Wednesday, October 17, 2012
The Hydrogen Sonata (updated)
I've just finished The Hydrogen Sonata, Iain Banks' latest Culture book. I loved it.
It would be hard to say which Culture books are the very best (Player of Games and Use of Weapons are up there for me, and Surface Detail), but The Hydrogen Sonata certainly is in the *type* I like the most: entertaining, lots of fancy far-future super-tech stuff, Sentient, powerful Culture megaships and drones, and so on. Riveting stuff.
Iain Banks has said that the Culture is the *best* society he could imagine, while still being believably human. And that this was what is driving the whole concept and the books. And that he'd love to live there. Me too! Technological wonders everywhere, and all the basic human problems solved. (If one finds this boring, one could just take a ship to a nearby less civilized empire, where one could risk being shot down in the street, if that makes life more precious to one.)
Even just one aspect seen alone makes Banks special to me: his subtle, underlying sense of humor. I think few people would call his books comedies, but the humor is everywhere: in the names the spaceships give themselves ("Of Course I Still Love You", Anything Legal Considered", Just the Washing Instructions Chip In Life's Rich Tapestry"...), in the shapes he gives aliens, in the personalities he gives everybody, not the least the AIs, etc etc. Humor makes life worth living.
I have to admit this was not always so easy to read, because of all the invented names and invented technology and politics. I had to use an ebook as support when I didn't get what the audiobook was saying. (I'm not sure if it's more so in this book than his others.)
... I've just been going through which of his books I can't yet get as audiobooks, but can get as Kindle books. Man there are many good ones I want to read again! This guy is a tour de force.