Heather is out at the gym. I just couldn’t get enthusiastic about an Aquarobics session today, for reasons I can’t fathom. So I stayed here and finished my book.
The book is Iain M. Banks’ Feersum Endjinn. I’m a huge fan of Banks’ work: it’s intelligent, inventive, and surprising. He writes tragedy and hilarity with equal grace. In the SF sphere, he’s best known for his Culture novels, a series of works all sharing the same galaxy-spanning socialist utopia. The fun is the exploration of what happens after you’ve founded the perfect society, where nobody lacks for anything and your personal freedom is paramount. What is such a culture’s responsibility to the civilizations it encounters? How can you enshrine an enlightened, hands-off approach to other people’s business and still wage wars, hot or cold, if you feel they suit your purposes? Fabulous stuff. Feersum Endjinn is not a novel about the Culture, though.
FE is told, mostly, from a quartet of viewpoints: a scientist, a disembodied colonel, a naïve young woman, and a boy hoo rites lik thees coz sumfingz rong wif hiz hed. The world is plunging into a cloud of sun-obscuring dust; a nameless naked lady has just been spat out of a family crypt; the VR that connects everybody’s heads is behaving strangely; and Ergates the talking ant has been carried off by a mysterious bird. Why is the government opposing all attempts to investigate the situation?
I’ve tried to write a more coherent synopsis a dozen times now and failed. An explanation of all the brilliant and crazy things contained therein would be as long as the book itself and nowhere near as fun. And I haven’t even mentioned how the entire population of humanity is living inside a gargantuan castle called Serehfa, with rooms kilometers long by kilometers high and towers with summits unseen in millennia. Or how people get to live eight lives and then sometimes end up turned into animals, which have their own common computer networks.
There. See? It all sounds bonkers. But as usual Banks makes it all work. Rich characterization, a keen sociological eye, and all kinds of fascinating stuff going on in the margings. Pretty much all of his work is highly recommended: check it out.
brought to you by…
This bit is a shout-out to the Galaxy Bookshop. I hadn’t intended to do any sort of Big Shopping while in Sydney—and then I wandered into this place. Huge selection, and because Australia is Commonwealth you can find things here that aren’t in print in the States. Like Ian McDonald’s most recent novels, for instance. Why does he not have a US publisher these days? Or a collected re-issue of LeGuin’s first four Earthsea books. Or Miéville’s King Rat. Heaven.
I dropped some cash, and it was great. I am set for the plane ride home, let me tell you.