Consider Phlebas (1987)
The Player of Games (1988)
Use of Weapons (1990)
The State of the Art (1991) - short stories, three Culture-related.
Look to Windward (2000)
The Hydrogen Sonata (2012)
I am not counting Inversions because it is not strictly a Culture novel (although it is very clearly set in the Culture universe). I may re-read it later. I may also skip Surface Detail as I read it relatively recently. I have to confess that I rather bounced off Matter and so haven't read it yet, and I hadn't got round to reading The Hydrogen Sonata when Banks died.
So; Consider Phlebas. I remember reading this not long after it came out, but that was a quarter of a century ago so I actually had little to no memory of the plot when I re-read it. I found that some of Banks' memorable set-pieces had stuck in my mind: Horza's initial predicament, the cult of the Eater, and the fugitive Mind skulking in the tunnels of Schar's World. But the plot that hung them together was effectively fresh to me. I remembered that the book was about the Culture-Idiran War, but had forgotten about the Idirans themselves, who are much more interestingly imagined and depicted than I'd thought.
This was actually the third Culture book written by Banks, in that he'd been drafting The Player of Games and Use of Weapons since the early 1970s. (As an aside, I was at the FUTURA mini-con in Wolverhampton on Saturday, where Ken MacLeod devoted much of his GoH talk to reminiscences of Banks, including reading the early drafts of his novels as a student.) That shows in the way the Culture is depicted so fully-formed, but that it was an early Banks also shows in the plot. I couldn't help feel that Banks had come up with some spectacular set pieces and then wrote his plot so as to get Horza from one to the next. The plot only really gets into gear when Horza and his less-than-willing accomplices land on Schar's World and have to deal with both enemies who should be friends and friends who should be enemies.
I vaguely recall Banks saying that he wrote one particular scene in Consider Phlebas because it would be utterly impossible to film and worked far better in the imagination. (It's the one involving the rather unorthodox departure of the Clear Air Turbulence from the ex-GSV The Ends of Invention). I rather suspect that various CGI teams would consider themselves game for the challenge now, although it would probably break one of the standard Hollywood Film Models to put the biggest explosions in the middle. Mind you, Banks nearly makes up for it at the end, and the final battle - and its consequences - make for a memorable climax to the book.
It's perhaps very typical of Banks and what is to come in his Culture novels that the character you may find yourself identifying with most is the shanghaied and rather put-upon Drone Unaha-Closp.
I have just finished my DVDs of season 2. I have read Book 1 and am about to read Book 2, which will take me a while but not the 9 months until the Season 3 DVDs come out. What do I do then?
Open to: All, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 3
what shall I do
|Read Book 3 very quickly before you get spoiled for the end of Season 3|
|Pirate Season 3, regardless of your lifelong anti-piracy policy|
|Wait, and don't look at anything remotely GOT related for 9 months|
|Subscribe to Sky (NB, this is the wrong answer, and may result in defriending)|
|Find a friend with Sky who has recorded Season 3 and will lend it to you (explanations as to the ethical difference between this and piracy appreciated but not mandatory)|
|Give up - it's over-rated from here on in|
|Give up, the events of Season 3 will only break your heart anyway|
10 years ago when Bridget Harris was working at the Welsh Assembly, Lord Rennard, then Liberal Democrat chief executive made a series of unwanted advances towards her which she described as “furtive, obtrusive and upsetting”.
Tagged: GuyNews.TV, Rennard, Sleaze
The west again has a leader with vision, courage, and resolve. Too bad he’s not an American. He is Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada, who had the fortitude to directly call out Vladimir Putin for his bad behavior, particularly with regard to Syria, where Russia continues to provide vital support for the Assad regime. At the “G8” summit Harper boldly stated that there is no G8. He stated that instead “this is the G-7 plus one. Let’s be blunt, that’s what this is: the G-7 plus one,” basically giving up on Russia ever behaving like a normal country.
The G-7 was originally a group of the world’s leading economic powers with a shared democratic government and market economy. Membership consisted of the US, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Great Britain, and Japan. Then Russia was invited in in 1997 to encourage the continued transformation toward democracy, political and economic freedom. Unfortunately Russia has instead reverted to an authoritarian tradition that goes back centuries. It is nowhere near as odious as the Communist Soviet Union was, but it has consistently been at odds with the west on issue after issue. Part of this is Putin’s illusion of being a great power, which is achieved by opposing anything the US does. He is basically disruptive of the G8, as Harper suggested, and is not suitable for participation. This doesn’t necessarily mean expelling Russia, if only for the Russian people, and the hope that they will eventually produce a less thuggish regime instead of one headed by a clown who cannot be taken seriously.
Leaving this aside the US is also negotiating a free trade agreement with Europe, which would be a tremendous plus for the economies of all participants as well as the whole world. Obama deserves credit for pursuing this opportunity, which if consummated, will be the major achievement of his administration. Notwithstanding very justified criticism on the domestic front, when the President does something good in foreign affairs he ought to get credit for it. One of the principle roadblocks to completing the agreement has been put up by France,which wants some exemptions and protections for its cultural institutions. In this instance I sympathize with the French, in trying to maintain their national culture and not be overwhelmed, i.e. by Hollywood. They do not want their culture ruined the way Hollywood has ruined ours, with mediocre productions, offensive material, and monotonous left-wing themes. I hope that they can be accommodated and that other countries will follow suit, in order to maintain their distinctive cultural identities. For that matter it would be nice if Americans rediscovered their own identity, which has been trampled not only by Hollywood, but by a dysfunctional education system.
Craig Oliver, the Prime Minister’s embattled Director of Communications, has been told by his friends to put his family before his job, lest his marriage go the way of other Downing Street denizens. Craig is married to the BBC News presenter Joanna Gosling, with whom he has three children. The unrelenting 24/7 pressure of his Downing Street job spinning for the PM is, Craig himself admits, “a lot of stress”…
Ironically David Cameron pledged in opposition “to make the UK the most family-friendly country in Europe” yet has seen the marriages of his former press secretary Gabby Bertin as well as that of his “gatekeeper” Kate Fall break up. Kate is the chillaxing PM’s hardworking deputy chief of staff. It looks like Osborne will need to find money in the budget to hire more staff to lighten the workload if Downing Street is to really be a family-friendly workplace.
Tagged: Downing Street
I am writing with regard to the 15-month sentence handed down to Stuart Hall for 14 counts of sexual assault on young girls. This sentence surely cannot be strong enough for the seriousness and circumstances of the crime. Sexual assault is in itself a very serious offence and there were many aggravating factors present in this case: the victims were young; there was pattern of behaviour over a long period of time; there was an abuse of trust; and, as the trial judge has said, Hall’s initial response to the charges will have compounded the victims’ distress. Given all this, 15 months is not just a lenient sentence, it is unduly lenient. I urge you to use your power to refer unduly lenient sentences to the Court of Appeal and argue for it to be extended. I am also sending a copy of this letter to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC and I urge him formally to refer the case to your attention.
Emily Thornberry MP
Shadow Attorney General
How things change…
Tagged: Labour, Media Guido
Gove clearly smelled blood following Labour’s schools policy announcement this morning, going for his opposite number Stephen Twigg: “Labour’s policy on free schools is so tortured they should send in the UN to end the suffering”. The problem? Here is Twigg this morning on free schools:
“Existing free schools will stay open, free schools in the pipeline will go ahead, but we will not have additional free schools.”
And then in the same speech:
“What we will have is a new academies programme including parent-led academies, really good teacher-led academies like Peter Hyman’s school in East London – those sorts of things. We would want the opportunity for those schools to open.”
What is the difference?
Awkwardly Peter Hyman, Twigg’s ‘teacher-led academy’ hero, has actually set up a free school of his own, and Andrew Adonis has today admitted that “free schools are academies”. Labour Education sources begrudgingly admitted to Guido that Adonis “is factually correct”. Or in other words, yes, they are the same. Labour say free schools and academies are legally identical, though point to details such as where the schools are set up, local community support and a focus on shortages as points of difference.
What is clear is that Labour have surrendered to Gove on the principle of schools policy, if not the minutiae of naming. Twigg can dress it up how he likes to placate ultra-conservative reform-hating unions, his ‘parent-led academies’ are free schools in all but name. Viva la revolucion…
Tagged: Labour, Michael Gove
This post has been generated by Page2RSS