The algebraist – iain m banks. Iain M returns with another Sci-Fi epic, this time not ostensibly set in the Culture galaxy, but in a similar future environment of dispersed humans (a and r) and many other races. The main storyline revolves around Seer Taak, a researcher into the almost eternal Dwellers who live in large gas planets all over the galaxy, his quest is to find the location of a mythical set of hyperspace portals that noone knows about except the dwellers. In the background is the usual set of wildly imagined Banks characters and races, a galaxy spanning war and the strange vein of comedy provided by the dwellers themselves. Banks has always suffered from a flaw in his Sci-Fi writing, in that it is either full of wonderfully detailed characters and interactions (Player of Games), or classic Sci-Fi schlock plots with amazing concepts (their names escape me because they’re generally not so memorable). Unfortunately, aside from the sections involving the intimate following of Taak’s adventures with the dwellings, a side jaunt into a childhood trauma and an initially fascinating but ultimately dull ‘villain’ the whole book falls squarely into the last category. There is a lot of good, interesting writing in there but it’s surrounded by the backdrop of a boring old galaxy filled with bureaucracy and long journies with lots of soul searching. Maybe that was a dramatic device Banks employed to increase interest in the one on ones with Taak, but I don’t think it works. The first half is a struggle to get through, the last half is definately the best, but the resolution is trite to the extreme and ultimately unsatisfying. Not one of his best.

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