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Book Review: The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks 
6th-Jul-2013 04:22 pm
The Hydrogen Sonata (Culture, #10)The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'd rate this one as a solid, but not spectacular Culture novel. It doesn't have the philosophical weight of Surface Detail, or the epic stakes of Consider Phlebas, or the sheer mess-with-your-headness of Use of Weapons. And without spoiling the ending, I'll say that it's the sort of ending that ought to feel like an anticlimax. The book is a bit like a roller coaster - it keeps you so engaged with its twists and turns that you don't feel cheated that at the end you're back where you started.

The book probably also has some of Banks's most spectacular action sequences. The Culture novels have always been notable for the fanciful futuristic constructions that Banks loves to create - giant ships, orbitals, and so on. In this book, he gets to destroy a few of these. Spectacularly and messily. Just as one example, a climactic sequence takes place on a giant airship (location of a continuous year-long floating party) which has been filled with a giant tank of water which party guests have to traverse to get to the ultimate party location. An android pursuing the book's heroes blows a hole in the tank, triggering massive flooding, gale force winds in the upper party area, and a huge increase in buoyancy for the airship, which proceeds to crash into the roof of the tunnel it's flying through. Then there's a laser firefight in the wreckage. This is one culture novel that I think would make a great movie, just for the pyrotechnics.

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