The io9 Book Club is in session! Let's talk about Iain M. Banks' "Surface Detail"

Illustration for article titled The io9 Book Club is in session! Lets talk about Iain M. Banks Surface Detail

Welcome to the monthly meeting of the io9 Book Club. In April we read Iain M. Banks' novel Surface Detail. Jump into comments to get started talking about it!

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For those unfamiliar with the io9 book club, here's how it works: You read the book. We create a special book club post on io9 when the meeting is in session. That would be the post you're reading right now. Then everybody talks about the book in comments for a few days, starting right now.

And I have awesome news: Iain M. Banks will drop by and speak to us about the novel on Monday, May 9, from 12-1 PM PST. I'll post a call for questions for him on Friday — keep an eye out for it!

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So, what did you think of the book?

Want to get a headstart on next month's book? May's pick is Feed, by Mira Grant, which was just nominated for a Hugo Award (available as a $3 ebook this month). We'll be meeting May 31 to discuss it. And if you want to plunge further into the future, June's book will be Hannu Rajaniemi's The Quantum Thief.

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DISCUSSION

Before Surface Detail was released (and all we had to go on was the publisher's blurb) I shared my concern that Banks would continue to equate being backed-up with being immortal (as some of his characters did in Excession) and not touch on the fact that when you die, your consciousness ends despite the fact that another person (digital or meat) with the same memories and personalities as you continues living. I was pleased to see at least one of Banks' Culture characters share my concerns:

Chapter 25: "Dying. She’d be revented, she guessed, in theory. She’d been backed up; everything up to about six hours ago copied, replicable. But that meant nothing. So another body, vat-grown, would wake with her memories – up to that point six hours ago, not including this bit, obviously – so what? That wouldn’t be her. She was here, dying. The self-realisation, the consciousness, that didn’t transfer; no soul to transmigrate. Just behaviour, as patterned."

Reading Surface Detail didn't change the way I felt about being backed-up ("Good for your loved ones, but not a big deal for you, who still dies"), but reading Greg Egan's Permutation City sure gave me lots to think about in that regard.

All that said, I loved Surface Detail. It more than made up for the mixed feelings I have about Matter. Bring on more Culture novels, Mr. Banks!