I’ve recently decided to get into epic Space Opera. So I’ve stocked up on Iain M. Banks, Peter F. Hamilton, Alastair Reynolds, and so on. Plus I’ve also just finished the third book of E.E. Doc Smith’s Skylark classic Skylark series. My mind is filled with exciting adventure on exotic planets. Actually it’s always like that just but normally there are slightly more zombies, a few pirates, and a ton of hot women in shiny spandex. I love my brain.
I’ve read quite a few of Iain M. Banks’ scifi stuff and Consider Phlebas is a good one.
The story concerns a guy called Horza who is an agent for an alien race called the Idirans. He is asked to rescue a mega powerful multi-dimensional computer brain called a ‘mind’. The Idirans are at war with the humanoid based ‘Culture’ who are ruled by these ‘minds’. But in a good way. Complicating matters, there’s also an agent of the Culture, a lady called Balveda, who also wants the get the mind. Unfortunately, the mind has crash landed on a ‘Planet of the Dead’ which is guarded by a being from a massively powerful race of aliens that consist of pure energy.
Got that? Good.
Actually the plot doesn’t really matter all that much. The first two thirds of the book just follow Horza as he has a series of extremely exciting adventures across the galaxy. Consider Phlebas begins with him strapped to a wall in a dungeon that is rapidly filling with water and has already reached his head. That’s how damned exciting things get from the start. As a series of mini adventures this book works brilliantly. He joins up with a crew of mis-matched mercenaries, has to fight to the death in single combat, raids a temple filled with armed monks, gets tied up and offered as a sacrifice to a really gross entity, escapes an exploding artificial world, has a massive gunfight in underground tunnels, and lots of other exciting escapades.
I massively enjoyed Consider Phlebas but I am already familiar with the Culture and Banks’s space worlds. Consequently I was able to just sit back and enjoy the adventure. If you are new to his scifi work I would probably recommend Player of Games or Use of Weapons to start with. They are a bit easier to read and work better as complete novels. If like me, however, and you somehow skipped this book (it was his first) then definitely give it a go. It’s full of his awesome ideas and has some truly brilliant episodes. As a novel, it doesn’t quite satisfy, but as a series of Space Opera adventures it’s great.