• Consider Phlebas

  • Culture Series, Book 1
  • By: Iain M. Banks
  • Narrated by: Peter Kenny
  • Length: 16 hrs and 25 mins
  • 4.1 out of 5 stars (624 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The first Culture novel, now available as an unabridged audio download.

The war raged across the galaxy. Billions had died, billions more were doomed. Moons, planets, the very stars themselves, faced destruction - cold-blooded, brutal, and worse, random. The Idirans fought for their Faith; the Culture for its moral right to exist. Principles were at stake. There could be no surrender.

Within the cosmic conflict, an individual crusade. Deep within a fabled labyrinth on a barren world, a Planet of the Dead proscribed to mortals, lay a fugitive Mind. Both the Culture and the Idirans sought it. It was the fate of Horza, the Changer, and his motley crew of unpredictable mercenaries, human and machine, actually to find it, and with it their own destruction.

Consider Phlebas is a space opera of stunning power and awesome imagination.

©1987 Iain M. Banks (P)2010 Hachette Digital

What listeners say about Consider Phlebas

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Peter Kenny makes the book worthwhile

I enjoyed Iain M. Banks' book because of an excellent narrator. I am not sure that the story itself is so great... although it falls probably in the genre of tragedy.

This is the first book in Banks' Culture series and is a must to read or listen to should you be interested into being initiated into his universe where man and machine have become equals in the sphere of existence. Set against the background of the Culture (humans and machines) and Iderian war, Horsa, the main character, must find his own way through the maze of loyalties. Horsa chooses against artificial life, just to... well read or listen the book to find out.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

outstanding reading, so-so plot

Would you try another book from Iain M. Banks and/or Peter Kenny?

I'd try Iain Banks again. I read another book of his which is very good. But this one tales off badly, despite some good ideas. It's like he was a chess player who learnt a lot about openings but had no experience in end games. It goes off like a damp squibb.Ok, this is the first in the series, and others say later books are better and this is necessary background. That might be so. But it doesn't stand alone.Granted, this was one of his first books, written nearly 40 years ago, but it's not that the technology is dated. He just didn't know where his story was leading; at least within this book.

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

More of a sense by the end of why we should have been interested in the book

Which scene was your favorite?

Peter Kenny's reading is outstanding. His capacity for different voices and accents, consistently maintained is very impressive. He makes the listening very interesting, and rarely if ever gets the sense of a sentence wrong.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

No

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Routes of The Culture

A good listen. All the technological depth and character development you could want in a sci-fi novel. If you like "Ring World" or "The Mote In God's Eye", you'll probably like this more.
Only four stars out of five because it mainly lacks the humour of his later books. "Matter" (by the same author) was just brilliant!

Though this is Iain M Banks' first sci-fi novel, it is a 2010 audio production.
Once again, Peter Kenny excels as narrator.

3 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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Snorefest

What could Iain M. Banks have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

Edit out 50%.

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Consider Phlebas?

Edit everywhere.

Any additional comments?

Painful degree of detail. Are all his books like this? "He placed his right foot on the ground, feeling the weight first in the heel, then across the arch, then in the toes." OK, I exaggerate... but you probably know the sort of book I mean. INCESSANT detail that just doesn't matter to the story, and, in fact, dilutes what are good ideas way past the point of boredom. My first book from the famous Banks. Just couldn't do it. Definitely not for me. Won't read another of his books.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Mr
  • 11-28-11

Classic, intelligent sciFi

Read this years ago: an absolute classic of sciFi. The novel works on many levels - as a story line, as a set of believable characters, and as a created world of its own. The sciFi environment which envelops the characters is convincing and deeply thought through - right down to the subtlety of the relationship between humans and the highly evolved AI computer systems who jointly form the 'Culture'. The novel is told through the character of an enemy of the Culture, again a thoroughly thought through interpretation of how a genetically modified species might interact with other species and cultures. Mostly though, the sciFi world created is convincing enough to allow the reader just to enjoy the battle of wits between the two principal characters.

Some of the scenes in the book are reflective of the extremities of behaviour which might be expected by extrapolating extreme character traits over immense populations, and I must confess I found them a bit strong - but they do contribute to the depth of characterisation and the sense of urgency in the story line.

The performance from Peter Kenny is well paced and compelling - to quote Jerry Pournelle in the golden days of Byte magazine - 'recommended'.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Recommended

Pretty dang good. Narrator is great. Space communism is funny. Religious fanatics always cause trouble

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

An average start to a monumental work

This is the access to an amazing universe so you just have to get through it.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Disappointing

This is a review of the first third of the book, after which I abandoned it.
It is supposed to be a space opera but all I got was some close-space B-movie action. In about 6 hours of book the hero has escaped some 4 or 5 Bond-like death-threatening sititations using some clever expedient and gadgets just like Bond. I mean, really 80s stuff like he has to win a fight with a big brute to survive, twice he is tied up while having a clever conversation with the evil guy, an escape from an exploding ship and the likes.
On top of that is a bit gory which I don't personally like.
After all that boredom, Banks was setting the stage for some violent and probably cruel game popular in the future where some poor guy was probably going to suffer a violent and gory death. Well, we have seen that already in many not-very-good movies so I just quit.
Sure, the story would probably pick up later, fans will say, but the start was very disappointing.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Great sci-fi adventure

The story is amazing and so are the characters. Peter Kenny is to fast and feels totally rushed. His impressions are great through. Slow it down to 0.85.

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

awful, awful book

just terrible. disjointed, awful. boring. depressing. terrible! seriously avoid this by all means necessary. I truly regret reading this.

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • scotty
  • 04-09-12

A Truly Great Sci-Fi Novel

Consider Phlebas (CP) is without doubt a conceptually stunning piece. The breadth and depth of the concepts and constructs is breath-taking. There are throw-away ideas in CP that would be an entire book for another author.

OK, CP is a linear tale lacking some of the structural fun and games of the later novels and character names can be a bit of a challenge, remembering who's who, but all credit to the narrator for helping out with strong vocal work. Seriously, have you ever tried to narrate even a chapter of a book? Creating, remembering and switching voice personas is extremely challenging, so a quick round of applause for Mr Kenny.

Banks' style is engaging and the action or fight scenes are incredible but without doubt the single most captivating aspect of the book is The Culture and the Minds that enable it. All of the incredible robotic menace of the Matrix or Terminator genres is tossed on its head by the super-artificial intelligences that provide for the needs of every citizen... Because the AI's seem to want to keep people around and happy. Is it symbiosis? No, what do organics add to the AI's? Interest and entertainment certainly but it does seem to be an almost 'master-pet' or 'farm' relationship except there seems to be no negativity.

I digress. Stunning concepts. Intelligent prose. Challenging ideas. Gripping action.

What more do you want?

Seriously, I'd give it 5 stars but I know what's coming later in the series and if you think this one is good, the later novels will knock your socks off!

Enjoy!

67 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Toby
  • 06-14-11

Underwhelmed

Having heard and read so many positive reviews of Iain M. Banks' work I was looking forward to this book. Maybe my expectations were too high, maybe I just didn't "get it" but for whatever reason I found this book very ordinary despite the good narration and voice characterisation by Peter Kenny. From the beginning of the story I found it hard to engage with the various characters and by the end of the book I just didn't really care about any of them or the societies they represented. Although the pace was pretty good some of the scenes seemed superfluous such as the episode with The Eaters. I wasn't sure of the purpose of that scene, it almost appeared to be there just to add to the word count. The ending of the book and it's epilogues just seemed to lead to nowhere particularly interesting. Certainly not a dreadful book but also not as good as I had been lead to believe.

30 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Peter
  • 03-01-11

Enjoyable

This is the first of the Culture novels and the second one I have read after 'Matter'. This book introduces a fascinating universe and I can see why Banks has kept it alive through the series of books he has set in it. the story is pretty easy to follow once you have adapted to the names, characters, technology and politics and it is fast-paced enough not to become bogged down like other space operas I have read. The story is linear and self-contained with a good ending. Well narrated and recommended to those that like the genre - it is a good example of its type.

28 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Adam
  • 12-16-10

Ideal Banks for Audio

Coming back to Banks thru Audible I found this a gripping reintroduction to his work - weaving threads of characters thru the whole with his typical skill & artistry and totally absorbing as an audio book.

13 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Stuart
  • 06-12-11

Sorry, I just didn't enjoy this

I got this as I love sci-fi and this had a lot of good reviews but I just couldn't get into it. I found the main characters situations strange and found the plot a little disjointed.

Its a shame really as I am looking for another sci-fi author, other then Alistair Reynolds.

In the end I got to 11 hours and simple found I did not care so did not finish it. Shame.

11 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Misspelt
  • 07-13-18

Bit long winded for what it is.

Not too bad but it is saved from mediocrity by the excellent narration. The story could have been much tighter and pace and interest kept high but we wandered on to excessive detail with no benefit than to pad things out.

Good ideas but not griping enough to score highly.

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-26-10

A good book brilliantly read

Peter Kenny's reading is 5 star. Consider Phlebas is Iain M. Bank's first sci-fi novel. Whilst a great rolling space opera it lacks the tightness and narrative tricks he applies to his non sci-fi novels and later sci-fi works, so only 4 stars.

9 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Steve Leyden
  • 08-04-16

an excellent storyline

An excellent plot which keeps you wanting to listen and the narration maintains a level of excitement throughout the production. I would highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in science fiction.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • S.Smith
  • 03-22-11

Sci Fi Convert

Listened to 'Matter' because it was free (!) but I've now started at the beginning of the Culture series with 'Consider Phlebas'. I've found SciFi hard to read sometimes because I get too hung-up on how to pronounce names etc! The audio book version is great. Good reader and the book hooked me from the opening paragraph.

6 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Patrick
  • 05-30-15

Epic and tragic

A staggering story in terms of its breadth and ambition.

I've listened to it twice over the past couple of years but this time it really took me this time and, whilst on a long run, I had to stop and have a cry.

Fabulously narrated by the always high performing Peter Kenny.

Thoroughly recommend to even non sci-Fi fans.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Kindle Customer
  • 04-09-18

good if somewhat longer than necessary

enjoyed the story but struggled to finish. i thought the postscript did not do justice to the story

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-16-17

Brilliant universe. Decent plot and characters

Didn't focus on the things I found interesting like the Culture and the Idirans and their conflict, technology and ideologies. instead all of of that just formed a backdrop. The main character was unlikable at times and one chapter was hard to stomach but other than that a good read!

2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • johnnie
  • 09-02-16

Witty, intelligent writing.

Although not hard science this book is rich in the possibilities of the enormous engineering constructions of the far future. Beautifully written, witty and intelligent. The reading is also superb.

2 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Mags The Blue
  • 03-05-20

Up and Down

Book starts well with some 'thats cool' moments and then descends into large sections of mediocrity. There are large sections of writing that are just boring, entirely irreverent to the story/plotline and it was a challenge to sit through because of how long they extended on and on. Did not like how it all ended.

1 person found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Woody Hill
  • 07-27-19

cool universe, boring story.

random chapters of time with great detail that lead nowhere.

final chapters became boring and repetitive and I ended up having to skip sections out of impatience.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Elliot
  • 06-08-18

Fantastic and exciting

Great character development, a wonderful story, and the performance by Peter Kenny is flawless. A great opening outing into Banks’ series. Horza is a super memorable character, as are some of the supporting cast. Definitely recommend to any fans of sci fi.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 09-10-22

Great book, great performance

I've enjoyed all of Banks' books, and Kenny does a good job with narration. This is the book that introduced me to Banks, never looked back.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Bazl
  • 07-28-22

Thoroughly enjoyable

Great performance, excellent character voices.

A very good science fiction story. One thing I did find funny is how civilised the band of pirates is.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Elliot Meszaros
  • 07-11-22

Excellent

Narrator is superb and the book itself is interesting, creative and intelligently written. Look forward to reading the rest of the series.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-14-22

Better than I remembered

Fans of the Culture series often talk about how Consider Phlebas is not as good an intro to the worlds of Iain M Banks as The Player of Games, because this book is told mostly from the view point of someone who hates the Culture. But that's the point: Banks shows you the justification for opposition to the Culture before winning you over to their moral standing. The Culture's utopia is irrelevant to the thesis of this book. What's impressive to me is just how complete Banks' world building was even at the beginning of the series. There's nothing in here that is contradicted by later entries. So start with Player of Games, but after that definitely circle back to the book that started it all.