Review – The State of the Art

Cover of The State of the Art by Iain M. BanksThe State of the Art, Iain M. Banks

The State of the Art is a collection of short stories, some of which relate to the Culture novels and some of which don’t (or at least, don’t overtly). I actually wasn’t much impressed by Iain M. Banks as a short story writer, it seems: the best of the stories was the titular story itself, which is both a Culture story and rather longer than the other stories in the collection, which gave it more space to interest me, and more space for him to set up the kind of story that’s grabbed me in his novels.

There’s nothing wrong with the stories per se, but they didn’t grab me at all (with the exception of the one already mentioned and ‘A Gift from the Culture’). Where I was interested was when it was closest to Banks’ other SF work, but otherwise the stories seemed fairly unremarkable. There are some interesting bits of humour; wry looks at staples of the genre.

I’m hoping that’s not a reaction to Banks’ work in general, as I know I did enjoy several of his Culture novels and I was looking forward to reading the rest. Perhaps he just isn’t to my taste as a short story writer.

Rating: 2/5


7 thoughts on “Review – The State of the Art

  1. I don’t think yours is a very controversial reaction – I’m a big IMB fan, but this is the one Culture book I’ve read that simply never occurs to be to revisit. Until now, I must say – it would be interesting to cherry pick the strongest titles. I’ve always found Banks’ strengths to be “Cultural”, shall we say, and his more mainstream writing I was never quite so enthusiastic about (The Bridge being the significant exception).

  2. I have a lot of trouble with short stories. >_< I read an anthology earlier this year (which is different, I know, but kiiiind of similar??) and I just wasn't interested at all. Sometimes I think they're too short to make a huge impact..on me at least? WHO KNOWS.
    Thanks for stopping by @ Paper Fury!

  3. While I loved The State of the Art as I’m sure you know because you probably read my review, I’m not surprised by this reaction at all. I don’t think it’s much like his other work and I don’t think everyone would necessarily enjoy his short stories. So definitely don’t skip the other Culture books because this one was meh to you. It just managed to hit my fiction kniks in a lot of serious ways.

    However, I did want to point out that I think all these stories are meant to be Culture universe, not just the self-titled one.

    • I did read your review! I wasn’t planning to skip the other Culture books unless my next one leaves me cold too… I’m thinking it’ll be Inversions, as I think I have that somewhere here…

      Hm, I didn’t get that impression, apparently. I might have to look at it again.

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