Sat, 22 Jul 2017
Unplayable Music

Hydrogen Sonata
By Iain M. Banks

Score: 5/5

This is Iain Banks' last Culture novel before his premature death in 2013. I've read quite a few of them now and I think this one was one of the best. I think it is my current favourite after Excession and Surface Detail.

The Hydrogen Sonata is the common name for T.C. Villabier's 26th String Specific Sonata for an Instrument Yet to Be Invented, MW 1211. The instrument invented to play it is described as :

the notoriously difficult, temporamental and tonally challenged Antagonistic Undecagonstring - or elevenstring as it was commonly known.

Yes, Banks often injects a bit of fun into his work. Having four arms, as the novel's protagonist has (by choice), seems to help play the piece. She's never managed to but is working on it.

As usual, it is full of amazing futuristic detail, alongside the moral and philosophical digressions he often mixes in. What made this book great for me was the fact that it had a good plot and fast pace, alongside a lot of often explosive and inventive action sequences. The Culture and the AI Minds might be a generally pacific and peaceful civilisation but when required they know how to deal out a bit of death, destruction and general mayhem. I think Banks seems to relish this as well.

A witty, fun and fast paced thriller, set in an amazing post-scarcity world full of wonders. And a great last addition to his work.