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Cover & Synopsis: “The Hydrogen Sonata” By Iain M. Banks (A New Culture Novel) has posted the cover art and synopsis of the upcoming Culture novel by Iain M. Banks, The Hydrogen Sonata.

Here’s the synopsis:

It is, truly, provably, the End Days for the Gzilt civilization.

An ancient people, they helped set up the Culture ten thousand years earlier and were very nearly one of its founding societies, deciding not to join only at the last moment. Now they’ve made the collective decision to follow the well-trodden path of millions of other civilizations; they are going to Sublime, elevating themselves to a new and almost infinitely more rich and complex existence.

Amidst preparations though, the Regimental High Command is destroyed and Cossont is blamed. Wanted dead — not alive. Now, aided only by an ancient, reconditioned android and a suspicious Culture avatar, Cossont must complete her last mission given to her by the High Command — find the oldest person in the Culture, a man over nine thousand years old, who might have some idea what really happened all that time ago. Cossont must discover the truth before she’s exiled from her people and her civilization forever — or just plain killed.

The book will be available in the U.S. and U.K. in October 2012.

[via printSF @ Reddit]

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

15 Comments on Cover & Synopsis: “The Hydrogen Sonata” By Iain M. Banks (A New Culture Novel)

  1. Banks is one of the large lacunae in my SF reading. I’ve only read two novels, one of which was disappointing (Transitions) and the other I didn’t like at all (Inversions)

    • Ah damn, out of all of his novels you ended up meeting with two of the weakest in my opinion. If youre so inclined, checking out stuff like Consider Phlebus or Look To Windward will give you more of an idea of what people are going on about.
      That said, I realise I’m skirting dangerously close to sounding like that guy who insists you do like a band he’s into, you just haven’t heard the right album yet, shortly before subjecting you to his entire collection.

      • Anti-Skub // August 27, 2012 at 4:07 pm //

        What Dan said. You’ve randomly picked the two worst books he’s ever written.

        I’m a massive Iain Banks fan. I’d go so far as to say Consider Phlebas and Use of Weapons are my top two favourite books and I couldn’t get through either Inversions or Transitions. I got about a third of the way through both of them before I gave up.

        If you really want to get into Banks’s Sci-Fi works then try reading the Culture series in order. Not only will the universe make more sense but the books pretty much go in order of quality. That’s not to say the later books in the series are bad, just that the first four are absolutely brilliant.

        Skip Inversions, it’s debatable whether it’s even part of the series. It’s apparently set in the same universe but it’s completely detached from anything that goes on in any of the other books

        The last three books are good but they don’t meet the standard of the first four. His other non Culture sci-fi novels are worth reading as well, although Feersum Endjinn is a tough read. It’s an enjoyable book but huge chunks of the dialogue are written phonetically (in the style of the title “Fearsome Engine”) and it frequently becomes a chore to decipher what is actually being said.

  2. INVERSIONS is a Culture novel, but at the same time it isn’t. The book that hooked me on Banks, the first book of his I read, was CONSIDER PHLEBAS, but USE OF WEAPONS is the best of the Culture novels. I’d suggest you read at least one of those two.

  3. Player of Games and Use of Weapons are my two fans. Haven’t read all of them yet but this one sounds really interesting.

  4. TheAdlerian // April 12, 2012 at 12:28 am //

    I’m in for nearly anything from the guy.

    All the culture novels can be enjoyable if you remember a very important thing, all the stories are about a vast game played by the Culture to defeat their target.

    I read criticisms of the last novel that it seemed to be about nothing much and rambling, but if you remember what I said the story makes sense. The Culture will do anything to succeed and if it has to spend a thousand years and cause wars to get one agent into a supposedly impossible location, it will.

    His stories can be very subtle. Inversions is great example where it’s never said that the main character is from the Culture (Not a spoiler because it’s never said).

  5. Excession is the one to read.

  6. I’ve read all his stories three times at least. I find it difficult to decide which is my favourite but I recommend Excession, Use of Weapons, Against a Dark Background and Look to Windward. The retribution carried out by the Culture when they feel they’ve been wronged can be quite satisfying.
    I would possibly suggest that someone coming to Culture novels for the first time may benefit from checking out what it’s all about on the internet, or start out at Consider Phlebas and work all the way through the series.
    The great thing is if you don’t like them you can stop at any time, they’re not compulsory.

    • Everyone says that Look to Windward is one of the best… this is the one remaining book I’ve never finished!
      I will agree with everyone else though… Use of Weapons and Consider Phlebas were probably the best.
      I also seems to be the only person who really enjoyed Matter…. I loved it!
      Very excited about the new one.. always wanted a story that might shed more light on this subliming business…

  7. Scott Bodenheimer // August 18, 2012 at 10:19 am //

    My favorite of Banks is “The Algebraist” – which has some of the funniest dialogue spoken by gas cloud planet beings ever written!

  8. This does sound excellent. I’m currently reading Surface Detail, which was slow to get into its stride but I’m now enjoying immensely. Use of Weapons was my favourite for many years, but I think Look To Windward was better.

  9. I finished Use of Weapons. It has an interesting backwards structure. I found the resolution unpleasant. I started Consider Phlebas and Player of Games but didn’t finish.

  10. I love the Culture in a broad sense. The godlike Minds playing chess with real people, the buddy cop drama between humans and their drone companions, and the sweeping space opera conflicts between alien species. Banks has created a universe where it would really be fun to live, and he’s not afraid to describe cool stuff and just let you play with the toys for a while.

    But that’s not his real “literary” strength. Banks has a very dark imagination, and a very clear understanding of human evil. It’s those explorations, about the horrors of war and what they do to people, that make Look to Windward and Use of Weapons such good books.

    I always start people off with The Player of Games, just because it serves as such a good Culture 101 book. Matter and Excession are my favorites because I love the portrayal of advanced AI as the equivalent of Greek gods.

    Can’t wait for the new one. He’s finally going to fill in the origin story of the Culture. I’m amazed that he can still find interesting stories in a universe that is essentially run by perfect, flawless machines. It should be boring as hell, but people still manage to find ways to start wars and blow stuff up.

  11. Excession is my favorite (I named my website after its central concept!). I also re-read Player of Games every now and again as it’s a lot of fun to imagine the game of Azad.

  12. i really enjoyed transition

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