Posted by : atcampbell | On : April 21, 1998

Excession by Iain M. Banks

We had nine participants in the discussion of Excession, the latest “Culture” novel from Iain M. Banks. This hard-to-summarize novel includes elements of romance, political intrigue, and reader misdirection while handling such standard SF tropes as Big Dumb Objects and Artificial Intelligence.

Opinions on this book were mixed. Five of us finished the novel, and the other four didn’t find the book interesting enough to finish. All of us who’d gotten to the end had read Banks before, so we concluded that this book was a poor choice for a reader’s first Banks novel. While Excession‘s plot did not depend on plot elements from other books, familiarity with the book’s setting (“The Culture”) was helpful. Also, in Excession Banks used a convoluted style that seemed needlessly complex for the story (Time manipulation much weirder than that of Pulp Fiction, for example). He’d used a more conventional storytelling style for the earlier Culture novels.

Those of who did finish the novel found it only a partial success. Banks showed great imagination in some of the details and imagery, but there wasn’t much to the story. Comments included “limp”and “not a major Culture novel — just fills in background”. One person who’d previously proclaimed “Banks is God” had this to say: “It begins in hope, and ends in despair”.

–A. T. Campbell, III