I have a confession to make I put down Consider Phlebas, my first Culture novel, without finishing it. But you must admit that that a series that has been going for 25 years must have something to it. So a long while later I heard an adaption by Paul Cornell of The State of the Art on Radio 4 when it was repeated in April last year. And I was enchanted by the story being told. But it took me until April this year to do something about it. I bought The Player of Games on audiobook. Then it took my until last month to get around to listening to it.

I’m greatly enjoying it. It’s a new trick of mine to listen to books that I really want to read but don’t click with. So after not finishing my first try I’m really enjoying being told the second in the series. I had another go as so many of my reader friends like and enjoy the Culture and sometimes it’s about finding your way into an author. I hope this is my way in as Use of Weapons has already had a credit spent on it.

The other thing is that I’m in SF mood in my reading at the minute so it might explain why it’s now clicked? Anyway, are you a fan of the Culture? Where did you start? What’s your favourite?

9 Thoughts on “25 Years of Culture

  1. I’m a big Culture fan – but, like you, I just can’t get through Consider Phlebas: I don’t know what it is about that book – urch! Maybe it’s just the constant battles? I’ve tried 3 times – never get beyond page 100 or something. So, I guess, I properly started with ‘The Player of Games’ about 10 years ago back when I was 16 – still one of my faves.

  2. I actually think ‘The Player of Games’ might be my favourite Culture book – just because the ending is so fantastic (not sure if you’ve finished it yet – but hang in there, it’s definitely worth it for the end, I promise!) ‘Surface Details’ is probably a close second – it’s got lots of stuff about digital “Hells” and the morality of keeping them running – which I thought was pretty cool.

    Buuuut (and this is MEGA controversial) – my absolute favourite of Iain Banks’ books is one of his non-sci fi noevls ‘The Bridge’ (but, let’s face it, The Bridge is so damn weird that it may as well be categorised as ‘Sci -fi’) – it’s about a man in a coma whose personality splits into 3 parts – one of them lives on a GIANT super-structure/city/world called ‘The Bridge’. It’s just amazing, check it out!

  3. I started with Consider Phlebas waaay back in the early 90′s at university. Quite enjoyed it, but Player of Games followed soon after and had me hooked.

    Absolute favourite though is Use Of Weapons, or possibly Against a Dark Background (though not strictly a ‘Culture’ book). The idea of the Lazy Guns is simply splendid.

    Some of the later books are a bit… too esoteric (Algebraist, I’m looking at you), but some are brilliant – I loved Surface Detail, and have Hydrogen Sonata on my kindle ready to go.

    Stick with it, it’s worth the ride.

  4. The Excession. So much gee-whizz technowizardry going on warmed my heart. Then, later, the others. Funnily enough I thought the Bridge was one of the better books too, and I don’t know why. Perhaps it is the dreamlike atmosphere that suffuses the book and makes it feel more “whole” than some others? I like books that play with levels of reality.

  5. I also didn’t like Consider Phlebas much but I decided to try another. Player of Games & Use of Weapons were top notch and sold me on the series. Culture is such a stranger series you can pretty much just grab any of the books.

    While some I felt we’re just ok, I’ve really enjoyed the last few, Matter, Surface Detail and his new one. There’s a sort of blueprint to his books you can see the pattern but the stories are so cool it almost makes it ok the robots are our overlords.

  6. I started with “Consider Phlebas” and liked it enough to carry on with the series; I do, however, remember feeling slightly ambiguous about the fact that the protagonist, the character we are supposed to identify with, is actually working against the Culture.

    For my money, “Player of Games” is the most fun of the Culture books, while “Use of Weapons” is the most satisfying. Like Tomcat above, “The Bridge” is my favourite Banks book, even though it’s not in the Culture series.

  7. I read “Consider Phlebas” after moving into my first flat living away from the folks about 10 years ago. I didn’t have a proper bed, nor a sofa for the first week, so I read this and “Vernon God Little” lying on an inflatable mattress which and a very slow puncture.

    I loved CP (and VGL), hooked me into the Culture series, though I’ve still not got through them all. I think one of the main challenges with CP is the lack of introductions – you’re just thrown into the adventure from the off, and left to work it out. The Player Of Games probably gives more context in this regard. Once into it though, it’s a good ole fashioned tale of adventure – I vividly recall being fascinated and repulsed through Horza’s shipwreck and the natives who only eat the very worst part of the fishes they catch..

    Play Of Games is my favourite, I have many more Banks books to get through – I’ve not read a poor one yet (though I put The Crow Road on pause a few years ago…).

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