On the late Iain M. Banks

Iain M. Banks, author of the Culture novels, has passed away.

In April, Banks posted a brave message announcing that he was suffering from terminal cancer, and fellow author Charles Stross has confirmed that Banks died this morning. It’s difficult to express Banks’ contribution to science fiction, engrossing readers in the vast and complex universe of the Culture for a quarter of a century.

I read the first novel in the Culture series, Consider Pheblas, last year. It was genuinely brilliant and I have been looking forward to reading the rest of his Culture novels, though I haven’t due to dealing with Darth Real Life lately.

Consider Pheblas was like reading a version of Star Wars with modern sensibilities. While I didn’t like all of it (the part with the degenerate wretches on the island on the doomed Orbital grossed me out and I thought it was unnecessary) it had the same sense of majesty, the wide open vastness of proper space opera, and even a bit of space fantasy. Obviously the tone is quite different–there’s no Force or quasi-mystical elements, at least in that book–but it was really something that I got into and thoroughly enjoyed. The man was a fantastic writer, even outside the science fiction genre, and in terms of scifi I wish it got more traction in America and help shape science fiction here. Mainly because a lot of the scifi I see these days is very postmodern introspective junk that just bores me.

He will be sorely missed.