Iain Banks died earlier this year from cancer. A great loss to writing, and I have decided to read the very few books I had missed earlier. Ever since ‘The Wasp Factory’, and his first science fiction book ‘Consider Phlebas’ I have read most of his almost annual offerings. One I missed was ‘The State of the Art’, which is one longish novella and a collection of shorter stories.
Well, I can see straight away why this was never a great Culture novel. It is a pretty thin story, although a great idea. The Culture discover Earth in the late Twentieth Century and have to decide what to do – intervene, silently observe or ignore. A bit too much philosophical argument makes the book a bit boring. Also nothing much happens, surprisingly for Banks. And the whole tone of the story is one of rue-full reflection. Enjoyable in places, but on the whole a bit of a failure. Only one other of his stories have I not really liked; 2009’s ‘Transition’. Which consdidering he has published almost thirty books is pretty good going.
And even here, although not his best Culture story, by far, I am glad I read it.