Iain M. Banks
Winner of 1997 British SF Award

Cover Before you begin reading this book flip to the back and find the epilogue. Grip the page firmly and tear the bastard out. This will significantly improve the book. When I finished the epilogue I nearly through the entire book in the fire. Its hard to believe a single page can turn a silk purse into a sows ear, but Iain manages it.

The prologue isn't as bad as the epilogue. It's merely a cure for insomnia rather than annoying. When I was half way through the prologue I was tempted to put the book away and get something more interesting. I forced myself to continue as Iain has had numerous successful books and 'Excession' won the British SF award. There had to be something more to it then the drivel I was reading.

Once you've waded through the prologue and start the book proper it become less tedious, unfortunately it becomes almost unbearably pretentious. Pages are wasted with totally irrelevant symbols and meaningless strings of numbers. It seems once you've made a name for yourself you can indulge any little vanity you want and still get it published. Fortunately in the latter part of the book even Iain seems to have got sick of the attack of pretension he begins with.

The story itself is interesting and imaginatively written, but because of the tedious prologue, pretentious writing affectation and hackneyed epilogue I can't give it more then three stars and was tempted to give it two stars. If this is a fair example of Iain's work I won't be racing out to read his others.

Now that I've finished bitching about the book I'll give you a bit of a run down of what happens, in case you want to inflict it upon yourself.

There is this thing called the Excession that just turns up one day. It is clearly an alien object of some sort with more advanced technology then the other members of the 'Culture' (This is not the first Culture novel).

Everybody wants to find it (it keeps zipping around to annoy people) and take it over. To this end various groups hatch plots. The ship minds want it, the humans want it, and the Affronter want it. There are subgroups and plotters within each of these groups as well. And apart from everyone wanting it they also want to stop everyone else from getting it. as you can imagine this makes for an excessively complicated plot.

Iain follows all the threads he begins logically and intelligently, and then draws them all together at the climax. If it wasnt for the beginning, the end and the pretension, all off which could be deleted without affecting the story, then itd be a four star book.