Title: Consider Phlebas
Author: Iain M. Banks
Series: Culture, book 1
Genre: Science Fiction
Recommendation: A solid science fiction epic that will keep you hanging onto every word.
Summary: Horza is one of a dying species of Changers, a people who are able to alter their appearance in any way they want. He is fighting on the side of Idirans in the Idiran-Culture war, but his path to fulfill a mission on the Planet of the Dead isn't short or easy.
Reactions: This is the second book I've read by Iain Banks -- the other being Against a Dark Background -- and I enjoyed this book thoroughly. Banks certainly doesn't lack in imagination or the writing skill. From start to finish this space opera is one big thrill, well written and entertaining.
One of the somewhat shocking aspects of this book is the sheer number of ways the main hero manages to get in trouble and the rather graphic violence that ensues. I admire the creativity of all the different ways Horza manages to be tortured beginning from page 1 and progressing in various ways from there. The violence is well justified in the plot of the novel and overall it didn't bother me, but I can imagine some readers may find this a little too graphic for them.
The plot of the book is very well done. It's a pretty hefty book at over 500 pages and Banks doesn't skimp on details and world building. At the same time, it's packed with action and I stayed up rather late finishing the book, unable to stop. The novel concludes with a historical overview of the era that the book is set in and details what happened to the various characters after the book end. I really liked this as a way of ending the story.
My least favorite aspect of the book was probably the romance subplots of the book. They felt somewhat forced and some of them didn't feel very believable especially towards the end of the story. The characters themselves are well-written and unique though not always likable.
All in all it was a very good fast-paced read and I am certainly planning on picking up more books by this author in the future.