Iain Banksâ€™ novel, SURFACE DETAIL, is his latest in the continuing series about the super civilization of the future, the Culture. It is about the lives of a number of distinct individuals whose stories come together to enrich the basic concepts. This is a story centered on a virtual battle between those who want to stop the construction of Hells because of their belief that it is uncivilized to engender perpetual torment and those who want to continue the practice based on the idea that Hell is required to keep people from doing bad things. The Hells are virtual worlds and the war is required to be virtual. The side favoring Hell is winning. The group on the losing side is now taking the battle outside of the virtual into the real, breaking the Cultureâ€™s eons-old premise that war must be fought in the virtual world.
The core of EMBASSYTOWN by China Mieville is an exploration of the nature of language in the context of the future on a far-distant solar system where humans interact with an alien species that speak a profoundly different language. This is a new book by the brilliantly inventive author of THE CITY AND THE CITY, PERDIDO STREET STATION, KRAKEN and others. I have read four of his books now and one common thread is that they have a philosophical emphasis, and plunge us without much explanation into a radically different world than our own. Due to the strangeness of these worlds, the first part of each book is like visiting some foreign place without knowing much at all about the place, the people, and the customs. Initially clueless, we are rewarded with an unfolding appreciation of the environment. Complex philosophical and conceptual issues are the point of this body of work. EMBASSYTOWN is no exception to this rule.