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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later. Support Elizabeth on Patreon.


  1. Kate
    January 4, 2016 @ 10:50 am

    I cannot believe that was a genuine cover for the novel. And yet, if Google is to be believed, it was.


  2. Doug Muir
    January 4, 2016 @ 1:29 pm

    A point I noticed years ago, but that AFAIK no reviewer ever picked up on: It’s mentioned that Gurgeh is about 65 years old (which is early adulthood in the Culture, where everyone lives to be 400 or so). And a hundred or so pages later, it’s mentioned in an offhand way that the Culture first met Azad “about seventy years ago”.

    I always thought this was, as Uncle Karl said, no coincidence: I took it to suggest that Gurgeh was not just a game piece but a living weapon, designed from birth and manipulated by the Minds to become the game piece that could break Azad. You know it’s just the sort of thing they’d do.

    Doug M.


    • Anzhr
      January 4, 2016 @ 4:03 pm


      Actually, “Just The Sort of Thing We’d Do” would be a good name for a GSV.


      • Kalyarn
        January 20, 2016 @ 5:48 pm

        God, yes, that’s perfect.


    • triturus
      January 4, 2016 @ 7:09 pm

      Gurgeh asks if the Minds have done this to him at the end, when he finds out that they always thought he would win. The drone says that they haven’t, but I’m not sure you’re meant to believe it.


  3. Aylwin
    January 18, 2016 @ 8:11 pm

    Finally getting here…

    I’m not sure that the analogy about the Minds acting like game-players is necessarily meant a criticism. There’s an exchange in Use of Weapons where Beychae says of the bad guys that in contrast to the Culture, “At least they’re involved – it isn’t just a game to them”, and Zakalwe says no, that’s exactly what it is, “The difference is that the Culture’s Minds know to take their games seriously”. My feeling is that Banks doesn’t regard that resonance of the Minds’ dealings with more limited beings as particularly a bad thing.

    It’s an interesting thought, though, given that in general this is Banks’s most unambiguously “Yay the Culture!” book.

    Also, give or take the special case of The State of the Art, his most intensely political, and his most politically radical, given the revolutionary implications of critiquing electoral politics right alongside capitalism as games which are nominally open to the equal competition of all-comers and reflective of underlying reality in their forms and outcomes, but which are in reality rigged by privilege and unavoidably act as mechanisms channelling their participants into pernicious patterns of thought and behaviour, thus exposing their claims to representation of reality as self-fulfilling prophecies driven by circular logic.

    It’s a great achievement of serious idea-driven science fiction, but one I have never quite been able to love the way I do other, sometimes more flawed books of his.

    It does, I think, have at least one serious objective flaw – it never indicates how what Gurgeh has done has “discredited” Azad, since we know that everybody outside the inner circle has been fed a fictitious version of events in which Gurgeh was defeated before the final stages and the competition continued on its way. So as far as we know, the empire at large is oblivious to what has happened. The only thing which might work to bring about the collapse of the empire is what Nicosar does, and that is neither planned nor anticipated by the Culture, while bringing about that effect would not require involving Gurgeh or discrediting the game in the first place. Presumably the Culture have recorded events on the Fire Planet and could disseminate these recordings, but nothing is said to indicate this is intended, and it might not be easy to convince people in the face of an already established official version.

    I think it’s more than a nit-pick, because when the whole point of the plot is the initiation of revolution by discrediting a system of thought and social organisation, how that is accomplished is kind of fundamental.


  4. Kalyarn
    January 20, 2016 @ 5:53 pm

    Love that you’re doing the Culture books. I’m halfway through Hydrogen Sonata now…I didn’t start reading them until after Banks’s passing, and I’d held off on HS for awhile as I didn’t want it to end. I keep trying to get people to read them, though I’ve learned my lesson to recommend Player instead of Phlebas, although I started with Phlebas and really enjoyed it.


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