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Reader’s Den, Biblio File

December Reader's Den: Consider Phlebas Part 3

Consider Phlebas

With the holidays closing in it's time to bring you the year's final Reader's Den. We've been going over Consider Phlebas and examining the character of Horza, a decidedly unheroic protagonist. Horza's actions are single-minded. Everything done is in the pursuit of the mind. A commenter last week posited that the mind's going rogue had triggered Horza's obsessiveness. Did you get this feeling as well? Does his pursuit still serve his stated support of the side of life or has he descended just enough into madness that he no longer recognizes what life is? For that matter, do you think the minds represent a form of life or are just hyper-aware computers? Chime in below.

Some final considerations: The book's end notes make clear that this is a colossal war, both sides killing billions without a thought. They also impress on the reader just how vast the galaxy inhabited by the Culture and the Idirans is in scope. Considering the scale of destruction wrought in a galaxy-wide war, can either civilization fit Horza's bill as being on the side of life?

I am not familiar with the rest of the Culture series but reviewers have said Iain Banks avoided writing directly about the Culture in his novels, preferring to tell stories set within its universe instead. A civilization that had perfected themselves as a species and never suffered from want made for boring writing apparently. I'm not sure I agree with that. One thing about great science fiction is that under even the most perfect veneer, something is about to go horribly wrong. The Culture has quite a few things I feel could spin out of control, don't you?

For those of you who like their science fiction broad in scope and deep in perspective, I recommend A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge. Further reading should also include the rest of Banks's Culture series if only to see where he took the premise of the Culture in further writing. One may also enjoy L.E. Modesitt's Recluce saga, a fantasy series tinged with science fiction that explores morals and ethics in a thoughtful manner. Until next year, readers, may your toes stay toasty by the fire as you curl up with your favorite tome.  Or radiator. Or space heater... ah never mind.

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