Book Review – Surface Detail by Iain Banks

Surface Detail by Iain Banks

Surface Detail by Iain Banks

The blurb condemns:

It begins in the realm of the Real, where matter still matters.

It begins with a murder.

And it will not end until the Culture has gone to war with death itself.

Lededje Y’breq is one of the Intagliated, her marked body bearing witness to a family shame, her life belonging to a man whose lust for power is without limit. Prepared to risk everything for her freedom, her release – when it comes – is at a price, and to put things right she will need the help of the Culture.

Benevolent, enlightened and almost infinitely resourceful though it may be, the Culture can only do so much for any individual. With the assistance of one of its most powerful – and arguably deranged – warships, Lededje finds herself heading into a combat zone not even sure which side the Culture is really on. A war – brutal, far-reaching – is already raging within the digital realms that store the souls of the dead, and it’s about to erupt into reality.

It started in the realm of the Real and that is where it will end. It will touch countless lives and affect entire civilizations, but at the center of it all is a young woman whose need for revenge masks another motive altogether.

As I recently said, I really enjoy this series of books, so I had high expectations for this one.

Overall this book did pretty well living up to my expectations, although I think there were a couple of things that let it down compared to the previous book in the series.

The ending was a bit deus ex machina in that I’m not sure the actions of the main character actually contributed much to it.

Along the same lines there was an entire point of view character who I’m not sure contributed at all, to the extent that the characters in the book even comment on how she didn’t manage to really do anything.

Finally at the very end of the epilogue there’s a dramatic reveal, but it made no sense to me so I looked it up and it turns out that it was a reference to a previous book.  Since it’s been over a decade since I read that book, it wasn’t a connection I had any chance of making, which annoyed me a bit.

As is pretty clear from the blurb, the concepts that the author is exploring (in the context of his future universe) are revenge and death/afterlives.  I don’t think it has much application to us today, but it’s interesting to see his extrapolation of the issues we could face as technology makes things possible.