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am 3. Januar 2013
The problem with canonical SciFi stories in a consistent universe is the limited amount of philosophical questions to ask. The culture universe seems to have reached a point where there isn't much new to discover (if you have read all his culture novels, that is).

Still this is a very good work that I enjoyed reading, but it either lacks the depth of some other culture novels, or I couldn't see them. I think Banks wanted to make a point about pointlessness, but if so, he couldn't get the right traction for this concept - which may be his or my fault.

Anyway I have still big interest in Banks and the culture universe. I will almost definitively buy his next book, even if this one wasn't the best of all his SciFi novels.
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am 26. Oktober 2012
"The Hydrogen Sonata" ist ein leichtgewichtigeres Buch als Banks' vorangehende SF-Titel "Matter" und "Surface Detail". Der ironische, gelegentlich auch sarkastische Austausch zwischen den Raumschiff-"Minds" (künstlichen Intelligenzen), welche die Zivilisation der banksianischen "Culture" lenken und in diesem Roman in grosser Zahl auftreten, scheint dem Verfasser hier oft wichtiger als das Fortschreiten der relativ dünnen Handlung. Damit handelt es sich um einen seiner Mind-lastigsten Romane überhaupt, jedenfalls seit "Excession", und wer diesen Aspekt von Banks' Schreiben schätzt, wird ohne Zweifel voll auf seine Kosten kommen - für mich war das der Fall. Ich mag die Minds, das Konzept von Zivilisation, das sie repräsentieren - und ihre Exzentrik. Die Liste der albernen Raumschiffnamen wird um etliche ergänzt: von der ''Caconym'' (altgriechisch für "schlechter Name") über die "Refreshingly Unconcerned With the Vulgar Exigencies of Veracity" bis zur "Just the Washing Instruction Chip in Life's Rich Tapestry" hat sich Banks mal wieder kräftig ausgetobt. Obwohl "Matter" und "Surface Detail" gewiss tiefschürfender und origineller waren, gebe ich auch diesem Roman nun mit Vergnügen fünf Sterne - er liest sich einfach zu verflixt gut, um weniger zu verdienen.
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am 20. Juli 2013
The Hydrogen Sonata is about the near Sublimation of the Gzilt, a civilisation at the same technological level than the Culture. For those that read mostly mainstream novels, this would be like a story about passing away from the material world and inheritance, although at the level of galactic civilizations. The Hydrogen Sonata is a clear return to form by science-fiction writer Iain M banks. It displays a rather mature shaping of the plot, the structure, and its characters. It is never easy (at least for me) to summarize in a few paragraphs the more than hundred thousands words typically delivered in each of his books, moreover because the content is challenging, complex, split, multi-layered, resonant, with a long-term remarkable interpretative added value, that a written, fixed, public review may only interfere with, unless the review remains vague and flexible enough to allow for new impressions.
The story is very astounding, even more than that of Surface detail, and it shows unequivocally that Iain M Banks is a great storyteller.
Whereas his first SF novels are "realistic" and action-driven ("travelling with the body though physical landscapes"), the latter novels are more caricaturesque and thought-driven ("travelling with the mind through galleries of ideas"). The first SF novel, Consider Phlebas, and The Hydrogen Sonata might thus constitute such antipodes, noting also that whereas in the first novel everything seems to spiral out, at least for the main protagonist, in the last novel everything seems to spiral in. In The Hydrogen Sonata, the events are assessed successively by- or reverberated across a chain of actors/observers, producing some redundancy, but it is not critical. Team work is well depicted. The wrong doings of the few Gzilt baddies appear incredible for a civilization that advanced, though one might hypothesize this is because the Gzilt do not surrender their governing or evolution to artificial intelligence like in the Culture. After Matter and Surface Detail, this is the third consecutive Culture novel with a female main protagonist reaching Contact due to special circumstances (though very different circumstances indeed). The novel offers a lot to reflect upon (on the one side, casual social engineering - not so like in Dune from Frank Herbert, exceptionalism, militarism, and over-conceptualized art, and on the other side, futuristic technology, embodiment, longevity, the beginnings of the Culture, and so on) and is a great read.
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am 8. Juli 2014
The Gzilt species is preparing to pass on to the Ultimate Enfold -the transition to an immaterial existence. Thy have a holy book which - unlike most - correctly predicted most societal development over the millenia, and is therefore the uncontroversial fundamental of Gzilt society. It was, however, written and "revealed" by an old species - itself passed on long ago - as an experiment in civilization-building. That old species - somewhat regretfully - left the order to inform the Gzilt about the origins of their scripture before they transcend. The powers that be, strongly pursuing the Ultimate Enfold, want to suppress that information, as it might disturb the orderly transition to beyond, while another fraction tries to verify it.
Vyr Cossont, a Gzilt player of the acoustic Antagonistic 11-string for four hands, gets involved in this struggle, which results in the galactic search for the memories of the most likely oldest Culture citizen.
Fun to read, especially the musical parts about a symphony whose beauty is that it's written for an instrument still to be invented, and requiring a four-armed very trained soloist, while at the same time sounding horrible.
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am 27. Dezember 2012
I think I have read them all - something keeps drawing me back. I didn't find it terribly satisfying, though. Culture, as Iain M. Banks developed it, is just too far from normal human concerns to still really grab the reader. If even the protagonists don't care how the story ends, why would the reader?
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am 27. Januar 2013
The Hydrogen Sonata is one of those books that you spend half the book trying to figure out what it is about and the other half following the fragments of story that are revealed piecemeal. At the end however, you realise that it was worth it.
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am 12. Februar 2013
absolutely meaningless ... at first a little bit disappointing. It took me some weeks to realize that exactly this is the point of the whole book. Don't get me wrong, there is a lot happening - people, minds and whole civilizations dying or changed for ever - there is a lot interesting stuff about minds too ... but in the end it is just meaningless. And the best of it: it is not depressing but enlightening. If you didn't get it at your first read, go back to page 211 ff. Thanks to Banks I have a lot more fun reading the newspaper now. This book hit me when I have been in the right mood.
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am 9. April 2015
Good read, with interesting characters, although they could have been developed a little more.

Culture craft are all mighty :)
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am 7. November 2012
Ich kann mich der Vorrezension nur anschließen,auch bei mir kam sofort der Vergleich und die Parelellen zu Excession auf und das war klasse,weil Ich dieses Buch immer noch genieße und die Minds eben für mich das verkörpern was die Kultur so interresant macht,eben ihre verrückten Schiffe.
Dazu wieder geniale und sehr plastisch beschriebene Hintergründe ,man sollte das Buch wirklich genau lesen da Banks dicht gepackt schreibt ,trotz einfacher Story.Einfach ein fantastischer Lesespaß und ein Roman wie Ich in seit Jahren vermiße
in der Science Fiction ,wo gutes Lesefutter selten wird.
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am 15. November 2013
Ich habe alle Bücher über "The Culture" gelesen, dieses Buch ist ein von den besten. Es gibt aber ein paar kleine Nachteile: die Sprache ist manchmal wirklich zu bunt, zu viel Homoerotismus für mich (obwohl ich kein Homophob bin), die Aliens (Gzilt) sind zu menschlich.
Trotzdem ein sehr gutes Buch.
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