Slashdot reports that Iain M. Banks has a new novel, Look
to Windward, set in his pan-galactic Culture.
http://slashdot.org/books/00/10/24/0445204.shtml. The book is only
available in England at the moment.
An excerpt is available at
The Slashdot reviewer describes this as being less of an action novel
than most of the Culture stories.
A couple of strange things I've noticed about the Culture. First, most
Culture members are human-like, although not from Earth. This is kind
of like Star Trek, where many planets have evolved similar human-like
species. Inter-planetary sexual reproduction is even possible. This
is highly unlikely but it does make for more story possibilities.
Second, most of the stories seem to take place roughly in the present
day. Consider Phlebas took place around our year 1300. The new book
is some hundreds of years later. And the Culture does not seem to be
a fully mature technological civilization; they still have "progress":
drones and ships hundreds of years old are not as advanced as newer
ones. So we have a curious coincidence in time as well as in physical
appearance; the Culture has appeared at very roughly the same time as
our own technological civilization. This is also like Star Trek, where
all the various humanoid races are developing space technology at about
the same time.
I suppose you can explain both of these by postulating that humans did
not evolve here on earth, we were seeded here, perhaps just a few hundred
thousand years ago, and the same thing was done at the same time on a
bunch of other planets. I don't know how you explain about monkey DNA
though. Maybe humans weren't seeded, but they were genetically engineered
on each planet from that native species that most closely resembled the
humanoid ideal of the engineers, so that each planet developed fully
native humanoids who would nevertheless be very similar to each other.
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