Consider Phlebas, Culture Volume I
Written By: Iain M. Banks
Reviewed by: Brad Williamson
Genre: Soft Science-Fiction / Space Opera
Introducing one of the most clearly realized science-fiction universes in the pantheon of the genre with an all-time great scene, Consider Phlebas opens with a jaw-dropping and mesmerizing first chapter.
Quickly thereafter—immediately, in fact—in typical Banks fashion, the reader is slingshotted from place and perspective and hauled to a completely new and unknown situation in a way that would be utterly jarring if attempted by almost any other writer; Banks, however, forces one to hold and juggle the current scene along with everything written before because every moment is too full of potential and mystery to turn away from.
The admittedly confusing and at times even briefly frustrating introduction to this book is indeed a perfect opening not only to the novel but to the entire Culture mythos and tone.
But just as you begin to think the novel might be a jumbled mess, the plot comes into clear focus and what began as intricately confusing details become finely focused aspects of a universe quite unlike any other.
At this point in the novel you’ve reached page twenty, or thereabouts. The remainder of the book doesn’t let up. A little heavier on action and lighter in grand ideas than the other books of the series, Consider Phlebas does feel a little too long in the middle, but the characters, new species, the Minds, unique worlds, the tense action, mystery, and his trademark plot construction will ensure you purchase and read volume II, if you haven’t already.