mordicai caeli (mordicai) wrote,
mordicai caeli
mordicai

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The Kryptonian Opera. (6)

The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks.

Rapture of the nerds,
The Great Singularity,
Uplift: The Sublime.

So it is no surprise that I like these Culture novels. I mean, I like them a lot! They are sort of Star Trek, done better-- hey, meddling utopian civilizations are cool!-- with two strong twists. One, a Douglas Adam's-esque sense of humor in the godlike artificial intelligences, the Minds; two, a fundamentally nihilistic sense about the universe. Really, is it any surprise these appeal to me? Yeah, looking at the universe it is impossible not to be a nihilist! Sure, but then, all that means is that you are really strongly incentivized to commit to a consistent code of ethics! I mean, if there is no meaning, then all meaning is arbitrary, so decide on arbitrary meaning that makes it better for you. Having done that, contributing your excess effort to spreading that ideology makes sense. So yeah, Bank's post-scarcity world with its blend of petty, brutal cruelties & casual super technology suits my taste. Anyhow, The Hydrogen Sonata is not the best of them. It is another Excession all over again. A bunch of Minds getting together to flail around at a problem & eventually reset back to the status quo when the problem wraps itself up. That is alright; Surface Detail kicked a lot of butt & had me laughing out loud on the train, so I'm not worried that he's lost his touch or anything. Besides, the Pizza Adage works here; even a mediocre Culture novel is still pretty great. I read through it in a big hurry, which in the end shows I must have liked it plenty. There was a few turns of phrase, like calling giant space whales who soak up solar power "Deadly Slow" on account of their long metabolic cycles, that I really liked. Banks is good at colouring in a few splashes of detail everywhere the story goes, to sort of say "the narrative won't be here for long, but these space aliens have their own thing going on, too" & I appreciate that skill, as a worldbuilder.
Tags: banks, books, culture, haiku
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