me at school, if reading at some ridiculous pace like a chapter a week wasn't enough to cripple a book to start off with.

13-05-2002, 14:30:50
I watch Newsnight Review almost every sad-ass-saturday, (I dunno why I can't say more Criticy type stuff about things by now)- mainly it just amuses me to watch the reviewers knawing away at things... its almost as if... they can't help it! you could get those clowns to review Little Red Riding hood (Ladybird edition) and they wouldn't be able to stop themselves, they'd be banging on about Narative and inherent post-modern erotisicm and phallic representations with that desperate look in their eyes like people suffocating on their own laughter, its almost like watching hamsters nibbling at cage-bars, hilarious.

13-05-2002, 14:35:11
You really should get out more. :D

I can't watch that program, it inevitably makes me want to hurl something heavy at the TV. When Germaine Greer is the person I think is giving the sensible common sense review I know things are going wrong.

13-05-2002, 14:39:06
I like listening to the noises the black-american one and the big stooped irish one makes. I saw this episode of Adam and Joe once where they did a piss-take of Newsnight Review using fluffy toys. The Irish poet guy was a fluffy turtle and the author of Man & Boy (who uysed to appear on the show) was a cheeky monkey.
It was very funny, I laughed long and hard.

13-05-2002, 14:41:01
The bad thing about going out a lot is that you don't get to see Adam and Joe enough. :(

13-05-2002, 14:46:23
A truer word never said.

13-05-2002, 14:49:45
The Toytanic Christmas special was one of the funniest shows. I've ever seen. Ali McBear was great as well. With Judge Reinhold as the judge. :lol:

13-05-2002, 14:54:35
Now thats what I call good TeeVee:), Adam & Joe, Britains only real answer to SouthPark and The Simpsons.

13-05-2002, 14:58:10
Yeah. They should be on more often.

13-05-2002, 14:59:05
One of my favourite things they did was go into a shop that said "Breakages must be paid for" then gave the shop owner 200 (entire budget for that show) and proceeded to break 200 worth of stuff. Shop owner wasn't happy. :D

13-05-2002, 15:17:20
With all this moaning about reviewing then, why do we have a forum for "films and books" :confused: :cute:

Didn't realise that Banks openly admitted to using the Ringworld idea, that's cool. It does fit in to his grand scheme that the Culture builds all these huge whopping great massive awesome machines. Perhaps his 3 legged Querls were inspired by Nivens 3-legged Piersons Puppeteers?

The end set piece was very personalised, and very pacy yes, I agree. I did think that the end made everything totally futile, guess I missed the point that their futile presonal struggles were just that, futile. Good point, makes me think about the book in a different light. I felt rather deflated with the end of the book, but that's because I'd got so in to the characters and their futile deaths, well, deflated me. Good writing then actually.

Agree also about The Eaters - that was just plain bizzarre!

Queeg - just enjoy what you enjoy and know that you enjoy it - it doesn't matter! But by talking about things, you might start thinking of things in a different light and maybe appreciate things in a different way to how you thought before. It's just happened for me above re: the ending of Consider Phlebas.

Also, I make no apologies for constantly reviewing Banks novels - I've recently bought a batch load of the buggers and I'm reading them at a rate of knots; this forum is here and it seems lots of other people have read them too, so why not eh!

13-05-2002, 15:44:00
Analysis isn't something that I do, it's just something that happens while I'm reading. It's the way my warped brain works. 90% of me is absorbed into the story and just going with the flow, but there's always that other 10% sitting back at the back and heckling, pointing out inconsistencies. Same thing during movies. Example: I really enjoyed watching the movie The Matrix, it's a lot of fun, but it doesn't take much thought to completely unravel the entire thing into a messy ball of tangled knots. Knowing that doesn't really change my enjoyment of the movie or book, but it's also something that I can't ever be rid of, it's just how I approach things.

Mike, yes that's a possible rationale for the GCU's behavior (or lack thereof), but stretching a bit as I would think the Minds would be rather fiercely protective of one another. But who knows. My own opinion is that Banks just wanted to blow some stuff up for awhile.:)

Funky/Qweeg, hope you haven't got burned out on Banks reviews yet, cause I'm just about done with Look to Windward and will be posting shortly!:p

13-05-2002, 16:41:12
Perhaps the Minds weren't as advanced in the escape in Phlebas?

Love to read a review of Look to Windward - just don't give away too much of the plot!

13-05-2002, 16:58:24
I think Banks' concept of the Minds was not as advanced when he wrote Phlebas. My impression is that technological advance has somewhat stagnated in the Culture, or at least there is little indication in any of the books that advances are still happening.

Either that, or Banks just ignored it as it was somewhat necessary to the plot, though from his other works I somewhat doubt he would do that.

I'll try, Funky, but it'll be hard. The one thing I really want to talk about happens right at the end. We'll see what I can do to keep it generic, though.:)

13-05-2002, 17:01:28
Guy: there is advancement, look at how older drones are perceived (I think there was one in Player of Games, another in Excession). They are frequently described as being bulkier and less elegant. Also, ISTR there being a new device of some description in one of them—might have been in Use of Weapons?

13-05-2002, 17:17:48
That is correct, however I was under the impression that the timescale they meant was on the order of a millenia or two for the evolution of the drones and such, whereas the stories all take place within a few centuries of each other. Just the impression I got, I could be wrong.

I don't recall any new devices being mentioned, though I could again be wrong. I only remember the talk about the excession in Excession being a technology that they did not have yet.

13-05-2002, 17:25:37
No, sorry, in Excession I was thinking of the cloud of ships: not exactly a new development, just impressive.

14-05-2002, 14:16:09
I didn't mean my point about all these damned blasted reviews to be a criticism of any kind:), just a general comment on my failure to be better, faster- more multi-capable- and perhaps with power-ups.

Banks mentions a vastly more advanced form of erm.. "sentient executive system" is my own term for it anyway in Look to Windward, its a distributed nano-mechanism kind of thing, I think it also had a widget. I guess in general a society like the Culture would develop very slowly indeed- following the law of increasing chaos, and diminishing returns. Basically that is to say the more ordered things become, the more frequent salient changes occur, the more chaotic and divergent things become, the less frequent come the salient changes. Abit like playing SMACX really.

Of course, this could just be a trick statement designed to cause debate.

In Consider, the Mind hiding on the planet of the dead is a new revolutionary type of super spangled Mind. I don't think (or don't recall) whether Banks indicates that other Minds of the time would have been capable of pulling off the tricks that the 'baby' Mind pulls off to survive. The baby Mind named itself Bora Horza Gorbuchal as well- not Gernau like I had earlier claimed (thats another story).

One more thing, I also read that thing on the culture where Banks admits to blatantly and unashamedly ripping of Nivens Ringworld, good artists invent- great artists steal!:) nothing wrong with using good ideas, and ringworlds have been used several times in other books that i've read too, then there is the game Halo...

Anyway criticize away.