Surface Detail by Iain M Banks
"It begins in the realm of the Real, where matter still matters.
It begins with a murder.
And it will not end until the Culture has gone to war with death itself.
Lededje Y'breq is one of the Intagliated, her marked body bearing witness to a family shame, her life belonging to a man whose lust for power is without limit. Prepared to risk everything for her freedom, her release, when it comes, is at a price, and to put things right she will need the help of the Culture.
Benevolent, enlightened and almost infinitely resourceful though it may be, the Culture can only do so much for any individual. With the assistance of one of its most powerful - and arguably deranged - warships, Lededje finds herself heading into a combat zone not even sure which side the Culture is really on. A war - brutal, far-reaching – is already raging within the digital realms that store the souls of the dead, and it's about to erupt into reality.
It started in the realm of the Real and that is where it will end. It will touch countless lives and affect entire civilizations, but at the centre of it all is a young woman whose need for revenge masks another motive altogether."
A while ago I reviewed another sci-fi book, and jokingly wrote that Iain M Banks would have to write a darn good book to better it. Well he's had one heck of a go at it.
His latest Culture novel is an insane fight between heaven and hell encompassing the virtual and the real world, with all of heaven or hell at stake. Oh, and it's also one girls story of her attempts to get revenge on her old owner Joiler Veppers, who raped and murdered her. All, of course with the odd masochistic and mad Culture ship thrown into the mix. Welcome to Surface Detail.
The stories are all woven together so that they come to a big stunning conclusion, do you put your faith in the Culture to get it right, or just this once have they screwed up. You are never quite sure what’s going to happen. Ledeje Y’breq is a great character and she roots you in the here and now of the book. She is amazed when after a failed escape attempt that results in her being murdered she wakes up and finds herself on a Culture ship. Ledeje doesn’t care about the fight between heaven and hell, she doesn’t care about possible plans for all out war. All she wants is her revenge, and I love her attitude. Watching the Culture agents struggle to take her into account in their plans is a delight. Maybe, just, maybe she is going to get the better of the combined Minds of the Culture.
As usual it’s a delight to get into the minds of the Culture ships. “Falling Outside The Normal Moral Constraints” is fantastic, mad, exciting, and a little bit sadistic. The ships avatar Demeisen is used to good effect to keep the ship in the book when they are planet bound.
Before I go any further, I should make it clear I have read the Kindle version, and it's one of those annoying kindle conversions that seem to have quite a few errors, no spacing between some paragraphs, hyphenated words li-ke this, etc... So I hope they correct the errors, and bring out an amended version, but, this is the only grumble I have. From my experience with other eBook publishers they usually seem willing to make changes quite quickly, if you inform them of the errors you notice in their ebooks.
I don’t want to spoil the multi-threaded plot; there are whole threads that I’ve not mentioned. It is a large novel, and even though it involves a fight between heaven and hell, and threats of an all out war, and there are plains of the virtual environment full of utterly depraved and inhumane torture, none of this makes it into a depressingly dark novel. The great writing keeps the story going in the right direction and keeps the novel quite light in tone, which is rather impressive.
It feels like Iain M Banks has gone to town on huge, broad canvas and has filled every last corner of it with excitement, torture, double-agents, and intrigue. In my opinion this is his best culture novel since his second one “The player of Games”. Or possibly, it is his best Culture novel. Either way, it is a fantastic return to the Culture Universe.
This Surface Detail book review was written by Stephanie Gelder
All reviews for: A Culture Novel
A Culture Novel
It begins in the realm of the Real, where matter still matters. It begins with a murder. And it will not end until the Culture has gone to war with death itself. Lededje Y&...
A Culture Novel
The Player of Games
A Culture Novel
Have you read Surface Detail?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
Surface Detail reader reviews
9.5/10 from 1 reviews
There are currently no reader reviews for this book. Why not be the first?
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet
When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn't expecting much. The Wayfarer, a patched-up ship that's seen better days, offers her everything she co...
Marjorie B Kellogg
Set in the future on a distant world, Lear’s Daughters tackles the issues of global warming, pollution, exploitation of resources, and disastrous climate change. Long...
The burgeoning new economies in near-Earth space are fuelled by a steady stream of comets, steered back home by huge nuclear-powered mining ships like Bella Lind’s Ro...
The Naked God
Peter F Hamilton
The Confederation is starting to collapse politically and economically, allowing the 'possessed' to infiltrate more worlds. Quinn Dexter is loose on Earth, destroyi...
The very far future: The Galaxy is a drifting wreck of black holes, neutron stars, chill white dwarfs. The age of star formation is long past. Yet there is life here, feedi...
When Streaker - the first starship designed and crewed by dolphins - discovers a derelict ancient armada with evidence of the first sentient species ever, she sets off a wa...
James SA Corey
Humanity has colonized the solar system - Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond - but the stars are still out of our reach. Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making r...
An Ancient Peace
The centuries-long war between the Confederation and The Others, a group of violent alien species, is over. Intergalactic peace is finally restored. Torin Kerr and her crew...
During all recorded history, the Moon has hovered above our heads, a timeless symbol for lovers' ecstasy. Goddesses & Gibson Girls have tripped the light fantastic ...
Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, ...
James SA Corey
On Ganymede, breadbasket of the outer planets, a Martian marine watches as her platoon is slaughtered by a monstrous supersoldier. On Earth, a high-level politician struggl...
The Uplift War
As galactic armadas clash in quest of the ancient fleet of the Progenitors, a brutal alien race seizes the dying planet of Garth. The various uplifted inhabitants must batt...
Old Man's War
John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife's grave. Then he joined the army. The good news is that humanity finally made it into interste...
The Dreaming Void
Peter F Hamilton
The year is 3589, fifteen hundred years after Commonwealth forces barely staved off human extinction in a war against the alien Prime. Now an even greater danger has surfac...
Khesh City floats above the surface of the uninhabitable planet of Vellern. Topside, it's extravagant, opulent, luxurious; the Undertow is dark, twisted and dangerous. ...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages:
Books of the Month
A selection of books - old and new alike - that were a joy to read.
The republic faces annihilation, despite the vigilance of Galharrow's Blackwings. When a raven tattoo rips itself from his arm to deliver a desperate message, Galharrow and a mysterious noblewoman must investigate a long dead sorcerer's legacy. But there is a conspiracy within the citadel: traitors, flesh-eaters and the ghosts of the was...
A Tale of Time City
Diana Wynne Jones
When Vivian is evacuated from London in 1939, she expects to be staying in the countryside. Instead, she is whisked away to Time City – a place that exists outside ti...
The Guns of Empire
As the roar of the guns subsides and the smoke of battle clears, the country of Vordan is offered a fragile peace... After their shattering defeats at the hands of brillian...
At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth....
Events are coming to a climax in the Banished Lands, as the war reaches new heights. King Nathair has taken control of the fortress at Drassil and three of the Seven Treasu...
For Kivrin Engle, preparing an on-site study of one of the deadliest eras in humanity's history was as simple as receiving inoculations against the diseases of the four...
The Banished Lands are engulfed in war and chaos. The cunning Queen Rhin has conquered the west and High King Nathair has the cauldron, most powerful of the seven treasures...