Matter – Iain M Banks

“A light breeze produced a dry rattling sound from some nearby bushes.”

You don’t start a review blog without being somewhat opinionated, but for the first time I find myself a little short on words. Matter was… alright. I quite liked reading it. But to be honest, it fails to leave much of an impression, one way or the other.

The good: I love the idea of the Shellworlds, enormous spheres housing levels upon levels of different environments and species. And we follow one, the Sarl, who are completely aware of ‘higher beings’ and aliens and other technology being out there, while living out a dark-ages level existence of kings and wars and ‘that sort of thing’ (perhaps Banks would really have liked to write a classic fantasy?).

We get to see one such citizen, Djan Seriy, taken out of her own world and into that of the Culture, allowed to experience technologies and opportunities unheard of in her childhood. And we also get to see the Culture from a slightly more ‘universal’ viewpoint, how they interact with other big societies on a more day-to-day level.

However: the bad. Well, there is a plot going on amidst all of this, but it’s never quite… well… hmm. I have no idea what the prologue really ties with. The ending seemed super-abrupt, too. And there are a lot of cool things – the city under the melting ice, for instance – which never quite seem to come to much of anything, overall.

In fact, that’s my view of the book: I’m really not sure what it comes to, overall. It was a vaguely entertaining read, with several intriguing ideas, but to be honest largely just felt written for the sake of writing, rather than for a story needing to be told.

Paperback: 593 pages / 28 chapters (including an epilogue ‘hidden’ after the appendix)
First published: 2008
Series: Culture novels, book 8 of 10
Read from February 7th – 23rd April 2016 (yes, a long pause in the middle – probably didn’t help my enjoyment)

My rating: 6/10


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