Excession (Culture Series #4)

( 5 )

Overview

Iain M. Banks is a true original, an author whose brilliant speculative fiction has transported us into worlds of unbounded imagination and inimitable revelatory power. Now he takes us on the ultimate trip: to the edge of possibility and to the heart of a cosmic puzzle....

Diplomat Byr Genar-Hofoen has been selected by the Culture to undertake a delicate and dangerous mission. The Department of Special Circumstances--the Culture's espionage and dirty tricks section--has sent him...

See more details below
Paperback (Mass Market Paperback - Reprint)
$7.27
BN.com price
(Save 9%)$7.99 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (64) from $1.99   
  • New (12) from $4.30   
  • Used (52) from $1.99   
Sending request ...

Overview

Iain M. Banks is a true original, an author whose brilliant speculative fiction has transported us into worlds of unbounded imagination and inimitable revelatory power. Now he takes us on the ultimate trip: to the edge of possibility and to the heart of a cosmic puzzle....

Diplomat Byr Genar-Hofoen has been selected by the Culture to undertake a delicate and dangerous mission. The Department of Special Circumstances--the Culture's espionage and dirty tricks section--has sent him off to investigate a 2,500-year-old mystery: the sudden disappearance of a star fifty times older than the universe itself. But in seeking the secret of the lost sun, Byr risks losing himself.

There is only one way to break the silence of millennia: steal the soul of the long-dead starship captain who first encountered the star, and convince her to be reborn. And in accepting this mission, Byr will be swept into a vast conspiracy that could lead the universe into an age of peace...or to the brink of annihilation.

Diplomat Byr Gen-Hofoen has been selected by The Department of Special Circumstances to investigate a 2,500-year-old mystery--the reported existence and sudden disappearance of a star 50 times older than the universe itself. The only way to break the silence is to steal the soul of a long-dead starship captain who first encountered the star, and convince her to be reborn. Targeted ads. Online promo. 16,200 print.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Banks is a phenomenon...wildly successful, fearlessly creative."
--William Gibson
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Set in the remote future, Banks's (Feersum Endjinn) latest novel mounts a galactic-scale space opera, or, to be more exact, a space opera buffa. The Culture, a "pan-civilization, pan-species grouping" dominates the known cosmos, while the borders of unexplored space are probed by its Contact ships, intelligent, witty and fully sentient beings tagged with names like "The Anticipation of a New Lover's Arrival" and "Serious Callers Only." Of course, every opera needs a crisis, and the sudden appearance of an alien artifact that can seemingly travel between universes sends ships from the Culture and its competitor, the Affront, on a race to investigate the potential invader. Meanwhile, handsome young Genar-Hofoen is dispatched on a separate mission to discover what he can about the anomaly, only to find himself buffeted by decaying Culture-Affront relations. Banks fills the supporting cast with appealing but tart-tongued heroines, cute but droll droids-the conversations between the ships alone reveal that one doesn't have to be flesh-and-blood to be neurotic, bitchy or thin-skinned-and enough sputtering politicians to keep readers smiling. Although the narrative pace occasionally drops below warp speed, he provides enough hard science to provide credibility to his fantastic, far-flung society. In short, this is a riotous space swashbuckler, a lighthearted, light-years' romp. (Feb.)
Kirkus Reviews
From versatile Scottish writer Banks, another sf yarn about the tolerant, diverse, far-future Culture (The Player of Games, 1989, etc.). The Culture is subtly controlled by prodigiously intelligent artificial Minds, who, Banks intimates, spend most of their spare time navel-gazing. Here, a huge, enigmatic object referred to as the Excession appears in space and interacts with the Culture's energy grid in ways previously considered impossible. Diplomat Byr Genar-Hofoen of the Department of Special Circumstances is sent to investigate—but, sidetracked by beautiful, talented, spoiled-brat operative Ulver Seich and by old flame Dajeil Gelian, it will be a long time before he draws near the object. Meanwhile, certain Minds occupying a vast array of self-controlled spaceships suspect that still other Minds are involved in a conspiracy—but to what end? With the Culture thus distracted by the Excession, the cruel, dangerously expansionist alien Affront seize the opportunity to hijack a Culture battle fleet and start a war that they only gradually realize they've been suckered into and can't possibly win.

Brilliantly inventive and amusing—whole sections read like strings of knowing jokes—but a mess: Chattering spaceships with splendid if confusing names (e.g., Not Invented Here and Shoot Them Later) don't compensate for the absence of real characters.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553575378
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/28/1998
  • Series: Culture Series , #4
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 497
  • Sales rank: 194,706
  • Product dimensions: 4.16 (w) x 6.86 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Read an Excerpt

The ship shuddered; the few remaining lights flickered, dimmed and went out. The alarms dopplered down to silence. A series of sharp impacts registered through the companionway shell walls with resonations in the craft's secondary and primary structure. The atmosphere pulsed with impact echoes; a breeze picked up, then disappeared. The shifting air brought with it a smell of burning and vaporization; aluminium, polymers associated with carbon fibre and diamond film, superconductor cabling.

Somewhere, the drone Sisela Ytheleus could hear a human, shouting; then, radiating wildly over the electromagnetic bands came a voice signal similar to that carried by the air. It became garbled almost immediately, then degraded quickly into meaningless static. The human shout changed to a scream, then the EM signal cut off; so did the sound.

Pulses of radiation blasted in from various directions, virtually information-free. The ship's inertial field wobbled uncertainly, then drew steady and settled again. A shell of neutrinos swept through the space around the companionway. Noises faded. EM signatures murmured to silence; the ship's engines and main life support systems were off-line. The whole EM spectrum was empty of meaning. Probably the battle had now switched to the ship's AI core and back-up photonic nuclei.

Then a pulse of energy shot through a multi-purpose cable buried in the wall behind, oscillating wildly then settling back to a steady, utterly unrecognisable pattern. An internal camera patch on a structural beam nearby awakened and started scanning.

It can't be over that quickly, can it?

Hiding in the darkness, the drone suspected it was already too late. It was supposed to wait until the attack had reached a plateau phase and the aggressor thought that it was just a matter of mopping up the last dregs of opposition before it made its move, but the attack had been too sudden, too extreme, too capable. The plans the ship had made, of which it was such an important part, could only anticipate so much, only allow for so proportionally greater a technical capability on the part of the attacker. Beyond a certain point, there was simply nothing you could do; there was no brilliant plan you could draw up or cunning stratagem you could employ that would not seem laughably simple and unsophisticated to a profoundly more developed enemy. In this instance they were not perhaps quite at the juncture where resistance became genuinely without point, but--from the ease with which the Elencher ship was being taken over--they were not that far away from it, either.

Remain calm, the machine told itself. Look at the overview; place this and yourself in context. You are prepared, you are hardened, you are proof. You will do all that you can to survive as you are or at the very least to prevail. There is a plan to be put into effect here. Play your part with skill, courage and honour and no ill wilt be thought of you by those who survive and succeed.

The Elench had spent many thousands of years pitting themselves against every kind of technology and every type of civilisational artifact the vast spaces of the greater galaxy could provide, seeking always to understand rather than to overpower, to be changed rather than to enforce change upon others, to incorporate and to share rather than to infect and impose, and in that cause, and with that relatively unmenacing modes operandi, had become perhaps more adept than any--with the possible exception of the mainstream culture's semi-military emissaries known as the Contact Section--at resisting outright attack without seeming to threaten it; but for all that the galaxy had been penetrated by so many different explorers in all obvious primary directions to every periphery however distant, enormous volumes of that encompassing arena remained effectively unexplored by the current crop of in-play civilizations, including the Elench (quite how utterly that region, and beyond, was comprehended by the elder species, or even whether they really cared about it at all was simply unknown). And in those swallowingly vast volumes, amongst those spaces between the spaces between the stars, around suns, dwarfs, nebulae and holes it had been determined from some distance were of no immediate interest or threat, it was of course always possible that some danger waited, some peril lurked, comparatively small measured against the physical scale of the galaxy's present active cultures, but capable--through a developmental peculiarity or as a result of some form of temporal limbo or exclusionary dormancy--of challenging and besting even a representative of a society as technologically advanced and contactually experienced as the Elench.

The drone felt calm, thinking as coldly and detachedly as it could for those few moments on the background to its current predicament. It was prepared, it was ready, and it was no ordinary machine; it was at the cutting edge of its civilisation's technology, designed to evade detection by the most sophisticated instruments, to survive in almost unimaginably hostile conditions, to take on virtually any opponent and to suffer practically any damage in concentric stages of resistance. That its ship, its own manufacturer, the one entity that probably knew it better than it knew itself, was apparently being at this moment corrupted, seduced, taken over, must not affect its judgement or its confidence.

The displacer, it thought. All I've got to do is get near the Displace Pod, that's all...

Then it felt its body scanned by a point source located near the ship's AI core, and knew its time had come. The attack was as elegant as it was ferocious and the take-over abrupt almost to the point of instantaneity, the battle-memes of the invading alien consciousness aided by the thought processes and shared knowledge of the by now obviously completely overwhelmed ship.

With no interval to provide a margin for error at all, the drone shunted its personality from its own AI core to its back-up picofoam complex and at the same time readied the signal cascade that would transfer its most important concepts, programs and instructions first to electronic nanocircuitry, then to an atomechanical substrate and finally--absolutely as a last resort--to a crude little (though at several cubic centimetres also wastefully large) semi-biological brain. The drone shut off and shut down what had been its true mind, the only place it had ever really existed in all its life, and let whatever pattern of consciousness had taken root there perish for lack of energy, its collapsing consciousness impinging on the machine's new mind as a faint, informationless exhalation of neutrinos.

The drone was already moving; out from its body-niche in the wall and into the companionway space. It accelerated along the corridor, sensing the gaze of the ceiling-beam camera patch following it. Fields of radiation swept over the drone's militarised body, caressing, probing, penetrating. An inspection hatch burst open in the companionway just ahead of the drone and something exploded out of it; cables burst free, filling to overflowing with electrical power. The drone zoomed then swooped; a discharge of electricity crackled across the air immediately above the machine and blew a hole in the far wall; the drone twisted through the wreckage and powered down the corridor, turning flat to its direction of travel and extending a disc-field through the air to brake for a corner, then slamming off the far wall and accelerating up another companionway. It was one of the full cross-axis corridors, and so long; the drone quickly reached the speed of sound in the human-breathable atmosphere; an emergency door slammed shut behind it a full second after it had passed.

A space suit shot upwards out of a descending vertical tubeway near the end of the companionway, crumpled to a stop, then reared up and stumbled out to intercept the machine. The drone had already scanned the suit and knew the suit was empty and unarmed; it went straight through it, leaving it flapping halved against floor and ceiling like a collapsed balloon. The drone threw another disc of field around itself to match the companionway's diameter and rode almost to a stop on a piston of compressed air, then darted round the next corner and accelerated again.

A human figure inside a space suit lay half-way up the next corridor, which was pressurising rapidly with a distant roar of gas. Smoke was filling the companionway in the distance, then it ignited and the mixture of gases exploded down the tube. The smoke was transparent to the drone and far too cool to do it any harm, but the thickening atmosphere was going to slow it up, which was doubtless exactly the idea.

The drone scanned the human and the suit as best it could as it tore up the smoke-filled corridor towards it. It knew the person in the suit well; he had been on the ship for five years. The suit was without weaponry, its systems quiet but doubtless already taken over; the man was in shock and under fierce chemical sedation from the suit's medical unit. As the drone approached the suit it raised one arm towards the fleeing machine. To a human the arm would have appeared to move almost impossibly quickly, flicking up at the machine, but to the drone the gesture looked languid, almost leisurely; surely this could not be all the threat the suit was capable of--

The drone had only the briefest warning of the suit's holstered gun exploding; until that instant the gun hadn't even been apparent to the machine's senses, shielded somehow. There was no time to stop, no opportunity to use its own EM effector on the gun's controls to prevent it from overloading, nowhere to take cover, and--in the thick mist of gases flooding the corridor--no way of accelerating beyond the danger. At the same moment, the ship's inertial field fluctuated again, and flipped a quarter-turn; suddenly down was directly behind the drone, and the field strength doubled, then redoubled. The gun exploded, tearing the suit and the human it contained apart.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 5 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(3)

4 Star

(2)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 8, 2012

    This is Banks' novel that focuses the most on the ship-minds as

    This is Banks' novel that focuses the most on the ship-minds as characters in their own right. So the main characters are AI's (artificial intelligences). It is readable as an intro but Look to Windward or The Player of Games would be better first novels for an introduction to the world of The Culture.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2004

    What's an Excession?

    The word 'Excession' is brilliant. It's impossible that this word didn't exist before it was created by Banks. The development of the story is fairly slow, but given the title, no problem. I think it fits. The hard science in the story seem to be backed up be recent developments in physics. Beyond this book, in my opinion, Banks' invention of the Culture is brilliant but also utterly realistic: we all use mobiles (cell-phones). When will we tire of holding these 'handsets' to our ears? Who will be the first to have a wireless head-set grafted/implanted behind his or her ears? I think something like that will definitely happen. That will lead to a type of 'telepathy' that effectively is a step towards the Culture, as described by Banks.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2000

    Suggested Introduction to 'The Culture'..

    Though a great book and a great author, I felt that this book was slow getting in to. This happened a little over half-way for me. I think that the utter creative and 'strange' Culuture-universe that Ian Banks has created was to 'blame'. I would suggest reading Banks' 'Player of Games' as the introduction to this universe and then read this excelent book. Don't get me wrong after I read this book I was sold on Banks' 'The Culture'.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)