I love reading Iain Banks science fiction books. He is the writer of some of my all time favourite books – like The Algebraist, The player of Games, and Excession. ‘Matter‘ is set in the same Culture civilisation as most others, and having seen it in hardback a few times I was keen to read it when it was in paperback. Finally, when delayed for several hours in Edinburgh I bought it.
The prolog was great, so I felt good that it would pan out well. By some standards it would be OK, but against the expectations I had it fell well short. It took an awful long time to set up the premise, with far to much time on a fairly mundane medieval world and precious little on the interplay of characters from outside that sphere. Then, the threads come together, but in an entirely predictable way (that’s rare for Banks). He usually manages false ends and twists, but here the finale was signposted from about half way through. Finally, having taken 85%+ of the book to get to the piece where everything is coming together it feels like he ran out of time or enthusiasm and rushed through the end. Even the end, whilst unusual for some authors was so much like other Banks books that it was pretty clear how it would go. All in all a bit of a let down.
I also read A steep approach to Garbadale recently – A non- scifi Iain Banks book. That was even less satisfying, with a fairly predictable plot all the way through, as well as a wholly unconvincing description of the buying of a business. Taken together, Banks has not reached the level where I wouldn’t buy every book he writes, but 1 or 2 more of these and I’d dump.