mordicai caeli (mordicai) wrote,
mordicai caeli
mordicai

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Sun-Earther Iain El-Bonko Banks of Queensferry. (98)

Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks.

Upon the trapeze,
I betrayed the Dukes of Hell.
("Vatueil," poem by Z.)

Dude is getting sentimental in his old age! This book has a happy ending? That is crazy! Hardly anybody dies? Well, hardly anybody dies at the end, but I guess characters die at the beginning, & throughout, but since this is a Culture novel dealing with virtual afterlives, that isn't hardly the be-all-end all. Alright, listen-- I like an "all's well that ends well" novel, & so I found this super fulfilling. I really adored this book, in fact. It had me talking anyone who'd listen ear off, & cackling like a hag on the subway-- in fact a lady turned to me yesterday to ask what I was reading, since I seemed to be enjoying it so much. & I was! Surface Detail even ends with the equivalent of an Eighties teen comedy coda-- a "where are they now?" montage that left me gobsmacked when I got to it. A great concluding "dramatis personae," not played as a gag but rather as a nice little tidying up of frayed threads. Iain Banks hits his marks here-- he speculates, getting the science part of science-fiction in high gear & he applies that potential to the narrative, resulting in the fiction part of science-fiction going strong. The usual "what about...virtual reality?" philosophical musing tends to end up going into Matrix-like space opera (cyber opera?) or really preachy fables about the nature of reality, but Mister Banks is of a superior caliber. He has plausible answers-- well, plausible within the post-scarcity, high tech setting of The Culture-- & then goes one better to have plausible problems & conflicts. It boils down to: what about hell? When species start being able to capture your virtual image after your death, & start programming afterlives...what do you do with the backwards savages whose afterlives have doom, brimstone & torment? Surface Detail isn't set entirely-- or even mostly-- in virtual worlds, but rather traces individual character paths as they transcribe arcs across the larger events. I've got to tell you-- Falling Outside the Normal Moral Constraints is by far my favorite character. An "Abominator-class picket ship," Falling Outside the Normal Moral Constraints is a state of the art Culture warship-- which is to say, a planet cracker, a starkiller, a two kilometer long chunk of pure extinction level event threat. & Falling Outside the Normal Moral Constraints...is the funny one in the buddy cop adventure, the bad boy paired with the (nominal) main character & "straight man," Lededje Y'breq. Lededje isn't a Culture human, so her ignorance pairs with Falling Outside the Normal Moral Constraints's brusque attitude to hilarious effect. Falling Outside the Normal Moral Constraints is the four hundred pound gorilla in the room, belonging to the generally omnibenevolent Culture while being a creature of psychopathic xenocidal potential. As you might imagine-- think of Spike from Buffy, the brief glimpses of humor in Terminator, & the general "bad ass hobbled by circumstance" trope-- Falling Outside the Normal Moral Constraints is a total cut-up.
Tags: banks, books, culture, haiku
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