Review of 'The Hydrogen Sonata'

The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks
A 'Culture' book

the_hydrogen_sonata.jpg The Gzilt civilisation is preparing for the Sublime - Where the people ascend to another plane of existence, leaving our universe behind. As the day approaches a question is raised about the fundamental beliefs of their society, in the origins of “The Book of Truth”. A Gzilt reservist, Vyr Cossont has devoted her remaining days into completing a perfect performance of “The Hydrogen Sonata” (on her “Antagonistic Undercagonstring” or “elevenstring”, a hideously complex musical instrument created specifically for the piece. Her practising will have to wait as she is drafted into the search for QiRia – A man of indefinite age who holds information regarding the creation of “The Book of Truth”. The scavengers are circling the soon-to-be-abandoned planets of the Gzilt and the tensions are mounting as the day of Subliming approaches…The clock is ticking.

Another hard science fiction page turner from the late Iain M. Banks featuring the intriguing pan-galactic Culture with their ships of unusual names (for example “Mistake Not My Current State of Joshing Gentle Peevishness For The Awesome And Terrible Majesty Of The Towering Seas Of Ire That Are Themselves The Mere Milquetoast Shallows Fringing My Vast Oceans of Wrath”, or, as it is known “Mistake Not…”). The focus of “The Hydrogen Sonata” is the Gzilt Sublimation process with the rest of the story seeming to lack any great import including the search for QiRia and the squabbling over the artefacts of the Gzilt – Here it is the journey and scenery along the way rather than the destination. Having said that, what a journey it is! Filled with intriguing planets, spacecraft, and characters the book keeps you interested throughout despite it's 600+ page heft.

Bank's trademark humour yet devotion to retaining the integrity of his imagined universe keeps the reader involved throughout the story despite, it has to be admitted, perhaps losing track of the numerous ships, civilisations and characters involved. The scope of his work is amazing yet it is comfortable in the telling with the shear confidence of the author in the universe he has created. This book just puts it down in print.

Another interesting and readable chapter in Banks from his Culture universe.

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2019-09-28

Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Orbit Books

Publication Date: 2012

ISBN: 9780356501499

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