Thursday, March 06, 2008

World's best science fiction author?

I've read a lot of science fiction in my time and I've voted many times for the fiction categories on the Hugo Awards ballot. And lately, I've become convinced that one of the best science fiction novelists is a Scottish writer who doesn't have much of a following in the United States, Iain M. Banks.

Although I consider myself fairly well-read in the SF genre, I had never read anything by Banks until THE ALGEBRAIST appeared on the Hugo ballot for the 2005 Worldcon in Scotland. The book wasn't even available in the U.S. yet, and I had to order my copy from Canada's to be able to read it in time.

THE ALBEBRAIST turned to be wonderful, literate space opera, somewhat in the vein of Vernor Vinge's longer novels but (this will sound like heresy) even better.

Most of Banks' science fiction novels are part of a loosely-connected future history called The Culture, although THE ALGEBRAIST is not a Culture novel. Culture novels I've read so far, all of them brilliant, include LOOK TO WINDWARD, EXCESSION and INVERSIONS.

There's a brand new Culture novel, MATTER, that I will begin reading this weekend.

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