The Hydrogen Sonata

Banks, Iain

Book - 2012
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
The Hydrogen Sonata
Suspected of involvement after the Regimental High Command is destroyed as they prepared to go to a new level of existence called Sublime, Lieutenant Commander Vyr Cossont must find a nine-thousand-year-old man to clear her name.

Publisher: New York : Orbit, 2012.
Edition: 1st U.S. ed.
ISBN: 0316212369
Characteristics: 517 p. ;,25 cm.


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Sep 02, 2013
  • billmacrotarian rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

I write this review on the day that Iain Banks passed away from cancer. What a loss. Writing as Iain M. Banks he became one of the greatest science fiction writers of the last quarter century. His Culture series, beginning with Consider Phlebas, features stories that are imaginative and massive in concept. The Hydrogen Sonata is the most recent and, sadly, probably his last.

The Hydrogen Sonata is named after a piece of music that requires a special instrument and two bows to play. The humanoid protagonist has had an extra set of arms added to play it. How this relates to the story is intriguing.

The previous entry in the series, Surface Detail, was focused on hell. The Hydrogen Sonata is focused on Heaven or at least attaining it through a process known as Subliming. Sadly, The Hydrogen Sonata is the weakest entry in the series with neither the grand tragedy of Consider Phebas nor the triumph of good over evil in other series entries, particularly Surface Detail.

There’s still some good stuff in the novel. In particular, the conversations between the Minds that run the Culture are enjoyable as the machines are shown to be chatty. In previous entries we get the impression that the Minds are invincible. However, that’s not the case in this entry. All in all The Hydrogen Sonata is disappointing, particularly in its conclusion.

If you are unfamiliar with the series, read Consider Phlebas first. Use of Weapons, Matter, and Surface Detail are essential. Banks not only wrote great stories but he managed magnificent twist endings. The best came before The Hydrogen Sonata.

Jul 22, 2013
  • StarGladiator rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

An interesting Culture novel, although my all-time favorite Culture novel, and overall future fiction novel, was Iain Banks' "The Player of Games" --- incredible! Still entertaining, and Mr. Banks' novels are galaxies ahead of Herbert, who he completely outclasses!

Jul 18, 2013

A patron review from the Adult Summer Reading Game: 500 pages of incredible plot twists, detail and so many concurrent plots it makes your head spin...Similar to Frank Herbert in style, except with a sense of humour.

Feb 11, 2013
  • siharris rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

In my opinion probably his best SF book since The Algebraist, and a return to form with the Culture after Matter (average) and Surface Detail (good but not exceptional).

Dec 21, 2012

Outstanding reading enjoyment. Great ship mind to mind conversations.


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Aug 03, 2014

9th and final book in the Culture series


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