I feel kind of ambiguous about this book – one thing is certain it will never be my banks favourite, but on the other hand it's a must read if you are interested in the Culture.
First of all I found it hard to follow, all too often I found myself in doubt as to who was who (or maybe what was what). There is a lot of characters in this book and all of them seem important at one time or another and I had a hard time differentiating them. Maybe the characters are not as important as their actions but I still felt that I was missing something.
Secondly, I missed the humour of the other Banks books that I've read. I'm not expecting Terry Pratchett here, Banks is normally quite gloomy in his tales, but normally it's with a small twist of humour that makes it all bearable. There's not such comic relief in Excession. The idea of joining the Culture doesn't sound that alluring to me anymore. I'm looking back on my review of Player of Games, and notice that I'm also noting the missing humour there. I'm not sure whether this says something about the books or about me (comments, anybody?).
But as I said in the first paragraph, this is a must read if you are interested in the Culture and its inner workings. The book is about how the Culture deals with an excession (an event that the Culture can not easily handle – not something that it's used to). The excession is interesting but, in it self is not that important – it's the reactions of the different Minds and groups of Minds as they try to deal with the excession, that's interesting. Schemes within schemes and plans within plans. There are a few humanoids in the story, and their stories are interesting, but it's probably the fact that there are humans in this story at all that depresses me the most (I'll have to shut-up now, before I spoil everything). One thing is sure, this shouldn't be your first Banks book.
Written on 1st March 1999 by TC.
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