The Algebraist by Iain M. Banks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'm of two minds with this novel. I'm tempted to rate it based on all of the novelist's other works and rate it lower just because it isn't the most fascinating out of the bunch. It's also not a Culture novel but I feel like it might ALMOST be. :) Gas giant aliens take the forefront of this novel, although the main character is human. We get a real treat of far future cultures and alien aliens that just happen to take the term "gas-bag" and OWN it. I have NO COMPLAINTS about the world-building in this novel. It's glorious.
But it also has a number of slow parts. Some are just "okay" for long stretches. Not brilliant, not horrible, but perfectly serviceable. But then I got into the intrigue, the spy stuff, the big mystery with these floating aliens that goes way beyond the fact they've been around for 10 billion years. Or that they're a deep-down Anarcho-syndicalism or maybe plain anarchists in the sense that nobody rules anyone and their weird war traditions or brutal childrearing techniques just make them seem like total crazies. But everything they do seems to work.
And that appears to be the big mystery... until war comes and so much crap comes together and reveals to us a much bigger and bigger mystery... until we know. :) And knowing is half the battle.
I probably would have given this a 3-star rating if it hadn't been for the awesome reveals. Even the whole mystery over the name of the book is PERFECT.
My surprise and enjoyment DEFINITELY ramped up by the time the war arrived. Lots of space battles, grief, and mystery keeps the novel jumping. But that's for later. :)
Taken on its own, not knowing that it's by Banks, I might have rated it higher just because of the amount of imagination thrown into it. But as it is, Banks has written better novels, so in the end, I still ranked it slightly lower. Alas.
Still, definitely worth the read.
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