Tag Archives: adventure

Consider Phlebas

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Consider Phlebas [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Iain M Banks, book 1 in The Culture series.

Banks Consider Phlebas

I had been intending for many years to read Iain M. Banks science fiction series The Culture, of which Consider Phlebas is the first volume. Because of this persistent aspiration, I collected several of the books before even beginning to read.

Considering how lauded The Culture is, I was surprised at the extent to which the book is pretty conventional space opera, but I certainly enjoyed it. The increasingly intelligent handling of interstellar travel in recent decades of sf seems to have left me with an allergy to FTL “jump drives,” although Banks does a little better than pure handwavium for the technology. The plotting and structure are not ordinary, and those who want straightforward adventure with triumphant endings might find this book unpalatable. The worldbuilding is ambitious, and it’s easy to see from just this one (of what I am assured is an extremely varied series) that there will be many interesting environments and large-scale events in these books.

Consider Phlebas is focused on a “short” half-century war between two interstellar powers, the Culture and the Idirans. The chief viewpoint character works as a spy for the Idirans, but there are “State of Play” chapters that offer the Culture perspective on events as well. A documentary conceit to provide greater narrative unity to the text is supplied in an epilogue. . . . . (Hover over to reveal spoiler) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The use of “A.D.” dating in the “historical” appendices is a curious choice. It does demonstrate that the Culture is older than modern terrestrial civilization, and that the events of the book are actually within our historical period although elsewhere in the galaxy. It does not establish what relationship, if any, the “humans” of the Culture have with Earth.

I expect to continue with The Player of Games fairly promptly.

Evil does not sleep, Elrond. It waits. And in the moment of our complacency, it blinds us.

John D Payne and Patrick McKay, The Rings of Power, s01e01, “A Shadow of the Past”

 Hermetic quote Payne McKay The Rings of Power s01e01 A Shadow of the Past evil does not sleep waits moment complacency blinds us

Crown of Horns

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Bone: Crown of Horns [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Jeff Smith, book 9 of the Bone series.

Smith Bone Crown of Thorns

The final volume of the Bone series doesn’t have many surprises. All of the plots that were set up in the earlier numbers play out in a way that seems pretty inevitable, if not outright predictable. There are a few jokes, and lots of chasing and fighting. Comeuppances and rewards (including a hero’s burial) are distributed according to the characters’ merits established before.

I had been holding out for some exciting backstory on Ted the bug, but I was disappointed there. Maybe it’s in one of the prequel supplements: Rose or Stupid Stupid Rat Tails.

II. His Ruling Symbols from The Philosophy of Shelley’s Poetry in Ideas of Good and Evil by William Butler Yeats.

“I think too that as he knelt before an altar, where a thin flame burnt in a lamp made of green agate, a single vision would have come to him again and again, a vision of a boat drifting down a broad river between high hills where there were caves and towers, and following the light of one Star; and that voices would have told him how there is for every man some one scene, some one adventure, some one picture that is the image of his secret life, for wisdom first speaks in images, and that this one image, if he would but brood over it his life long, would lead his soul, disentangled from unmeaning circumstance and the ebb and flow of the world, into that far household, where the undying gods await all whose souls have become simple as flame, whose bodies have become quiet as an agate lamp.” [via]