I am fairly certain that this is a book that I saw recommended on a Pajiba post some time ago – it had been on my to-read list for some time. I finally picked it up late last year, a pretty battered copy from my library. It took me a while to get through it – it is a lengthy and dense novel, with some really loooonnnnnggggg sentences that always lead me to go back and reread the line to make sure I didn’t miss a period.
The first few chapters were a bit of a slog, for me. The Algebraist offers some fairly dense backstory, with much explanation for the spread of humanity throughout the galaxy, a fanatical hatred of artificial intelligence, and an enormous amount of bureaucracy. This story also introduces one of the most outlandish villains I have ever read about, but once the story moves into the relationship between Fassin Taak and the Dwellers the story really takes off. It is epic in scope, with a sweeping political landscape, an intergalactic war, and scientific mysteries about the key to a vast wormhole network. There are also smaller mysteries, which are nicely spread out throughout the book.
I am not sure how I felt about this book. I can appreciate how well it was written, it had some humour scattered throughout, and I was never sure how anything was going to be resolved. I still found it kind of a slog to read sometimes, which is probably more of a reflection on my attention span these days than anything to do with the book itself. I haven’t picked up any of Banks’ other novels since, but I am happy to have read this book.
I have loved Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus mysteries for years. I think that they are likely my favorite series to read for two reasons: they are not particularly gory or graphic, so I don’t get any nightmares after reading them, and because John Rebus is such a different character from those in the other books I normally read. He doesn’t change very much, he is seemingly isolated by choice, and he seems to solve the mysteries through hard work with hard people. He was one of my dad’s favourite characters as well, so that might also be part of my affection for this series.
One of the best parts of Rankin’s novels is always his detailed description of Scotland’s geography, where it almost serves as a character itself. His descriptions of Edinburgh and other areas of Scotland don’t always make it seem inviting, but certainly rich in history and a defining characteristic of how his characters react and are defined. Minette Walters is another author who seems to make good use of differing landscapes and socioeconomic areas in her mysteries, although her novels always seem much more pointed than Rankin’s.
Rankin retired Rebus some years ago, but this new book brings Rebus back to life, tied tangentially to a newish Rankin character called Matthew Fox. I have not read any of the Matthew Fox books, but he seems to parallel Rebus in his obsessiveness and general unlikeablity. Rebus shares more of the novel with other characters in this new novel – Fox, Siobhan Clarke, and villains new and old. As the age of retirement has changed, Rebus has a chance to reapply to the police and stop working as a civilian on cold cases. The mystery itself is nothing revolutionary, but the story seems to serve as a tool to intertwine all the new characters for the inevitable next novel. I look forward to reading it.