Showing Some Culture

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I finished Iain M Banks’ latest Culture novel, The Hydrogen Sonata last night so excuse me if I should sound like I have taken an exotic cocktail of psychoactive drugs. Fuck my long suffering brain!

I love Mr Banks’ science fiction series of Culture novels. I love it because he manages to do what all the best SF writers of the last several decades have done: attack, critique and reveal the things about our current way of living that are disturbing, distorted or just downright wrong. And then posit some kind of future system that either takes our faults to its logical conclusion or attempts to iron them out.

The over-whelming power of Banks’ writing lies in his ability to conjure mind-poppingly believable detail on fantastic technologies, species and worlds. Sometimes the excruciating detail however does cause me to skip large sections of pages looking for the next intriguing twist of action.

Hi invention of the Minds, while far from unique in SF, is a vehicle of great delight and fun making. It’s just bloody awesome

The trouble with reading a culture novel while living in the South Africa of today is that what it reviles, points out and finds wanting just by virtue of the construct of The Culture itself, is very raw and immediate right here, right now. Reading The Hydrogen Sonata is like watching our political dramas unfold from a comfy lounge somewhere. A hyper real reality show that has no consequence. Except later today, I will drive a car up a leafy green street, past my predominantly white middle class neighbours, say ‘No’ to at least 3 beggars at traffic lights, at least 2/3 of whom will be physically disabled before engaging in a meeting where essentially, I am trying to make enough money to stay living at my current lifestyle levels.

It’s all very bourgeoisies. And the Culture novels really make me feel a bit slimy under the skin because of my daily experience. But fuck I love em! Wow! And this one doesn’t disappoint. Some of the more recent works by Banks have been a tad confusing: proto culture? Post culture? Not sci fi at all? There is no doubting what this one is

Ending I found a bit predictable though. Sorry, Not gonna spoil it, but yeah, the whizz bangs outdid the plot twists for me this time. I am beginning to sniff a formula. But hey, I am not complaining, loved it!

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