Book reviews / Science Fiction

Book review: Consider Phlebas

The tagline on the front of this book says: “Poetic, baffling, terrifyng, sexy…” and I’m wondering if whoever wrote those words had read a different book. Well, baffling is possibly accurate.

I want to explain the plot, which sounds straightforward, but really is just the gossamer web of an idea that tricks you into thinking that the book has a point. Basically, the main character (Horza) needs to find a Mind (artificial intelligence) on a planet. It takes approximately 300 pages out of 446 pages to get to the planet.

Most of theat 300 pages is taken up by what I thought was a Lemony Snicket’s series of unfortunate events involving space, mercenaries and a diversion into cannibalism. So what I’m saying, is that there was approximately 150 pages where the plot actually happens. That is mostly a ramble through a long dead culture’s massive underground transportation network and a few fire fights (where almost everyone bites it).

Basically the thing that I complain about (a lot) is needless sub-plots with no real reason for happening. That’s like this entire book, it is 450 pages of pointless subplot. It’s so fucking annoying when you finish it.

It does pass the test though. The random pregnancy bit at the end with Yalson and Horza was weird and ultimately pointless (given that they both die…spoilers). There was a little bit of religious critique, which was kind of fun.

I’m trying to be angry at this book for wasting my time. But it’s hard, because it is inordinately non-offensive. Even though it’s trying to create this wonderful, strange universe filled with massive ships, interesting orbital stations and a variety of alien species – I never really got a picture of anything in that book. It was like a beige wall of description that never formed a picture. It was so arid and dry where it was trying to be all innovative and interesting. It was horribly dull.

At about 200 pages I was “yeah, maybe I’d read another one” but by about 300 I knew I never would. It was just all distraction and no substance. It was trying to be clever, when really it should have made more of an effort to have something to hold it together, rather than just lurch from one improbable and ultimately pointless event to another.

Anyway, maybe 3/5 stars because it’s okay (and better than a lot of the books I read) but ultimately a middle of the road and not too inspiring space opera.

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