Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Consider Phlebas has everything I love about science fiction: a large universe to explore, diverse cultures and characters, and moral and metaphysical questions to ponder.
This made it all the more disappointing when none of these facets of the plot were explored to my satisfaction. Everything that was done in this novel has been done elsewhere and better (in my opinion): a ringworld (Larry Niven), self-aware machines that run everything (Asimov), and amoral "Free Companies" (Alastair Reynolds and the Firefly TV series).
I can't help but feel Banks took a little too much inspiration from Star Trek in crafting this universe (granted, only TOS would have been out when the book was published):
-Every planet has humanoids
-Their FTL is called "warp drive"
-The CAT's crew die off like redshirts
-The bad guys are the species that are least human-like
Still, I do love the universe that Banks created. The Culture is fascinating to me and I want to read more about it, but the two books I've read in this series have both left something to be desired.
I do enjoy Bank's use of language. The drone and AI characters are fun. I plan to continue reading the series in the hope that his later works will provide a plot worthy of the setting.
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