Best 'the culture' novels by Iain Banks for descriptions of a post singularity society

I’d never heard of this author or his series before. I don’t read a lot of fiction though (I have trouble getting into fiction, when I want to lose myself in someone else story I usually read biographies) but on another thread people were describing his novels and how they made good descriptions of a futuristic sci fi society.

So with the goal in mind to find as many descriptions of this society (the culture) as well as the advances that led up to it are any of his novels better than others for this?

I’ve already read most of the wikipedia synopsis on this subject, and it was interesting.

Are there other books on post singularity society (strong AI that can manage and solve most problems for us) that are interesting to read?

Why not read them in the publication order? The very first of the series, Consider Phlebas, is an excellent example of AI civilization, the proponents of it, and the opponents of it. I won’t spoil it further.

Yes, I think you should definitely read them in publication order. Consider Phlebas mostly takes place outside the Culture, but it’s a great book for putting things in context and setting the stage for the series, so to speak.

Approx. the first third or so of 2nd book Player of Games features day to day life of Culture citizens, and Excession is a great look into typical Contact people and typical Machine interactions.

I, too, would like some post-singularity/benevolent AI recs. The closest I’ve come is Catherine Asaro, and that is more transhumanism than AI.

Have you read the Night’s Dawn Trilogy?


I’m going to go against the general consensus here and suggest you don’t read Consider Phlebas first, its a great book but I found it to be very different in style and tone from his other Culture novels, you can’t really go wrong with any of the rest of them but it would probably be better to start with the classic Culture novels (Player of Games, Excession, Use of Weapons) rather than the latter ones.

My personal introduction to The Culture was picking up a copy of Excession in a second-hand book store, I wasn’t sure whether to buy it or not but I’m so glad I did. :slight_smile:

I can’t comment on the Culture novels, I read them all out of order.

What about Greg Egan’s Diaspora? It isn’t really AI singularity so much as transhumanism - people having their personalities uploaded into virtual worlds, “humans” escaping into other dimensions. Very cool examples of human life being transformed at singularity levels by emerging technology.

Player of Games was apparently written first. It is a good introduction to the Cultureverse. But I started with* Consider Phlebas*, which takes as a main character someone who hates the Culture, which in itself is an intriguing ploy.

As far as post-singularity fiction goes, I can’t get enough of it. To varying degrees - Vernor Vinge, Alastair Reynolds, Greg Egan, Neal Asher, Greg Bear, Richard Morgan, Charlie Stross, Neal Stephenson, and in other media, Transhuman Space, Eclipse Phase, Orion’s Arm…

Part of the problem I have with much modern science fiction though is that the characters are so damn unpleasant, Alastair Reynolds and Charles Stross I’m looking at you, Banks had some unpleasant characters and situations but leavened with those of the other stripe and his story-universe was fundementally optimistic.

Which of those authors you suggest would be worth reading bearing that in mind? Thanks :slight_smile:

I tend to agree with you; stories set in a post-singularity, post-scarcity, post-human world tend to be full of uncomfortable events and disturbing characters. There may be two reasons for this; a post-scaricity world might be expected to be utopian and idyllic, but few interesting stories can be told about a utopia. Nothing ever happens in heaven.

A second reason for the disturbing nature of these sorts of stories is that high technology - even fairly realistic technology - can allow some very nasty things to be created and used on an unsuspecting population. As technological power increases, so does the opportunity for destruction. Even if someone who can control such power might start off with good intentions, they could easily become corrupted or forced to act in ways that might seem unethical.