The Guardian's Damien G. Walter issues a passionate plea to Iain M. Banks to complete an unofficial Culture trilogy that began with Consider Phlebas and Look To Windward. But really, Walter seems to want the Culture to die.
Walter rightly praises Banks' Consider Phlebas as an eye-opening masterpiece, which established Banks as an important SF novelist and the Culture as one of SF's most memorable universes. And even though Banks has written many other books about or around the Culture, Walter sees Phlebas and Windward as the two crucial novels to date, which show the Culture under threat or being challenged fundamentally.
At the close of Look to Windward, the Culture is all-powerful, a lone superpower with a galaxy to play in. But it is suggested that the Culture faces an uncertain future, and the threat of betrayal from within. We waited eight years for the next volume in the Culture saga, but while Matter teased us with details of other superpower races in the galaxy, it did not bring the story to its resolution. If the Culture novels have returned to any idea over and again, it is the absolute certainty of change. The Culture can not last forever, so what will the fate of the ideal, utopian society be? Will it ascend to some higher state of being, or will it fall back into the chaos and barbarism it so long resisted?
So. It has been 10 years, and we're still waiting for the third volume of the unofficial trilogy begun with Consider Phlebas and continued in Look to Windward.
I have to admit, I hadn't thought of those two novels as being especially pivotal, or two parts of a trilogy, before. But it's an interesting thought. It seems like what Walter really wants is the story of the fall of the Culture - which makes me sad, in some reflexive way, because I long to live in the Culture the way some people long to live on Pandora.
I have a feeling that for Banks, the Culture is a setting rather than the subject of his story. I'm not convinced that Banks thinks there is a story to tell about the rise and fall of the Culture, but rather, that he's interested in telling stories within the Culture and using it as a backdrop. But I could be wrong, as I so frequently am. And it's hard to argue with a plea for more Culture novels generally. [Guardian]