The Hydrogen Sonata

The Hydrogen Sonata

Book - 2012
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The New York Times bestselling Culture novel...
The Scavenger species are circling. It is, truly, provably, the End Days for the Gzilt civilization.

An ancient people, organized on military principles and yet almost perversely peaceful, the Gzilt helped set up the Culture ten thousand years earlier and were very nearly one of its founding societies, deciding not to join only at the last moment. Now they've made the collective decision to follow the well-trodden path of millions of other civilizations; they are going to Sublime, elevating themselves to a new and almost infinitely more rich and complex existence.

Amid preparations though, the Regimental High Command is destroyed. Lieutenant Commander (reserve) Vyr Cossont appears to have been involved, and she is now wanted - dead, not alive. Aided only by an ancient, reconditioned android and a suspicious Culture avatar, Cossont must complete her last mission given to her by the High Command. She must find the oldest person in the Culture, a man over nine thousand years old, who might have some idea what really happened all that time ago.

It seems that the final days of the Gzilt civilization are likely to prove its most perilous.
Publisher: New York : Orbit, 2012
Edition: 1st U.S. ed
ISBN: 9780316212373
Branch Call Number: Science Fiction F Ban


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Oct 10, 2018

Definitely the weakest of Banks' nine "Culture" novels. If you haven't read any of them, they work as stand-alone novels and the second one, "Player of Games," is the best, a sci-fi masterpiece.

Mar 01, 2016

Mr. Banks is rightfully considered one of the best writers of "space opera"--big ambitious science fiction novels. If you enjoy this one, you'll probably be knocked out by another title in the series: "Surface Detail." (word of warning: frequent use of the f-bomb)

Jun 06, 2015

SO GOOD! I'm new to the Culture novels, having read only Matter before, and I know there are some deeper ones. BUT! I could not put this one down. The ships are at the forefront of the story and I enjoyed their various and conflicting personalities. Just a good adventure story with a bit of philosophizing, and definitely made my commute bearable this week. Thank you person at the laundromat who has similar reading tastes and leaves their books for others.

May 01, 2015

An outstanding work of Science Fiction. Read it.

Sep 02, 2013

I write this review on the day that Iain Banks passed away from cancer. What a loss. Writing as Iain M. Banks he became one of the greatest science fiction writers of the last quarter century. His Culture series, beginning with Consider Phlebas, features stories that are imaginative and massive in concept. The Hydrogen Sonata is the most recent and, sadly, probably his last.

The Hydrogen Sonata is named after a piece of music that requires a special instrument and two bows to play. The humanoid protagonist has had an extra set of arms added to play it. How this relates to the story is intriguing.

The previous entry in the series, Surface Detail, was focused on hell. The Hydrogen Sonata is focused on Heaven or at least attaining it through a process known as Subliming. Sadly, The Hydrogen Sonata is the weakest entry in the series with neither the grand tragedy of Consider Phebas nor the triumph of good over evil in other series entries, particularly Surface Detail.

There’s still some good stuff in the novel. In particular, the conversations between the Minds that run the Culture are enjoyable as the machines are shown to be chatty. In previous entries we get the impression that the Minds are invincible. However, that’s not the case in this entry. All in all The Hydrogen Sonata is disappointing, particularly in its conclusion.

If you are unfamiliar with the series, read Consider Phlebas first. Use of Weapons, Matter, and Surface Detail are essential. Banks not only wrote great stories but he managed magnificent twist endings. The best came before The Hydrogen Sonata.

Jul 22, 2013

An interesting Culture novel, although my all-time favorite Culture novel, and overall future fiction novel, was Iain Banks' "The Player of Games" --- incredible! Still entertaining, and Mr. Banks' novels are galaxies ahead of Herbert, who he completely outclasses!

A patron review from the Adult Summer Reading Game: 500 pages of incredible plot twists, detail and so many concurrent plots it makes your head spin...Similar to Frank Herbert in style, except with a sense of humour.

Feb 11, 2013

In my opinion probably his best SF book since The Algebraist, and a return to form with the Culture after Matter (average) and Surface Detail (good but not exceptional).

Dec 21, 2012

Outstanding reading enjoyment. Great ship mind to mind conversations.


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Aug 03, 2014

10th and final book in the Culture series


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