February 11, 2006

Reading List: The Algebraist

The Algebraist; Iain M. Banks; 2004

Finally, a new non-Culture science science-fiction novel by Iain Banks.

This novel would have been awesome, except I guessed the Big Secrect somewhere around page 80, which kind of ruined the big revelation at the end. However, I'm sure anyone who doesn't figure it out until the end will be suitably impressed.

The wider setting is a chaotic, war-torn galaxy where the only method of going FTL is to use wormholes, which are both massively expensive, and prone to getting blown up by hostile forces. As a result, there have been an awful lot of dark ages for galactic civilization. Among other nastiness, the current superpower has taken to hunting down AIs as a threat to organic life.

The narrower setting is Ulubis, a star system that was cut off from the wormhole network a few centuries ago (it got blown up by hostile forces), but will be reconnected within a few decades. The protagonist, Fassin Taak, is a Slow Seer, one who studies the Slow, the intelligent species that have been around for billions of years. Fassin, of course, is human, one of the Quick species that come and go in 10s of thousands of years. In particular, he studies the Dwellers, who inhabit Ulubis' largest gas-giant.

Since most of the book is about the Dwellers, their society gets fleshed out a lot. Banks has avoided the cliche of making his gas-giant dwellers into huge, mysterious gasbags that speak in thunderous farts, which is good. Figuring out why the Dwellers behave as they do is half the fun of reading this book (aside from the plot, characters, etc). In short, go read it yourself.


Post a Comment

<< Home