Sunday, 24 May 2009

"Feersum Endjinn" by Iain M. Banks

I picked up the last three of Iain M. Banks science fiction novels ("Feersum Endjin", "Inversions", and "Matter") the other day at the American Book Center in Amsterdam.

Of the three, "Feersum Endjin" was my least favorite. It follows three main characters as they attempt to avert a crisis threatening their world. One of the characters has a diminished capacity (read: funny spelling), which usually doesn't work very well for me. In the case of someone like Irvine Welsh, the spelling makes the work, it's presenting and preserving the word as spoken. In this case, it's a bit of a strain.

As in many of the author's works, people can be resurrected (restored from tape, basically). Unlike previous works, each person has a limited number of lives (eight physical lives, followed by eight virtual lives in storage). The limit is introduced briefly and only really made use of for a single character. It would be a good idea for a longer series, where there was time to get used to the idea, here it's not well explored. What is interesting is the idea that the dead are routinely in contact with the living in this world. That too is mentioned a few times, but isn't really stretched all that much.

The characters and their stories move forward in parallel until at last they intertwine near the end of the story. This is a technique Banks uses to good effect in books such as "Matter", "Excession", and "Look to Windward". For "Endjin", there just isn't enough about each thread to make the overall tapestry as appealing.

I've now read all of his science fiction novels, they are almost all enjoyable. If I had to suggest one to skip, this would be the one.

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