Surface Detail

A Culture novel

Paperback

English language

Published Jan. 4, 2011 by Orbit.

View on OpenLibrary

4 stars (18 reviews)

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 …

6 editions

Flawed but enjoyable.

3 stars

I think Banks wanted to write something of a critique of late stage capitalism (Culture novels in general being a variant of Space Communism). Unfortunately the villain is a bit too much of a parody for my taste. I also found the first third of the book a bit of a slog, as the various in-Hell plot lines involve a fair amount of gratuitous violence and suffering, and don't obviously go anywhere.

That said, I did find the last 2/3 fairly engaging and fun.

I suspect people who are sensitive to the portrayal of sexual violence should not read this book.

Review of 'Surface Detail' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

I love the Culture novels and this is a standout example. It's a superbly spectacular, and often cinematic, story and one that has much to say about all that is repugnant about the idea of hell.

Some of the characters felt a little underdrawn, but this is a minor quibble when compared to the sheer scope and depth of the novel as a whole.

Review of 'Surface Detail' on 'GoodReads'

5 stars

This book kind of blew my mind (and brought back my rabid Iain Banks fandom, after the slight disappointment that was Excession). It took me a long time to read, partly because it's 600 pages long and partly because the hardback copy I have is too heavy to want to take on vacation, but also because it's thematically so huge that I kind of needed 4 months to digest it.

There are, of course, several interleaved plots, but the overarching one (introduced early enough for this not to be a spoiler) is a conflict about whether Hells should exist. This being the universe of the Culture, this is not a metaphysical question, but a purely ethical one, because civilisations can choose to have a hell or not, and that choice has become a major division between and within civilisations.

As I read the book, and plenty happened in my own …

Review of 'Surface Detail' on 'LibraryThing'

5 stars

This book kind of blew my mind (and brought back my rabid Iain Banks fandom, after the slight disappointment that was Excession). It took me a long time to read, partly because it's 600 pages long and partly because the hardback copy I have is too heavy to want to take on vacation, but also because it's thematically so huge that I kind of needed 4 months to digest it.

There are, of course, several interleaved plots, but the overarching one (introduced early enough for this not to be a spoiler) is a conflict about whether Hells should exist. This being the universe of the Culture, this is not a metaphysical question, but a purely ethical one, because civilisations can choose to have a hell or not, and that choice has become a major division between and within civilisations.

As I read the book, and plenty happened in my own …

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