May 24th, 2019


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Feersum Endjinn, by Iain M Banks

Second paragraph of third chapter:
The other ground vehicles were all-drive holster-buggies, armoured scree-cars, one- or two-gun landromonds and the huge multi-turreted tanks known as bassinals. The struggling convoy accounted for a good sixth of the King’s military transport, and represented either a brilliant flanking manoeuvre to supply the beleaguered garrison of troops guarding the workings in the fifth-floor south-western solar, or a desperate and probably forlorn gamble to win a war that was not only unwinnable but anyway pointless; Sessine had still to decide which.
For such a celebrated writer, Banks won rather few awards - this and Excession both won the BSFA, two years apart, and that was it. I had read this ages ago soon after it came out, and to be honest didn't remember much about it. The notable character is Bascule, who narrates his chapters semi-phonetically:
     O yes, I sed, which woznt stricktly tru, in fact which woz pretti strikly untru, trufe btold, but I cude always do them while we woz travelin.
      Wots in that thare box yoor holdin? he asks.
      Itz a ant, I sez, waven thi box @ his face.
Bascule's is only one of four different plot strands following different key characters through the landscape of a post-singularity society where most people live in a vast structure called Serehfa, and also interact with a virtual space called the Crypt. What appear to be not just different stories but different worlds eventually fit together and add up to more than the sum of their parts. But I wasn't quite convinced by it all, and there's a reason that this is not generally listed in the top ten of Banks's works. You can get it here.

Feersum Endjinn won the BSFA Award for 1994. The other shortlisted novels were Engineman, by Eric Brown, which I have not read; and Necroville, by Ian McDonald, North Wind, by Gwyneth Jones and Permutation City, by Greg Egan, all of which I have read. I don't retain clear memories of any to be honest, but I think I enjoyed Permutation City more than the others. The Clarke Award was won by Pat Cadigan's Fools, and the Tiptree by Nancy Springer's Larque on the Wing, with Moving Mars winning the Nebula for Best Novel and Mirror Dance the Hugo.

The following year, the Tiptree Award was jointly won by Waking the Moon by Elizabeth Hand and The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Theodore Roszak, the Clarke Award by Paul J. McAuley's Fairyland, all of which I have written up here in recent years. That leaves the BSFA winner, Stephen Baxter's The Time Ships, which I haven't previously written up here, though I did read it soon after it came out.