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Arbie's Unoriginally Titled Book Blog

It's a blog! Mainly of book reviews.

Currently reading

The Delirium Brief
Charles Stross
Progress: 106/368 pages
Ack-Ack Macaque
Gareth L. Powell
Progress: 249/792 pages
Introduction to Topology
Bert Mendelson
Progress: 10/224 pages
Isaac Newton
James Gleick
Progress: 32/289 pages
Basics of Plasma Astrophysics
Claudio Chiuderi, Marco Velli
Progress: 58/250 pages
Ursula K. Le Guin: The Complete Orsinia: Malafrena / Stories and Songs (The Library of America)
Brian Attebery, Ursula K. Le Guin
Progress: 468/700 pages
A Student's Guide to Lagrangians and Hamiltonians
Patrick Hamill
Progress: 7/180 pages
Complete Poems, 1904-1962
E.E. Cummings
Progress: 242/1102 pages
The Complete Plays and Poems
E.D. Pendry, J.C. Maxwell, Christopher Marlowe
Gravitation (Physics Series)
Kip Thorne;Kip S. Thorne;Charles W. Misner;John Archibald Wheeler;John Wheeler
Progress: 48/1215 pages

The Hydrogen Sonata, Iain Banks

The Hydrogen Sonata - Iain M. Banks

Several years ago I decided not to read any more Culture novels. I felt the whole idea was thoroughly explored by the end of the third book and that all of the subsequent ones represented a decline from that peak. With the sad early demise of Banks I relented; there were only two I hadn't read and there won't be any more. Some time later I've read the penultimate Culture novel and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.


Initially I was concerned that I'd made a mistake - old problems were all present and correct: infelicitous sentences, meandering plot with little focus and too many protagonists, nothing really new by way of themes, too much swearing humour. Quietly, however matters improved on almost all fronts and the last third is a gripping space opera.


One thing that is absent is really overt discussion of the pros and cons of interventionist politics. The theme is all present and correct but at least it's not rammed down your throat, which it feels like it has been since book three. In fact the handling of it here is subtler than in previous books and shows the motivations of Minds to be more interesting than previously indicated.


I found myself reacting against the "physics" of Banks' universe, where e.g. relativity is ignored - why isn't time travel possible, for instance? This is, I think a response to having replaced Banks with Alastair Reynolds as my favourite writer of intelligent space opera. Reynolds' treatment of known physics seems to lend much greater authenticity to his breaches of the known rules - he knows what needs to be explained and justified in this regard, where-as Banks just ignores these issues.