For all that I glamour Iain M. Banks, I'm bothered by many of his main characters. I guess it works out since his books don't really depend on them being likeable
, but the lack of basic human courtesy starts getting old after a while. Asking a Banks protagonist for a simple favour like, say, closing a window is met with minimum of two pages of internal monologuing about how the task is stupid, the asker is stupid, and the social system that has lead to said request is stupid. And they are all so oddly sympathetic to all sorts of horrible ideas. I guess living in a utopia does that to a person.
The Culture's approach to gender identity and sexuality is also so strange. Banks speculates from the perspective of a straight cisgendered male (making assumptions here, but that's certainly what it feels like) and manages to get so many things dead wrong. (Assuming that the general Culture citizen is modeled after your everyday human being, which looks to be the case everywhere else.) People change sex (and "gender") according to a very strong binary model, and somehow almost all the sex anyone ever wants is heterosexual? You'd think that a people able to genetically alter themselves at will would be a bit more adventurous, but all of that seems to be limited to polygamy.
...Strangest of all, I don't actually find his portrayal offensive. It's naïve yet sophisticated enough if that makes any sense whatsoever
, and it's not hateful at all, just biased and uninformed. Haven't seen much critique from the sci-fi community either, but apparently people think Forever War
is sexually progressive, so who knows what the standards for this sort of thing are over there.
THAT SAID, I'm enjoying his works immensely. Just finished Excession
yesterday, which leaves me with only three more Culture novels before I run out of things to read. DDDDDDDD:!!! It seems that every new book I read becomes my newest "best Banks book ever", and Excession
is no exception. You can really see how far he has come from the haphazardly written Consider Phlebas
: it's tightly-plotted and perfectly timed and lyrical and, best of all, has an extensive AI cast that plays off against each other rather than against any of those old, boring meat sacks that nominally carry the story. All those ships! The Anticipation of a New Lover's Arrival
was my favourite, though Meatfucker
and Killing Time
(in its brief appearance) were also strong contenders, and the latter half of the book made me grow almost dangerously fond of Sleeper Service
(...I wonder what it says about me that the characters I sympathize most with are sociopathic yet charismatic AIs. Somehow I find their moral code more relatable than that of many of the protagonists.)
I'm a bit puzzled at amazon reviews though. Everyone warns that you have to pay attention while reading. Isn't having to keep up with all of the plot threads to keep track of the plot the ideal reading situation?
While on the topic of BOOKS, I'm also currently finishing A Room with a View
for a course. Forster, you crazy whimsical bastard, I'm almost having trouble trying not to get lost following the narrative. I love it so far, a lot. It's nice to see characters actually address and discuss social issues rather than make thinly veiled jabs here and there. Which has been the case with some earlier authors (*cough* Austen *cough*) (ok ok, different era, different style, but Sense and Sensibility
was frustrating to read). Also:
"There is much that is immortal in this medieval lady. The dragons have gone, and so have the knights, but still she lingers in our midst."
This book was written in 1908. Why is this still relevant?
Game of Thrones premiere: I had avoided most of the hype because I didn't want to get my expectations up, so I got preeetty surprised by holy production values
. The opening sequence!! And all the actors are so perfect (lol viserys). I might have to buy this on DVD when it gets released omg