Thursday, 18 October 2012

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: The Hydrogen Sonata - Iain M Banks

Release Date: 04/10/12


The Scavenger species are circling. It is, truly, the End Days for the Gzilt civilization. An ancient people, organized on military principles and yet almost perversely peaceful, the Gzilt helped set up the Culture ten thousand years earlier and were very nearly one of its founding societies, deciding not to join only at the last moment. Now they've made the collective decision to follow the well-trodden path of millions of other civilizations; they are going to Sublime, elevating themselves to a new and almost infinitely more rich and complex existence. Amid preparations though, the Regimental High Command is destroyed. Lieutenant Commander (reserve) Vyr Cossont appears to have been involved, and she is now wanted - dead, not alive. Aided only by an ancient, reconditioned android and a suspicious Culture avatar, Cossont must complete her last mission given to her by the High Command. She must find the oldest person in the Culture, a man over nine thousand years old, who might have some idea what really happened all that time ago. It seems that the final days of the Gzilt civilization are likely to prove its most perilous.


To be honest this is a book that took me quite a bit of time to get through, not because its huge (it is) but purely for the fact that I was sitting there enjoying the journey that the author gives the reader with each story. The writing as usual is crisp and when you add solid prose alongside quirky, interesting characters this felt like it should have been one of the best books in the Culture series, but something was missing, some small element that should have propelled this higher in my reading estimation, almost as if some of the passion wasn’t quite in it.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it, I had a fun time embarking on the adventure but when the behind the scenes aspects seem to overshadow the arc it feels like it disappoints. All in a solid enough book and one that I was pleased that I took the time to read but against some of the others, in particular the earlier books I don’t think it’s one of the best in the series.

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