Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Hydrogen Sonata

I'm always excited when a new Iain M. Banks book comes out, especially if it's a Culture novel. Even though the last one was a bit of a disappointment, I eagerly jumped onto the iBook store and downloaded this one the day it came out.

It's pretty good. The Hydrogen Sonata turns out the be a historical music composition that the protagonist of the story is trying to master. The piece of music itself isn't important, but the time period it's from, around the time the Culture was formed, is important. The composer was a Gzilt, a humanoid species that elected not to join the Culture. The plot of the story revolves around the last days of the Gzilt civilization, as they prepare to Sublime - in the Culture universe, civilizations, once they reach a technological peak, elect to exit our Universe, and move, as a whole, to another plane of existence. Subliming has been mentioned in a number of previous Culture novels, and it's interesting to see it explored in depth. It also delves a bit into the psychology of the Culture's Ships, hyper-intelligent AIs embedded in starships. It gets back to the sense of wonder at the vastness of it all that pervades some of Banks' earlier Culture novels.

It is a good read, and if you like sci-fi, it's a definite must-read (along with all the other Iain M Banks novels).

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