Review of 'Excession'

Excession by Iain M. Banks
From the Culture series

excession.jpg In the far future a mysterious artefact appears. Ships from the Culture and Affront – a race of rather aggressive and somewhat persistent scavengers – Race towards an inevitable showdown to determine who can lay claim to the mysteries it contains. Culture ship “Sleeper Service” knows it has to seek out this “excession” (a Culture term for something completely unexplained, rarity in the universe) though the human Dejeil Gelian, still disturbed by a break up many years ago from her companion Byr, living in a tower in one of it's holds must be protected as must the multitudes of citizens gathered over the centuries that it now holds in suspended animation. Genar-Hofoen is a human having lived in an environmental “gelsuit” with the Affront now seeks to adjust his body to match those of his new friends - Six to eleven tentacles, breathing air toxic to humans, having a body consisting of a ball suspended below a large gas sack (inflated in various degrees to provide required buoyancy). Meanwhile the reawakening of one of the largest Culture military weapons depot by the Affront threatens to tip the balance in their favour…

Another fantastic romp through the amazing, if somewhat often confusing, universe of the Culture. Banks here shows how he is (was) the master of space opera genre with amazing leaps of imagination yet touched with the very essence of humanity. I often found myself lost in keeping up with events as they unfolded (the ships talking to each other threw me off a bit) but it is worth persevering with and, thankfully, not remembering every detail is not required. I cannot say I was overly attached to any of the main characters but simply was amazed at the world being described that even so often mirrors political events that unfold in our reality.

Certainly not for the faint of heart, make no mistake, this is hard SF and it pulls no punches and leaves those unwilling (or unable) to accept what it describes in the dark very quickly…It deserves careful reading and so therefore excludes potentially a large number of the population. Though it is suggested the story is often amusing I found little of this in my reading of the book but it was most certainly intriguing. Not an easy read by any stretch.

Rating:

Review Date: 2018-07-15


Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Orbit

Publication Date: 1996

ISBN: 9781857234572


Other reviewed books by Iain M. Banks: