The Algebraist

The Algebraist

by Iain M. Banks


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It is 4034 AD. Humanity has made it to the stars. Fassin Taak, a Slow Seer at the Court of the Nasqueron Dwellers, will be fortunate if he makes it to the end of the year. The Nasqueron Dwellers inhabit a gas giant on the outskirts of the galaxy, in a system awaiting its wormhole connection to the rest of civilization. In the meantime, they are dismissed as decadents living in a state of highly developed barbarism, hoarding data without order, hunting their own young and fighting pointless formal wars. Seconded to a military-religious order he's barely heard of — part of the baroque hierarchy of the Mercatoria, the latest galactic hegemony — Fassin Taak has to travel again amongst the Dwellers. He is in search of a secret hidden for half a billion years. But with each day that passes a war draws closer — a war that threatens to overwhelm everything and everyone he's ever known.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781597800440
Publisher: Night Shade
Publication date: 06/01/2006
Pages: 434
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

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The Algebraist 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
drardavis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
6/23/12 The Algebraist, Iain M. Banks, 2004. Every nook and cranny of the galaxy is full of life, but this story deals mostly with a human scholar of Dwellers, the life forms that populate gas giants. His quest is to search for a possibly mythical text, The Algebraist, which is ¿all about mathematics, navigation as a metaphor, duty, love, longing, honour, long voyages home ... that sort of stuff.¿ Banks¿ writing style is as dense and detailed as befits such a complex universe. His sentences extend to paragraphs, his lists can¿t stop at two or three examples but invariably explode to ten or twelve descriptors. There is sex, there is violence, there is politics, there is humor, but don¿t let the title fool you, there is no Algebra!However, there are a few scatterings of mathematics; ¿by any algebra of justice under any sun¿, ¿Lagrange point¿, ¿an algorithm for elegance¿, ¿fractally spiraled¿, ¿and some algebra ciphered into the base code¿.¿It looked like algebra.¿ What does algebra look like? Especially an alien algebra?I liked a couple of lines that could get the reader to refresh his basics. ¿the number of genuine galaxy-spanning wars didn¿t make it to double figures. In base eight!¿ And if they had, how many would there be? :-) ¿7.35 x 10^8 seconds ago¿ I almost started to calculate that, but then he said, ¿about twenty years earlier.¿ ¿I suspect good luck will be necessary, if not sufficient.¿The holy grail of the plot is ¿some extra set of coordinates, or even a single mathematical operation, a transform, which, when applied to any given set of coordinates in the original list, somehow magically derived the exact position¿
Shrike58 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I liked this novel as well as any Banks' SF novel I've read since "Excession," as he returns to over-the-top space opera in a melieu rather different then the "Culture" novels. Here the galactic society is authoritarian polycratic, hunts down artificial intelligence with extreme prejudice, and depends on worm holes for interstellar travel.That the last are distressingly vulnerable is the hook on which this story hangs, as our protagonist Fassin Taak finds himself drafted into the hunt for a mythical stargate net alledgedly maintained by a standoffish elder race. Taak's changing understanding of this race (The Dwellers), and the coming home to roost of some touchy personal decisions, make up the core of this novel.If I have to mark down this novel for anything, it's that I expected the plotlines of Taak, the assorted compatriots of his youth (military personage Tanice Yarabokin and industrialist Saluus Kehar), and the looming threat of this deranged conqueror (The Archimandrite Luseferous) to be better integrated together, rather then turning out to be parallel stories. But on the whole that's not a major failing, though it is the difference between 'must read' and a real good time.
derekstaff01 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very intriguing concepts of alien forms and civilizations.
azoni on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I picked this up wondering if I would have time to finish it, and much to my delight it proved to be the sort of book which begs to be read whether or not I have time.The story revolves around a species of aliens called Dwellers, who have been around for ten billion years. The protagonist, a young man called Fassin, studies the Dwellers. He is unexpectedly called away by the military to complete a top-secret mission regarding a fabled system of connected wormholes, controlled by the Dwellers, which could save Fassin's home system from an attack by a power-hungry rebel cult. The best thing about this book was definitely the Dwellers. Inhabiting most gas giants in the galaxy, they live for a billion or more years and are shaped like two tentacled wheels connected by a fat axle. They glibly deny having any military prowess or inter-gas giant infrastructure, but the Dwellers are much more than they seem, with hilarious personalities to boot. These personalities, indeed the characterization of the entire species, much resembles a very exaggerated version of English society - posh, condescending, but with a little bit of an alien twist - Dwellers don't feel pain, physical or emotional, as far as I could tell. This of course is exactly why the Dwellers are hilarious. They are similar, but not quite similar enough to English people to detract from the novel. I was also impressed by the way the main plot and the subplot intertwine. The subplot mainly serves to enhance the main characters and explain the connexions between them. Although this book is most definitely science fiction, unlike a lot of sci-fi the characters in this one are pretty round. The interactions between the main characters give the book some drama and emotional appeal. I cared about the fates of these people, which was a huge factor in why I read the book so voraciously. Fassin, the protagonist, is a likeable fellow. Not without flaws, but he changes a great deal over the course of the book and I felt like I knew him. I was a little bothered by the fact that Fassin's lover girl from the Beyond seemed to switch loyalties at the drop of a hat. First she's with Fassin, then with Fassin's very rich and famous (and annoying asshole) school friend Saluus. First she seems to be on Fassin's side, then on the side of the invaders, with minimal explanation and not very many emotional reactions to these varied situations to give the reader a clue what she's really thinking. The other thing that bothered me was that, although truly great fun and wonderful to read about, the Dwellers were a little too consistent. It was fun to find out all these really cool Dweller secrets and hidden depths to their society, but I felt a little bereft of any Dweller character twists, or developments, or anything about the emotions of Dwellers.On the whole, though, this book is excellent. It was so much fun to read and definitely rereadable. When I wasn't reading, I thought about the book, and when I was reading, it was mostly with a smile on my face.
geertwissink on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book has it all - a nice main character to identfy with, some technical space-mumbo jumbo, a real sadistic villain, war, love and a beautifully drawn alien society, which after a reading for a while seems almost real. One of the best books I've read this year
johnnyapollo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had a tough time starting this book - there's a lot of set-up for the various story threads that take development until the main action starts. However once things get going this book becomes a joy to read and difficult to set down. There's already much said regarding the general plot lines, the Culture (and how this doesn't belong), the space opera aspect, yadda yadda so I won't delve into that (pun intended). What I really got from the book as I read, was how Swiftian the rolling events become - very "Gulliver's Travels" in that the reader is introduced to so many species, races, cultures, etc. that are interesting, each with its own motives that the novel is enriched instead of being distracting. The other aspect I absolutely loved were the battle scenes, especially the gas giant scenes with frigates and battleships exchanging fire - very Horatio Hornblower - and the Dweller species is so like-able for its quirkiness one get completely drawn in. I've now read a handful of Culture books and this has become my favorite, even if it doesn't belong in that cannon.
morven on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A good, but flawed, non-Culture novel from Ian M. Banks. His imagination and creativity are working as well as always here, and his throwaway asides are often more inventive than some other authors' whole books. One problem is the characters. I found Fassin to be a largely uninteresting character who's difficult to really care about; in some ways, similar to Banks characters like Bora in "Consider Phlebas". A lot of the time, he seems like simply a vehicle in which to tour Banks' settings and happenings.Another is the pace, which at first is tediously slow. The first time I read this, I got bogged down at about a third in and left the book aside for six months before picking it up again. Things get better, but I have to agree with the reviewer who said that he really needed a tougher editor on this one.If you're a Banks reader, there's plenty here to delight, but I can see many not being able to get past the flaws.
TadAD on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Given all the rave reviews here and on Amazon, I was a trifle disappointed. The book wasn't bad: the humor was good, the characters interesting. However, it seemed to plod a bit and I can't see the justification for the "best book ever" reviews.
Gkarlives on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I could not even finish this book. The villians were too over the top to be believed. The story meandered all over the place and the society did not interest me. It just seemed very pointless.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
When I was in school, one of my favorite treats was a plain Hershey¿s chocolate bar. No almonds, no cream, just sweet, luscious chocolate. I would get one very day, breaking off each individual little block and savoring it. I would carefully fold up the foil wrapper to use as a bookmark, just to keep that wonderful smell around for a while longer. It was that good. A few months back I ran across one of those same treats in a vending machine. I hadn¿t had one in years, but suddenly all the memory of those wonderful moments came rushing back. I was practically drooling with anticipation as I watched the bar drop to the bottom of the machine. But moments later, something horrible happened. It wasn¿t good. It was still chocolate, to be sure, but nothing like the ambrosia I remembered from my youth. I was bitter about it for weeks. Sadly, this leads neatly into Iain M Banks¿ latest novel, The Algebraist. I¿ve been waiting for this book for a long time. I discovered Banks with The Player of Games about ten years ago, and promptly tracked down everything else he¿d ever written and devoured it. I loved his minimalist style of setting and characterization that could flower into extravagant detail when the moment called for it. I loved the sweeping epic feel of his Culture novels where miles-long super-intelligent warships indulge in not only combat, but political intrigue and social hobbies as well. In short, he was one of my favorite authors. Sadly, he publishes somewhat infrequently, and that 10 years since my first discovery have only yielded four new novels. Look to Windward was the last, and satiated my hunger nicely, but it wasn¿t long before I was anxiously checking the web to find out when I could expect another treat. Finally The Algebraist hit the shelves and I snatched it from the shelf and rushed home, quite prepared to devour it in a single setting. In The Algebraist human civilization is still recovering from the results of a disastrous holy war against its own artificial intelligences. The network of wormhole gates that once allowed rapid transit between thousands of scattered planets has been damaged by war, leaving many systems cut off. Large portions of the once comprehensive galactic government have broken off to form their own governments, or fallen under the sway of warlords. Fassin Taak is an archeologist of information, dredging useful bits from a sea of unsorted data gathered over billions of years by a race of spectacularly long-lived aliens who dwell deep in the atmospheres of gas giants. He inadvertently uncovers a secret that represents both danger and opportunity to every significant power in the galaxy, and must race to put the clues together and work out his own divided loyalties before any of the vast organizations pursuing him can either kill him or force him to their side. The result includes ambushes, chase scenes, and vast space battles, but in the end, the result doesn¿t quite satisfy. The Archimandrite Luseferous is intended to be a great boogeyman, committing horrible atrocities that should make you cringe and shiver whenever he appears. Unfortunately, his actions are so excessive that they almost become cartoonish, and lose much of their impact. Even worse, the parts of the story that feature him are told from his own perspective, which eliminates any sense of fear or uncertainty about what his motivations or limits are. Instead of horror or fear, Luseferous inspires mostly just distaste, and a desire to perhaps flip the pages a little quicker to get to the next part of the story. In the end, while the characters and settings are all as richly developed as you would expect, they are also mostly recycled from Banks¿ previous novels. Fassin himself is very strongly reminiscent of the conflicted protagonist from Banks¿ first space-opera Consider Phlebas. A very similar group of gas-giant dwelling aliens has appeared before in Excession, and the fundamental ¿Searc
Guest More than 1 year ago
More ambitious and stylized than his other novels, and one of his best as well. Very worthy of a read for any SF fan. If you have never read any of his books, this is a great place to start. In true Banks style there is a lot of sarcasm and dark humor, a complex plot, plety of SF (although less hard than usual), exotic and gripping worlds, and, of course, a surprise ending. Don't be intimidated by the size of the book. It's filled with literary might!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I want to cheat and give this one 3 & 1/2 stars (buttons, whatev). It's a very ambitious novel, with some interesting alien species. It was just a little too far-out. The main character (one of the few humans in the novel), was not as memorable as some of Banks characters in, say, `Against A Dark Background'. This is not one of Banks' `Culture' Sci-Fi novels.