Question 3

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In some ways the book was quite predictable. It was clear that Gurgeh would go on the mission. It was not a surprise, I think, that Gurgeh would be the grand champion of Azad. Did the book have sufficient surprises along the way, or was the journey sufficiently interesting?

Comments

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    Hard for me to say as I have read it many times over, and enjoy it all the more each time.

    Speaking personally, I don't think the Flere-Imsaho reveal was a great surprise. What got me this time was the ever-increasing depth of the Empire, together with the factions spawning ever-more-devious plots, and also Gurgeh's acceptance of the role in utterly immersive ways.

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    I have mixed feelings. In the end, I think the big-picture reveal of the story being about Gurgeh being both a game master and a game pawn to be interesting. I'm not sure that the journey to get there was all that interesting. It might have been more interesting to have more of a Vancian or Wodehousian spin in the middle, with Gurgeh stumbling from one crisis to another.

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    For what it's worth, I've read the book a few times and found it quite satisfying.
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    > @Apocryphal said:
    >... It might have been more interesting to have more of a Vancian or Wodehousian spin in the middle, with Gurgeh stumbling from one crisis to another.

    He had something of that - the episode where they try to get covert film of him being indiscreet, the near disaster in the game with the priest, the physical option, the assassination attempt using the general's exoskeleton... could he have had more crises? But I agree, they are not written in anything like a Wodehousian style
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    I predicted the end at about the 1/4 mark, and read to find out if I was right, to enjoy the writing, to find out interesting things about both the Culture and the Empire, to see if I would actually root for the Empire, to see if Gurgeh finally went gay or turned female... and was not bored.

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    This was my first Banks novel, so I certainly had plenty of surprises just with the way The Culture is set up, and then which parts of our own world would get projected onto the Empire. I don’t think the predictability of the plot is particularly a problem, it’s the skeleton that all the other drama, character development and thematic commentary gets hung upon. Most stories have a very basic plot at their heart that gets embellished upon.

    I mean, the story that Tolkien actually wrote is “the guy who finds the Ring takes it all the way to the volcano and throws it in.” The story he only alluded to was “the guy who finds the Ring loses it in a river before getting whacked.” That story would be surprising, but maybe not worthy of a whole book.

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