Profile: Science Fiction, Space Opera, Expanded Continuity
Having reviewed more than half of Banks’ excellent Culture novels, I’m getting to a point where I’ve run out of things to say. The Hydrogen Sonata continues the series’ exploration of the galactic metacivilization called the Culture with the same strong storytelling and eye for humor. The themes Banks is exploring are natural extensions of those we found in Look to Windward and Excession. Of course, the problem with consistency, even good consistency, is that it is boring to read about.
The Hydrogren Sonata focuses primarily on the problems faced by a society preparing to ‘Sublime.’ If you’re not familiar with Banks’ terminology, Subliming is a process that civilizations, or extremely advanced AIs, undergo to abandon the material world and become creatures of pure energy and thought. The exact nature of the Sublime realm is appropriately mysterious, but most if not all of the players in galactic civilization see it as a natural step in the evolution of a species. Of course, removing an entire culture from the universe is far from a simple process. The Gzilt have spent centuries preparing for the transition, and now, days before they will make the transition, some unexpected problems have cropped up.