Feersum Endjinn is one of the few non-Culture sci-fi novels by Iain M Banks; I’ve already reviewed one of the others, The Algebraist. This is a much thinner novel than the Algebraist, at only 275 pages, but Banks packs a great story in nevertheless (possibly with a few loose ends, or possibly I didn’t pick up on something subtle).
Each chapter is split into 4 sections, each following one of the four main characters (or small connected group of characters). One of these is Bascule, a sort of lovable rascal of a novice monk who lives in a brotherhood and communes with the dead (or rather, their downloaded representations). OneMonkey was put off the whole book, unfortunately, because of what he saw as the ‘textspeak’ in which Bascule’s first-person sections are written. However, given that Banks is British and probably around Big Brother’s age I’ll take a guess that they’re more likely to be influenced by Whizz For Atoms and the like, by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle (he of St Trinian’s fame). If you’ve ever read those you’ll have little trouble with Bascule, but as he says himself ‘I tolkd farely normil but I thot a bit funy’ so it might not be that easy to grasp straight off.
It has overtones of Gormenghast in places; there is a whole landscape within a huge castle, and for a while I wasn’t sure if the people were miniature or the rooms were huge. As you might expect from a contained society like that there is murder, intrigue, civil war, a possibly corrupt government and various conspiracies. Add the downloaded personalities of the dead, who live through eight lives in the speeded-up time of the cryptosphere, and you have a rich construct woven around a gripping story.