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Old 02 November 2018, 03:20 PM
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Richard W Richard W is offline
Join Date: 19 February 2000
Location: High Wycombe, UK
Posts: 26,439

Still re-reading Iain M. Banks... I read Feersum Endjinn, Excession, Inversions, and Look to Windward.

I really like Feersum Endjinn but had misremembered part of it - I had thought that some scenes from Inversions were a part of Feersum Endjinn, and that it was a Culture novel in disguise. I had been prepared to disagree with Wikipedia on that. In fact it's not a Culture novel at all - it's actually set on a very far-future Earth, but not one that's recognisable other than by place names - and Wikipedia is right. It's Inversions that pretends not to be a Culture novel but is, and the list in Wikipedia gets it right. (Even though it's a standalone novel, Inversions wouldn't be a good one to start with, because if you don't already know a bit about the Culture and its Contact / Special Circumstances departments, half the plot will just look like subtle, weird magic to you, as it does to most of the characters...) It must have been longer since I read those two than I had thought, to get them muddled up like that.

Next would be The Algebraist, but I've not started that yet as I thought I should make progress on the other books I've been stuck on. The Shock Doctrine is still really interesting and informative, but still too dense and depressing to read more than a chapter at a time, so I'm getting through it but slowly.

I started to wonder during The Confusion whether Neal Stephenson might fall into the very small category of writers some of whose books I love but others I find unreadable / unfinishable...! (I think the only authors in it at the moment are Tolkien and Joyce, and I mean to finish Finnegans Wake one day). I am getting through it, but it's so long and rambling, and the plot is really just history, with half the characters there just to provide exposition and commentary on what's going on. But since it's a fictionalised swashbuckling version of history, you can't even rely on it to learn anything except broad strokes either. The broad theme of the first volume was the sciences, so I knew quite a lot of the historical detail already and this helped me to enjoy the references, but this volume concentrates more on economics which doesn't hold my interest in the same way.

Sometimes his impressive level of detail is distracting, too, because if you know something about the places or events involved, he occasionally gets something a bit wrong when he didn't even need to mention it. For example, when Jack goes ashore in the Grand Harbour in Valletta, Stephenson makes a point of its being low tide so Jack has to climb a long ladder to the quayside. There's no reason for that detail, and it annoyed me because the Grand Harbour doesn't have much tidal variance at all - it's barely noticeable. (As for most of the Med). I guess it's all for atmosphere but I could do with less of it at times!

I have read several hundred more pages since last time but it's so long that I'm not even half way through. It's just going on and on. I probably will finish it, but it's not even the last book in the trilogy, and the next one is longer!
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