The Algebraist by Iain M. Banks


Science Fiction

The Algebraist The AlgebraistIain Banks; Night Shade Books 2006WorldCat

Dwellers are aliens who live for billions of years. They call races like humans “the Quick” because their life span has them come and go so quickly. The Dwellers live on gas giant planets. They are an eccentric race who has acquired knowledge all of their long-lived lives.

Fassin Taak is a “Slow Seer”. He is a human anthropologist that the Dwellers allow to study with them who slows down to their time. He studies them on Nasqueron, the Dweller planet in his home system Ulubis. The Ulubis system is governed by the Mercatoria, the governing body of the Quick in the galaxy. The Mercatoria rule all the worm holes in the galaxy as well as the people of all Quick worlds.

During his last visit to Nasqueron Fassin Taak found some information that may be of great importance. There have been rumors for millions of years about a secret system of wormholes that the Dwellers use between their far flung planets. The Mercatoria command Fassin Taak to find the key or map to that system. There are some people from beyond their borders who are coming to attack the Ulubis system. It’s possible they are following the same lead. If their ships get to the Ulubis system before the Mercatoria war ship can, Ulubis may fall to the invaders.

Fassin Taak is given the task of locating the Dweller traveling secret by his overbearing government. He’s not even sure the thing exists. But he goes as the system prepares for war. The Dwellers are lackadaisical people, but if he persists, he may learn their secrets.

Space opera is a lot of fun. The Algebraist is good space opera. There are many different alien and human beings. The story changes viewpoints throughout from the invaders, to Fassin Taak, and to other characters involved in the overall story. Two other highlighted characters are Saluun Keher and Taince Yarabokin both of the Ulubis system. They, along with Fassin, had shared an adventure when all were young adults. Now Taince in part of the Mercatoria war fleet heading to the system for defense. Saluun runs the family business of spaceship production.

Iain Banks gives a lot of detail and description to round out this intricate story. I was having trouble picturing the Dwellers until he gave a detailed description of their body shapes – in no way humanoid. When the characters are in the atmosphere of the gas giant Nasqueron the colors, winds, swirls, and heaviness of the air make the reader understand the world Banks has created.

At times I found that The Algebraist became a bit slow, especially in Fassin Taak’s time on Nasqueron as he first searches for the key or map to the Dweller secret. Yet it picks right back up and pulls the reader along after he meets with the ancient Dweller who has pretended to be dead these past 200 years. If you like your space opera with lots of action and good description, you should thoroughly enjoy The Algebraist.

Notice: Non-graphic violence, Strong indecent language

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