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This is Iain M Banks's sixth work of science fiction. He uses it to explore cyber-ontology in a world where computer viruses are amongst the oldest living organisms. Four narratives wind their way round a defunct space elevator, which has been left behind in the American Midwest by an ancient civilisation, and is now the only known hope for survival against an encroaching galactic dust cloud.
The plotting is limber. What seem initially to be cliff-hangers, murders and abductions, graduate into an interestingly expanded notion of death, as characters are reborn and reborn again, or generate simultaneous manifestations of themselves.
The climaxes rollick along until we accept a high level of instability; Banks achieves a real sense of vertigo when one character dies five times on a single page. Soon he is switching the reader's focus at will: 'The wind was the half-random machine-code shiftings symbolic of the movement of languages and programs within the geographical image of the operating system, while the rain was raw data, filtering through, slowed, from base-reality, and as meaningless as static.
Banks is highly concerned with language. He examines the rebirth of speech after death, disorders the writing of the character who 'cant spel rite, jus do evrythin foneticly', and even plays at ways of punctuating the slippage between various realities. He is also funny, maintaining a steady flow of philological jokes and computer humour.
All that having been said, there is a certain conceptual narcissism to this sort of techno-science fiction. It is rather like being on the back of a motorbike going at , desperately wanting to stop and buy a newspaper.
Banks deals in numerous ideas. He raises the question of genetic implants for information transference, but barely expands it; he sketches in a 'clan' or caste system, and then provides a sudden, unexpectedly dreary blow for liberal democracy; and the importance of chaos as a political force is only properly explained at the book's abrupt ending.
Where he does elaborate his posited world, it can be seen as an impressive architectural construct, but if the reader approaches the story as a game, trying to grasp the rules and anticipate their implications, no matter how smooth the writing, the underlying exposition seems jagged. To those not even mildly conversant with science fiction, the most striking feature of this book is likely to be its lack of emotional subtlety.
The main characters have something on the order of four feelings each. And Banks's descriptive passages are oddly reminiscent of Pre-Raphaelite painting, where clarity of detail flattens rather than adds depth to the picture. A reader who has never considered how big a space elevator must be to escape gravity might miss the 'vast and sullen grandeur' of the world Banks describes, and there is no spiritual grandeur to provide a measure.
It might seem redundant to point out that Banks fails to achieve something he wasn't attempting. The fact remains that a lot of what happens in his novel boils down to the usual adventures and fighting. For non-aficionados of science fiction the book will be more of a curiosity than anything else. But a buff will almost certainly find it a pleasure. You can find our Community Guidelines in full here. Want to discuss real-world problems, be involved in the most engaging discussions and hear from the journalists?
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I like the characters, I enjoy Bascule's voice, i like the virtual stuff, but I dunno, I just can't seem to get through it. Here's hoping that the 3rd time is the charm! I can understand that: reading Bascule's voice can be hard work and it takes a lot of the enjoyment out. I know it is my case, but because it is balanced by my pleasure at reading a dyslexic voice, I overlook that. RSS Feed.
Reading: Iain M. Banks — Feersum Endjinn (7th+ time)
Post a Comment. Science fiction and fantasy being close bedfellows, it comes as no surprise that innumerable works within the umbrella genre of speculative fiction or as John Clute names it, fantastika have meshed together, the lines between the two bleeding into one. Examining the link between myth, legend, and science fiction, Iain M. The majority of humanity having evacuated Earth some time ago via space elevators, what life remains has degenerated to the point technology is no longer fully understood. Society re-stratified into a monarchy where the lowest of the low are monitored via implant by the highest of the high who have the luxury of dipping into the net whenever they please, all of reality is underlain by the dataspere—a cyber world where people may live both in life and death. A dust cloud called the Encroachment approaching Earth from the cosmos at the beginning of the novel, the King nevertheless lives his days in luxury, caught up in a war with the Engineers—the very group seeking to abate the oncoming destruction. Feersum Endjinn is told from four rotating points of view.
Intricate, disconcerting far-future saga from the author The Player of Games , etc. The characters interact mostly within a colossal building called the Serehfa, which incorporates an advanced computer network of which the crypt, a virtual reality realm where stored personalities roam and interact, is menaced by slowly advancing chaos. King Adijine, who possesses the means to spy on anyone anywhere, has gone to war with the Chapel Engineers over control of a mysterious something that may be of assistance against the Encroachment. His Chief Scientist, Hortis Gadfium, has formed a conspiracy to search for a better way to tackle the problem; she receives a strange but encouraging message from the top of the fast-tower, an area long isolated from the rest of the building that was once the anchor for a space elevator system. The Asura, a young woman gradually recalling her memories and purpose, embodies another message, this from one independent part of the computer system to another. When Count Alandre Sessine is murdered, his relict in the crypt prompts another version of himself, prepared long ago, to find out why.
This is Iain M Banks's sixth work of science fiction. He uses it to explore cyber-ontology in a world where computer viruses are amongst the oldest living organisms. Four narratives wind their way round a defunct space elevator, which has been left behind in the American Midwest by an ancient civilisation, and is now the only known hope for survival against an encroaching galactic dust cloud. The plotting is limber. What seem initially to be cliff-hangers, murders and abductions, graduate into an interestingly expanded notion of death, as characters are reborn and reborn again, or generate simultaneous manifestations of themselves. The climaxes rollick along until we accept a high level of instability; Banks achieves a real sense of vertigo when one character dies five times on a single page. Soon he is switching the reader's focus at will: 'The wind was the half-random machine-code shiftings symbolic of the movement of languages and programs within the geographical image of the operating system, while the rain was raw data, filtering through, slowed, from base-reality, and as meaningless as static.