Consider Phlebas


Iain M. Banks


Science fiction


The Culture

Followed by

The Player of Games

The first Culture novel. I thought it sounded like a very interesting series, and I bought Matter in a sale ages ago (not knowing anything about it), but I figured I'd have a stab at this one first.

Published in 1987.

First read (April-May 2012)Edit

12 05 09 Consider Phlebas

Finished, May 9th 2012.

12 05 09 Consider Phlebas

Progress graph, according to Goodreads.


Paperback 2007 Orbit edition, taken from Rotherham library. 469 pages, 41 lines per page, ~71(!) blank pages, ~11.5 words per line[1], implying ~186841 words in the book. About 69 characters per line[2], however, which might be a better measure of its length, implying ~1125942 characters. Taking 350 5.5-character words per page as a standard, this book should be 585 pages.


Picked it up from the library on April 30th 2012, after spending the previous evening making a lot of edits to the wiki in light of some recommendations by Eliezer Yudkowsky which included the second book of this series. Read the prologue on the bus home.

Decided I'd try to read 50 pages a day for the last 2 months of the academic year, to reach 14,000 pages total. Up to page 110 as of the 3rd and I'm not that into it yet. Space pirates are meh and I'm continually confused about what's being referred to because of the author's commitment to mystery, as far as I can tell. It's getting a bit annoying. I guess 'Orbitals' are rings? Or parts of a ring? Why not just say it? Confused.

Finished it on the 9th of April, on schedule (well, slightly ahead being fair). Overall a really hard read, just taking longer per page than I thought was my pace. Whether it's simply because there were more words per page than those I'd previously timed myself on, or because it was difficult to read as I felt, I don't know. Either way, most of the book was either not telling me enough (not knowing what an Orbital was) or telling me too much (dull descriptions of set pieces with lengths in metres of everything in sight). Ultimately I was bored straight away by the activities of the pirate crew and it turned out to be, indeed, the focus of the whole story. Too much ridiculously lucky stuff happened, I don't know what the point was, I didn't enjoy the telling of it particularly, and the most promising thing (the Mind) was just a MacGuffin. The appendix (a 'textbook entry' describing the war from the future's perspective, in which the Idirans proved to be a minor upstart against the Culture) was the best part, and I didn't know what a Phlebas was even at the end, despite the final chapter being itself called 'Consider Phlebas'. Turns out it's a line from some poem, oh well :P



Reading recordEdit

Previous book: 'Black Logician', Harry's Game

Next book: Anne McCaffrey, Dragonflight

Ratings, awards, mentions and recommendationsEdit

Links and referencesEdit

  1. First 20 lines on page 4 counted.
  2. First 9 lines on page 4 counted.

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