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The Culture.

Reading "Consider Phlebas" by Iain M. Banks, the first in The Culture series. The main society in this series is called simply The Culture. It is a society that is basically a socialist utopia; everyone gets all the food they want, free access to any materials they need to build things, there is no shortage at all of energy (what with fusion power and more advanced things), nobody is homeless, nobody is hungry, machines do all the work (leaving people free to pursue hobbies), and there is no shortage of room to live. If a planet starts to get on the crowded side, they just build either a massive Orbital (orbiting superstructure like a slice of a ringworld, has millions of square miles surface area) or a Ring or a Sphere, or other superstructures with mountains, valleys, oceans, etc on it. The Culture is so widespead and has such technology and power that in this book, they evacuated and then destroyed an entire Orbital just to keep it from being used as a base of operations by an enemy society, in The Culture's first war for hundreds of generations (a war they declared to keep the Idirans, a species of religious extremists that make anything we have on Earth now look tame by comparison, from spreading any further).

They manage all this without corruption or abuse of power... because they have given up control to the Minds, sentient machines so intelligent that no human could hope to compete with them. The Minds look after the humans and send lesser machines out for resources when they're needed. Also, they think of ways to improve technology. They are logical, but understand emotions. And so far, Iain M. Banks seems to be saying that The Culture is awesome. And I agree. I want to live in The Culture. I want to live on an Orbital and do whatever I want without having to worry about money, or "will I get kicked out for something stupid like my appearance?" and just be free to do whatever, whenever. I, for one, welcome our new silicon overlords. :-D

What I love the most about this series, so far, is that The Culture is so perfect that the only way to get a decent story out of it is to focus on the places where The Culture clashes with other societies. Which was the problem I had with Traipah at first, too, and was what made me so obsessed with it - I was determined to find a way to make good stories from it.

"Consider Phlebas" is awesome indeed. Exciting, adventurous, and funny. But it also has its dark spots. If you read it, I warn you: when you get to the scene where Horza gets stranded on the island, you might want to skip to page 185. That whole business with the Eaters and their leader, Fwi-Song, was so graphic and disturbing that though I passed that section days ago, I still occasionally get flashbacks that make me shudder.

But aside from that, great book. I highly recommend it.

Crossposted from http://fayanora.dreamwidth.org

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