When I picked up Consider Phlebas, the first of Iain M Banks‘ Culture novels, I knew this wouldn’t be an easy ride so it was no surprise when I first felt revulsion and then, later on, trepidation for both the story, the author’s obviously skewed sense of imagination, and the characters. That I should feel uncertain as to what it all was about was no big surprise either, but that the feeling would linger after I put the book down was one.
I would go so far as to say that it’s almost impossible to here place a paragraph starting with “This is the story about…”, because honestly, I don’t know.
Despite this I liked and enjoyed the book; it reminds me of my (admittedly rather vague) memory of Sartre’s Nausea – it is kind of more of an exposé of the futility of life and being /a treatise on the smallness of humanity and our wishes and hopes/ than anything else.
On top of this I love the way Banks’ write his prose. He uses ordinary words and sentences to vividly describe the unimaginable, to capture states and worlds no one will ever see except with the inner eye… and he makes them feel real.
This book is definitely not for the weak of heart and mind, and at times it was a struggle to get through it, but it was very definitely worth the time it took to read it.
Recommended reading for anyone with a flair for pretentious, bleak, and well written space opera.