Friday, May 24, 2013

The Hydrogen Sonata

I love a good Culture novel, and I enjoyed reading The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks at least as much as any of his others.
Since the events in Excession, the ships in the ITG (Interesting Times Gang) seem to have retired from being involved in high level events, but fear not, a new motley crew of minds comes together to meddle, with the best of intentions, in the affairs of another civilization.
As is expected, the ship names and their respective attitudes and humour is colourful and creative, hilarious at times. In particular I enjoyed some of the side-channel communications between ships as they comment on or make fun of other ships behind their backs as it were.
Interesting new tech, weird places, bizzare things. The flat, flying artificial sentient pet drapes itself like a cape; large scale weird alien art, such as a mountain in a windy area holed to produce a massive but complex Sound; the guy with 56 penises driven by four hearts so he can have sex with a record number of people; of course, enough but not overwhelming techno-babble about ship tech when they perform outrageous feats of "disloc", or weapons fire in battles. It's pretty much a constant stream of delight really.
The actual writing was complex but always understandable with a good flow. Banks often uses dashes to separate an aside within a sentence - because, you know, it can be annoying when you get lost in a tangent - to improve readability. I didn't do that very well, but you get the point. Descriptive sentences are often very long and complex, dense with detail, but as long as you are immersed, and not distracted, it really pulls you along.
A fantastic read.
Also, if you enjoy Banks' writing, you should visit here, as he is "officially Very Poorly".