Most of his readers probably already know this, but I only read about it yesterday: Iain Banks, in my opinion, the greatest science-fiction writer of the last 25 years, has announced that he’s terminally ill, with possibly only a few months to live. Sad news. Best wishes too all.
Having discovered his books 4 years ago, Banks’ books made me read science-fiction again after many, many years of disinterest (I read all the classic science-fiction works by Heinlein, Herbert, Vance, etc. in my teens). Nobody in human history has described in so much detail a utopian society, with all its challenges and possibilities as Banks has done with his “Culture”. His books are in turn very clever, witty and uplifting, and bleak and even hopeless at other times.
Some Banks trademarks, which have become science-fiction standards:
- The AI characters (in the form of spaceships or drones) are the funniest and smartest in the book.
- The spaceship names are poetry in themselves. Some of my favorite spaceship names in Banks’ books:
- “Attitude Adjuster”
- “All through with this Niceness and Negotiations Stuff”
- “Me, I’m Counting”
Too many to mention, this is a full list.
My favorite Banks novels:
- Against a Dark Background. Great adventure (a classic quest, the search for a superweapon, the “Lazy Gun”), superb heroine and supporting characters. Great, if bleak ending.
- Use of Weapons. Banks’ masterpiece. Very complex (but extremely rewarding) story. Has Banks’s funniest AI (the drone Skaffen-Amtiskaw), and his most enduring heroine (Diziet Sma). A must-read.