Denver Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club

Matter US hardcover

Matter (2008)
A Culture Novel

Orbit USA hardcover
593 pages (left)

Orbit Books UK
544 pages (right)

cover art by Debra Lill

Matter UK hardcover

From front flap of the USA hardcover:
       In a world renowned even within a galaxy full of wonders, a crime within a war.  For one man it means a desperate flight and a search for the one -- maybe two -- people who could clear his name.  For his brother it means a life lived under constant threat of treachery and murder.  And for their sister, even without knowing the full truth, it means returning to a place she'd thought abandoned forever.
       But the sister is not what she once was; Djan Seriy Anaplian has changed almost beyond recognition to become an agent of the Culture's Special Circumstances section, charged with high-level interference in civilizations throughout the greater galaxy.
       Concealing her new identity -- and her particular set of abilities -- might be a dangerous strategy, however.  In the world to which Anaplian returns, nothing is quite as it seems; and determining the appropriate level of interference in someone else's war is never a simple matter.

From a UK blurb for Matter :
       There was nobody of her own kind within several thousand light years of where Djan Seriy Anaplian sat.  However, news from her home world of Sursamen would still reach her.
       Djan Seriy Anaplian is, after all, a member of Special Circumstances -- a troubleshooter for the Culture, intervening when necessary to ensure that order and balance is maintained throughout the galaxy; and Special Circumstances get to hear about most things.  The news itself, unfortunately, is not good.  Her father has died.  Her brother too, it seems.  Both in the latest war against a neighbouring kingdom.
       Anaplian must journey home, but while she does so, another will seek her out.  For someone on Sursamen believes her to be their last hope.  What neither of them know is that she might also be the last hope for the entire world.

Read for group discussion on October 14, 2009

How we each rated this book
Dan - Amy 7.5 stack of books 10   Wow! Don't miss it
8-9  Highly recommended
7    Recommended
5-6  Mild recommendation
3-4  Take your chances
1-2  Below average; skip it
0    Get out the flamethrower!
U    Unfinishable or unreadable
-    Skipped or no rating given
Cheri - Barb -
Aaron - Cynthia -
Jackie - Ron 4

Our book group has read the following books by Iain M. Banks
-- Look to Windward  in January 2004

Iain M. Banks (1954-     ) is a Scottish writer of both science fiction and mainstream fiction.  His middle initial (M.) which he uses to distinguish his science fiction work, stands for Menzies.  There tends to be SF elements in most of general fiction novels.

Culture books:
His loosely connected Culture series, which is far future science fiction, space opera, features a vast interstellar civilization with artificial intelligences and the humans (and other organic life forms).

In Consider Phlebas (1987) the warring Culture and Idirans seek a fugitive Mind; The Player of Games (1989) features a complex life and death game; Use of Weapons (1990) concerns a Special Circumstances' agents of the Culture; in Excession (1996) an artifact appears in a remote corner of space; Inversions (1998) features two stories set in a society emerging from a dark age; Look to Windward (2000) concerns a secret mission by a Chelgrian emissary to the Masaq' orbital; Matter (2008) features
galactic mentoring of lesser developed races by more advanced ones.

Short fiction:
The State of the Art (1991) is a collection of 8 SF stories, some of them Culture tales, including the title story.

Non-culture SF:
Feersum Endjinn (1994) is a far-future SF thriller about of a catastrophe approaching Earth.  Against a Dark Background (1993) is a dark, far future SF quest to find the last of the apocalyptically powerful Lazy Guns.  The Algebraist (2004) is a lengthy space opera set in a complex, war-torn galaxy.  Transition (2009) features parallel realities.

Mainstream novels:
Ian M. Banks writes novels under the name Iain Banks (no middle initial). The Wasp Factory (1984) his first novel, is a literary horror novel; Walking on Glass (1985) is a literary novel with SF elements; The Bridge (1986) features an accident victim suffering amnesia; Espedair Street (1987) concerns an aging rock and roll star; Canal Dreams (1989) tells of incident on a ship bound through the Panama canal; The Crow Road (1992) is about a man returning to his Scottish family; Complicity (1993) is a thriller about a series of bizarre deaths; Whit (or Isis Amongst the Unshaved) (1995) features an odd Scottish religious cult; A Song of Stone (1998) is a literary fantasy novel of brutal civil war in modern Europe; The Business (2001) is about a powerful, transglobal organization; Dead Air (2002) features a leftist radio talk host living in London; The Steep Approach to Garbadale (2007) is about the Wopuld family and their business and relationships.  Transition (2009), a novel which contains SF elements, is published in the UK as by "Iain Banks".

Other Books:
Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram (2003) is about drinking whisky.

Our book club's page for Look to Windward by Iain M. Banks
The official site of author Iain (aka Iain M.) Banks
Iain Banks - Wikipedia
SF Signal: REVIEW: Matter by Iain M. Banks
Matter by Iain M. Banks - Times Online
The SF Site Featured Review: Matter

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This page was last updated December 03, 2009