Sunday, July 24, 2011


So Surface Detail by Iain M Banks. The latest in his series about the utopian Culture, a civilisation of humans and AIs all living in perfect harmony, which would be quite dull if the Culture could resist the temptation to interfere in the affairs of other, last enlightened races. But meddle they do and with entertaining results.

The problem is that the AIs or Minds are so all-powerful that it becomes increasingly hard to see what point the human characters have. At the end of his last Culture novel Matter Banks had to create a convoluted situation that prevented one of the Mind piloted ships from intervening so that it was left to humans to save the day.

In Surface Detail there are plenty of human characters but they seem more like a sideshow while the Culture ships get on and do their thing. One ship in particular seems to take events into its own hands (or should that be maniple fields?) and regards humans as little more than an annoyance.

Anyway it was a good read on the Kindle, especially now that the publishers have reduced the e-book prices below the crucial £5 barrier. There is a twist in the epilogue which it is difficult to discuss without spoilers. Let's just say it refers back to an earlier novel but seems a little strange. Maybe it will set up the next novel?

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