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Feersum Endjinn In a world where one can live multiple lives, Count Alandre Sessine VIII has survived seven times and is down to his last, leaving him one final shot at finding his killer His only clues point to a conspiracy that reaches far beyond his own murder, and survival lies in discovering other fugitives who know the truth about the ultimate weapon of chaos and salvation Reprint I don t know what to think This one will have to sit and be turned over in the mental thought bank for a while the difficulties of following the narrative through POV changes and the phonetically written sections made it fragment in my mind, despite me reading it at my usual tremendous pace I think I liked it a lot I certainly liked the concept of the world, anyway, though on reflection I don t give much a monkey s about most of the characters.If phonetic spelling is going to annoy you, a I don t know what to think This one will have to sit and be turned over in the mental thought bank for a while the difficulties of following the narrative through POV changes and the phonetically written sections made it fragment in my mind, despite me reading it at my usual tremendous pace I think I liked it a lot I certainly liked the concept of the world, anyway, though on reflection I don t give much a monkey s about most of the characters.If phonetic spelling is going to annoy you, and or be really difficult for you, don t bother with this one It doesn t feel as fully realised, to me, as Banks other books that I ve read, anyway do The central ideas are interesting, and the choice of narrative structure is experimental, but it didn t work as well as I d hoped for me But if you trust Banks, then try it Riting a revyoo as thoh I wuz Bascule seems 2 me the obveeyus cors 1 mit even say the playd cors the yoosd up an cleechayd cors But a browz uv the revyoos postd on Goodreedz indicayts uderwize I wood thot bi now sumbudy wood ritten a revyoo in the styl uv Bascule but it apeerz not 2 b the cays.Thayr r meny protaguniss in Feersum Endjin but Bascule iz reely the dryvin chayractr Hez the regyoolar gi we can idennify wif Hez the unliklee hero frust in2 sercumstansis beyond hiz understandin Riting a revyoo as thoh I wuz Bascule seems 2 me the obveeyus cors 1 mit even say the playd cors the yoosd up an cleechayd cors But a browz uv the revyoos postd on Goodreedz indicayts uderwize I wood thot bi now sumbudy wood ritten a revyoo in the styl uv Bascule but it apeerz not 2 b the cays.Thayr r meny protaguniss in Feersum Endjin but Bascule iz reely the dryvin chayractr Hez the regyoolar gi we can idennify wif Hez the unliklee hero frust in2 sercumstansis beyond hiz understandin or cuntrol and givin the oportoonity 2 mayk brav deesishins wif the fayt uv hyoomanity in the balans Hiz brayvry leedz him 2 perform acts uv grayt consikwens, even if he cant c thos consikwensis frum hiz limitd perzpektiv Bascule playz an eesentil rol in helping the gud giz win the day and he duznt even no it until the end, enwayz Hez juss dooin whot seemz ryt to him.Enwayz, az u now gesd, Bascule ryts in an uncunvenshinol fashin Ubowt a uv the book, maybee a litl mor, is riten in the 1st persun by Bascule, hoo hass a lerning disubiluty He can tok normuly but can onlee ryt foneticly An the ofor, Ean Bankz, poolz this of brilyantly.As I sit here attempting to write like Bascule I can tell you it isn t as easy at it might sound It takes some amount of concentration And it takes some concentration to read Bascule s account of events It s not for the lazy reader Banks ability to write awkwardly and unfamiliarly yet make it sound like a substantive, caring, and relatable person is pretty damn amazing But like many of Banks novels there sbeneath the surface Underlying Bascule s phonetic writing is a point of muchsubstance, a commentary on the struggle we humans endure to communicate with one another and with the world It ll take me several steps to get there, so try to hang with me The world of Feersum Endjin contains too many details to paint them all, and the big picture itself is difficult to paint because you can t stand back far enough to take it all in Take, for example, the absurdly oversize castle called Serehfa in which much of the Earth s population lives We re talking a castle built to scale for people who stand hundreds of meters tall A castle with walls standing several kilometers high, the tops obscured by haze and the shear cliff faces running to the horizon on your right and left A central tower that tickles the underbelly of outer space A structure set atop a three kilometer tall mesa in one room that, seen from afar, looks like a chandelier lowered from the ceiling for spring cleaning Seen up close, the chandelier is a city of elaborate, soaring, glass paneled skyscrapers A structure is set kilometers high in the corner of one room that, seen from afar, looks like a baroque decorative gargoyle Seen up close the gargoyle is a residential complex where people enjoy the view from balconies in the eyes The larger rooms have their own weather systems One room contains a volcano Others contain lakes and rivers and hills and valleys The rooms in the higher levels each level standing a couple kilometers tall are perpetually cold, and one of them holds a year round ski resort In what would be a castle s dungeon, the somber port city of Oubliette you heard that right sits beside a black ocean that hasn t seen sunlight in millennia Now, stay with me here You can visualize parts of the castle Serehfa Your imagination has painted pictures perhaps even detailed pictures of the corner of one room and the centerpiece in another, of one small piece of the horizon spanning castle walls Your mind is busily filling in random details plucked from your memory to create a room with a volcano, and a room with lakes and rivers, hills and valleys You know what a ski resort looks like so your mind simply places it inside a vast interior space But visualizing the whole castle No Definitely not Just a few scattered pieces that contain sufficiently familiar elements for your mind to grab on to, like a good handhold on a cliff face But pull back and urge your imagination to paint the entire monstrosity and you re hand will miss a handhold, your foot slip from a niche, and you go tumbling right on down Still with me Even through the mixed metaphors Good Let s take the next step What if the castle Serehfa was not just a physical setting for our young hero Bascule s adventures It s a hell of a setting, to be sure, another example of Banks penchant for conceiving breathtaking, larger than life locales for his characters to roam But what if Serehfa was, let s say, a lens to focus the reader s thoughts and a pattern for those thoughts to follow an archetype, perhaps Once you know how to picture Serehfa by which I mean you ve realized that you can t picture Serehfa, you can only picture pieces of it , you can begin to picture how you exist in, and relate to, our contemporary human society You re thinking that sounds ambitious, yes A tenuous connection, maybe Well, let s see if I can make this idea stick The society in Feersum Endjin is too massive, complex, and even contradictory to pull together in a big picture that makes much sense That society encompasses the living and the dead, the first lifers and the reincarnated, the physical and the virtual, the human basic and the chimeric Those diverse brush strokes are weaved together in a multifaceted symphony of color that defies our ability to imagine What Banks paints for us through the stories of Bascule and other individuals are the detailed sections like the rooms in Serehfa that our minds can conceive of But focusing on the detailed sections prevents us from seeing the whole picture So we try to step back Unfortunately, stepping back causes us to lose sight of the comprehendable details, leaving a wash of generalities, and, worse, the stepping back is in vain because we never can step back far enough to take in the whole construction Sounds like our archetype, doesn t it Yes, you answer with a bored sigh It s so faaaascinating, you say sarcastically as you snicker to one another I know, I know, you re attention span is getting shorter as this review gets longer Don t worry, there s just onestep, I promise I maintain that our contemporary human society is not so different from the Serehfa archetype, nor from the fictional future society to which we ve already applied the archetype We may not have chimerics walking the sidewalks, or sentient AI s floating around our internets, or reincarnated people in our living rooms, but our world is no less strange or diverse in its own way no less intricate or impossibly complex We each can see and understand the detailed sections painted by our own stories and those around us, but when we step back, when we lose the context of the individual, we are prone to make sweeping generalities.Fine, you say between yawns, so what What has this all got to do with Bascule and his learning disability Okay, so there s onestep I m sorry about that, but here s where I try to bring it all together The way Bascule writes is the way we relate to this world, to our SerehfaOur world is full of rules, oh so many rules, for fitting in And like the rules of the English written language, some make sense and some don t Some are consistent while others are contradictory Some rules have a logical basis while others are wholly arbitrary So how do we survive in this vast, complex monstrosity of a world where we ll never understand the whole picture but we can see little sections in detail and which imposes upon us multifarious rules that make no sense We speak to it phonetically, willing people to understand us and praying people will forgive us for our lapses, trying like mad to concentrate on the phonetic mutterings emanating from our friends and loved ones so we can understand them And all the while we re hoping like hell that the insignificant section we paint leaves some meaning behind when we re gone Posted at Heradas.comEven though his work was split about fifty fifty between literary fiction and science fiction, Iain Banks considered himself first and foremost a science fiction writer He cut his teeth on space opera, writing several novels in the seventies that went unpublished for decades By 1984 he had shelved his earlier work and focused his attention on the world of literary fiction what he referred to lovingly as Hampstead novels hoping for better luck in the mainstream The Wa Posted at Heradas.comEven though his work was split about fifty fifty between literary fiction and science fiction, Iain Banks considered himself first and foremost a science fiction writer He cut his teeth on space opera, writing several novels in the seventies that went unpublished for decades By 1984 he had shelved his earlier work and focused his attention on the world of literary fiction what he referred to lovingly as Hampstead novels hoping for better luck in the mainstream The Wasp Factory , his first published novel, was a breakout hit that same year He followed it with a string of successful mainstream novels in the mid to late eighties, publishing one nearly every year At this point his publisher was hungry, Banks was hot and readers wanted , so in the late eighties he began rewriting his earlier rejected science fiction work These novels would become the first three novels set in the Culture Consider Phlebas 1987 , The Player of Games 1988 , and Use of Weapons 1990 and a standalone space opera Against a Dark Background 1993 They were published pseudonymously as Iain M Banks and timed for release between his mainstream novels.In conversation with Andrew Wilson, with regards to Against a Dark Background, Banks noted Against a Dark Background was the last of the old books to get redone, so it seemed like the end of an era to me It was the end of an era inways than one In the years since Banks was first published, cyberpunk had taken the science fiction world by storm and eventually given way to post cyberpunk with Snow Crash in 1992, Neal Stephenson s deconstruction, reinvention, and nail in the coffin of the genre as it existed in the eighties By 1994, the cyberpunk literature bubble had mostly burst and wouldn t see a real resurgence for another twenty years If I may speculate a bit, I think that Banks looked at cyberpunk a genre he missed out on participating in while working in the mainstream and rewriting his earlier work and thought, hmm I wonder what I could do with that Speaking with Andrew Wilson about what he wrote to start this new post Against a Dark Background era, Banks spoke of his desire at the time to write something entirely different, something not related to the Culture or his earlier work I had wanted to write something I could cut loose on, something that wasn t the Culture I had the idea that what virtual reality would become eventually would start to resemble myth and legend Feersum Endjinn grew from this myth and legend angle, and what a departure it was from his earlier space operas Computers, nanotechnology, virtual reality all mostly absent from his first four science fiction novels are woven into and through every aspect of the societies illustrated in Feersum Endjinn Far from a space opera, the story is entirely grounded on Earth and addresses themes common to cyberpunk identity, oppression, etc.I think the most important aspect of Banks storytelling was his tight grip on the differences between theme and setting Something that is not as common among science fiction writers as you might think Cyberpunk stories are primarily known for two things 1 Themes of isolation, paranoia, and self identity in an oppressive world grown out of control 2 A dirty, high tech setting full of seedy characters The themes of Feersum Endjinn are cyberpunk through and through, but the setting even in the entirely virtual Crypt is much closer to that of epic fantasy After all, it wouldn t be a Banks novel if genre tropes and conventions weren t completely turned on their side Splitting cyberpunk themes from their usual counterpart setting, shows a terrific understanding of the genre and the unique power of the differing storytelling tools available to writers.Instead of the usual cyberpunk mega corporations and seedy streets filled with high tech low lifes, Banks set Feersum Endjinn sometime in the far future after most of humanity has abandoned Earth, their tech becoming a somewhat mythical element to our point of view characters, themselves descendants of those who chose an Earth bound existence A somewhat modified Feudalistic society now exists in the ruinous mega structures built by their ancestors Underlying all of this is the Crypt a virtual reality maintaining a near one to one relationship with the real world In the dark corners of the Crypt lurk strange digital societies monstrous chimeric beings, artificial intelligences, and the digitally migrated dead of the corporeal world Some privileged corporeal characters have the ability to access the Crypt at will, and some Crypt lifeforms are able to force themselves into physical reality, terrorizing humanity via what is perceived as apparition and animal possession.Little is known about the ancient human society that built the Crypt inhabited by our POV characters their history thoroughly corrupted by time into the realm of myth We re thrown right into the world to find our way as the characters find theirs You can tell Banks is having a blast using the cyberpunk toolbox to tell the story he wants in the way he wants to.There are four main POV characters in Feersum Endjinn, including one who never properly learned to write Banks represents these first person chapters in a phonetic style Initially they were difficult for me to read or comprehend The somewhat fantastical terminology written in a phonetic Scots prose made for a difficult reading experience I ended up listening to the audiobook while reading those chapters in order to get a better idea of how the words were supposed to be pronounced, and just what the hell was going on A strategy I ve used often for Irvine Welsh novels written in Scots After a few chapters of simultaneous reading and listening I was right as rain and could continue forward with just the physical book.My favorite moment in Feersum Endjinn is a beautifully written chapter in which a character is psychologically manipulated through a series of increasingly elaborate digital environments designed to make it easy and even preferable for her to divulge the information her interrogators are attempting to extract The section takes place entirely inside the virtual construct of the Crypt, and on its own makes little sense without the context provided in previous chapters The way in which these scenarios are presented to the reader is a thing to behold.Each situation is introduced in turn, without resolution, then each resolution is presented one after another after another at which point the narrative curtain is lifted and the impact is demonstrated for us in the physical world The combined effect, presented in series like this is breathtaking to read, and speaks to the courage and singular sense of purpose present in this character It s a fantastic moment She was the only speaker in a tribe of the dumb, walking amongst them, tall and silent while they touched her and beseeched her with their sad eyes and their deferent, hesitant hands and their flowing, pleading signs to talk for them, sing for them, be their voice Of course not all of the story works flawlessly there are a handful of plot lines brought up that never resolve, the story drags somewhat through the middle chapters, and the phonetic writing style is sometimes extremely difficult to read I wouldn t suggest going into this anticipating a Culture novel This is Banks in full on experimentation mode, and in retrospect, the book is odd, maybe too odd It isn t my favorite SF F, it isn t my favorite cyberpunk novel I m sure that several would argue it isn t cyberpunk at all is post post cyberpunk a genre yet and it definitely isn t my favorite Iain Banks novel, however If you re a Banks completist, or up for something wild, something different, something completely left field, something so out there I initially assumed it was written under the influence of some sort of psychotropics, I d highly recommend checking out Feersum Endjinn Scottish writer Iain M Banks with his book Feersum Endjinn has given us the second science fiction novel not based upon or set within the Culture universe, the first being Against a Dark Background Feersum Endjinn is additionally Iain M Banks s sixth work of science fiction.Banks deals in ideas The most striking feature of this book is lack of emotional subtlety and the story is told in four threads, following four main characters.Mr Banks passed away on June 6 2013 at the age of 59 Awar Scottish writer Iain M Banks with his book Feersum Endjinn has given us the second science fiction novel not based upon or set within the Culture universe, the first being Against a Dark Background Feersum Endjinn is additionally Iain M Banks s sixth work of science fiction.Banks deals in ideas The most striking feature of this book is lack of emotional subtlety and the story is told in four threads, following four main characters.Mr Banks passed away on June 6 2013 at the age of 59 Aware of his imminent demise on 3 April he announced on his website that he had inoperable gall bladder cancer, giving him, at most, a year to live His first published novel, The Wasp Factory , appeared in 1984 when he was thirty years old His first science fiction novel, Consider Phlebas , was published in 1987, in it he created The Culture , a galaxy hopping society run by powerful but benevolent machines For the rest of his career literary novels would alternate with works of science fiction, the latter appearing under the name Iain M Banks the M standing for Menzies I enjoy all of Mr Banks s work both fiction and Science Fiction Mr Banks was also an expert on Scottish whisky

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