Monday, November 28, 2005
Book Number 45
The Algebraist (2004) by Iain M. Banks
There was a lot of talk this year about the genre of "space opera" in science fiction. The operational definition seemed to be interstellar travel, alien races, space battles with character drama and politicing. This, the new Iain M Banks book, falls squarely within that rubric.
Faasin Takk is a human Slow Seer who delves into the timescale of The Dwellers, a race of ubiquitous, immensely long-lived gas breathers. The backdrop is a universe ruled by a political entity called the Mercatoria whose control is maintained militarily across hundreds of wormholes. Not of the Mercatoria, Beyonders occasionally attack and destroy a system's wormhole; leaving it isolated for hundreds of years until a new one can (possibly) be delivered.
In the course of his research trips, Faasin may have discovered the secret to a parallel network of travel portals. This sets off a huge chain of events with various fleets converging on this star system. Fassin is seconded to head back to the Dwellers gas giant planet and try and find the if the network exists.
This is a slow book but well worthwhile getting through. Banks has in incredible imagination and is able to keep a clear story running throughout a fantastical world. A number of the secondary plotlines spin out to unsatisfactory conclusions in the end and the main antagonist is a bit overdrawn. These are minor complaints though; I'd love to read another book set in this universe.
Posted by Jason L