A comment by fellow writer Jay Reynolds the other day reminded me of Iain M. Banks. I usually can’t remember which is which, but Iain Banks is the author of mainstream (though still unusual) fiction, while Iain M. Banks is the speculative fiction author of the popular Culture sequence. I’ve mostly read his dense but interesting speculative fiction, but A Song of Stone was very good.
I came to Banks via his very first SF novel, Consider Phlebas. I think the intriguing title first caught my eye. Despite my dislike of Eliot’s The Wasteland, the section about Phlebas had stuck in my head. I was pleased to find this book a broad, carefully considered universe with credible, interesting characters, and an exciting plot. That’s pretty much par for the course with Banks, the the plots aren’t always quite so adventurous. The stories are generally full of well thought out aliens and a culture that lives by believable rules.
I’ll admit that I haven’t re-read many of Banks’ stories – they’re dauntingly thick. But that hasn’t stopped me from buying and enjoying new ones. If you enjoy (generally) serious, sociological SF of a vaguely Le Guin or Herbert type, Banks is well worth a look.