The Algebraist - Iain M. Banks a non-Culture sci-fi adventure from Banks, one whose intriguing major topic is the relativity of morality. the aliens are pretty much humans in alien form - not much attempt to convey a truly alien viewpoint. but it is all fascinating nonetheless, and many of the characters - alien and otherwise - are sympathetic or fearful creations. expansive world/universe-building, per usual. some real narrative surprises from beginning to end. the novel's Villain with a capital V is almost a parody, as if this character and his eventual purpose in the novel were specifically designed to mess with reader expectation.

in the twists and turns of the protagonist's backstory and motivations, i was able to see the genuine sympathy that the author has for those who fight against authoritarianism. it is also interesting to compare the perspective on AIs between this novel and the Culture novels. in this universe's demonization of artificial intelligence, Banks is able to fully illustrate the horror (and stupidity) of demonizing and oppressing any community.

what i didn't enjoy were the many descriptions of an alien species' habit of enslaving, tormenting, and killing their young - but hey maybe that's just me. i understand the rationale for its frequent inclusion, but gosh it was appalling and left a sour taste. they were some pretty loveable aliens and then it all had to be ruined by those noxious activities! ugh. well, i suppose that's just Iain Banks the stridently moral moral relativist... he will never let me have my cake and eat it too. so annoying! but in such a good way.

this review is a part of a longer article on Iain Banks posted on Shelf Inflicted. that article also includes a self-indulgent rant regarding a blog post that i found to be infuriatingly moronic; my apologies in advance.