In the Flashback Friday feature I re-post a highlight from the history of this blog. In today's feature I talk about my favourite novel - Excession by Ian M Banks. Since first posting this he unfortunately passed away and it's sad to think that there'll never be any more of his great writing.
A few weeks ago I expressed how I though that Paradise Lost was the greatest story ever told. I did however mention that while it was my favourite story, it wasn't my favourite book, that honour is held by Excession by Ian M Banks.
On the face of it it might seem an odd choice if you look at all the options available to me. He is one of the few authors whose latest novel I'll automatically purchase when it is released. He also writes as Ian Banks for his more literary work.
So why is Excession such a great book?
The first reason is the big idea. Something Banks and other good science fiction authors do is have a big idea at the core of the story. In this case it is an excession event, an object appears that cannot be understood by even the technologically advanced races nearby. The story concerns the effects the event has rather than trying to explore the event itself.
It also has one of the one of the most fun alien races I've encountered - the Affront. Floating gas bags of a cruel disposition they make a fine contrast to the Culture. It also raises some interesting questions about a high technology society that is for the most part peaceful deal with a technologically inferior but much more hostile race. Of course the Culture feature heavily in the story and brings with it some of the more interesting characters - the ship's minds.
Something that struck me as I first read the book is the communications between the ship's minds. To me he really captures the aspects of artificial intelligences as well as making them interesting characters.
I won't spoil the story for you, but it is both an exciting and thought provking tale. Highly recommended, I only re-read it a couple of months ago, I feel like reading it again.