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Amph The Expanse (book and TV series)

Discussion in 'Community' started by Lord Vivec, Nov 30, 2014.

  1. Healer_Leona

    Healer_Leona Squirrel Rangler of Fun & Games star 9 Staff Member Manager

    Jul 7, 2000
    It's me again. Yes, I'm hopelessly obsessed. Finished reading Abaddon's Gate (so damn good btw) while re watching season 3.

    Finally picked up Cibola Burn from the library which means I can re watch season 4 now.

    When is season 5 suppose to be out.
    Ghost likes this.
  2. mavjade

    mavjade It's so FLUFFY! Fanfic Manager star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Sep 10, 2005
    We still don't have a date for Season 5. Before all the reports about Cas Anvar came out, I would have said to expect it by the end of the year, but now, who knows. I guess it depends on what they decide to do. But it is fully filmed.

    I'm also reading the books right now and I know a lot of people say book 5 is their favorite but at least so far it's my least favorite. Though in fairness I'm only a little over half way through it. But I was flying through the others and this one is a little more of a slog for me. I do think it will make pretty good TV, though.
    Healer_Leona likes this.
  3. Healer_Leona

    Healer_Leona Squirrel Rangler of Fun & Games star 9 Staff Member Manager

    Jul 7, 2000
    Started Nemesis Games on Wednesday and thought of your post @mavjade as soon as soon as the Roci crew began to go their separate ways. I oike them together so this made me sad and I figured I feel the same way about this book.

    Edit: accidently hit post

    Boy was I wrong, I am loving their separate 'missions' and how they are going, so this book is just flying by for me. I find it most exciting.

    NOw it took nearly three weeks to get this book from the library and I've got the next on reserve, but aain going to finish this long before it shows up. grrrr

    Can I say now that I wish both Bobbie and Clarissa would become crew as well.
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2020
  4. mavjade

    mavjade It's so FLUFFY! Fanfic Manager star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Sep 10, 2005
    I'm glad you are enjoying it! I think I said this before but it seems to be really hit or miss with people. The people who love it, LOVE it, and the people who don't really care for it rank it pretty low. Not a whole lot in between.

    I'm actually still not done with it because it's been so hard for me to read. I don't know if it's because there are so many points of view (even if they are all the characters we love) that I want to continue on that person's journey and when it switches I'm like... eh, I'll come back later, or I just don't find the story lines suck me in like the previous ones. I can't really put my finger on it. I'm about 85% through it so I expect I'll finish it soon. I may take a step back and read some non-fiction before going back to the series.

    But yes, I too love Bobbie and Clarissa!
    Healer_Leona likes this.
  5. Healer_Leona

    Healer_Leona Squirrel Rangler of Fun & Games star 9 Staff Member Manager

    Jul 7, 2000
    I've had to read more slowly as the library is (rightfully so) taking it's time with getting books out because of covid, but I just received notification for the next one being available for pick-up, Babylon's Ashes.

    Nemesis Games is by far my favorite book, so far. Have 30 pages to go and can't wait to see where this one ends.
    darthcaedus1138 and mavjade like this.
  6. dp4m

    dp4m Also a Narc star 10

    Nov 8, 2001
    I needed a break after Nemesis Games. It was too intense to go straight into the next book for me (but with 30 pages left I think you're through most of it).
    darthcaedus1138 likes this.
  7. Healer_Leona

    Healer_Leona Squirrel Rangler of Fun & Games star 9 Staff Member Manager

    Jul 7, 2000
    Damn, that book was just so good.

    Again Amos gets the best lines and his “Could be room for both.” reply to Avasarala's "I’m the acting secretary-general of the United Nations, not your favorite stripper.” I had to stop reading from laughing so hard. Bobbie's rescue of Naomi - I do hope that is in the TV series.

    I am holding myself back from cracking open Babylon's Ashes and I really, really want to.
    darthcaedus1138 likes this.
  8. Ghost

    Ghost Chosen One star 7

    Oct 13, 2003
  9. Healer_Leona

    Healer_Leona Squirrel Rangler of Fun & Games star 9 Staff Member Manager

    Jul 7, 2000
    Never heard of them, but then I hadn't heard of The Expanse series either until I saw the show.

    Is it any good? I'd be hard pressed to find a series as good as this epic sci-fi one.
  10. Ghost

    Ghost Chosen One star 7

    Oct 13, 2003
    It's one of the most unique and imaginative sci-fi settings. It really thinks through the social implications of its technology. There was a lot of buzz about it when the TV show was announced.

    The Culture is a fictional interstellar post-scarcity civilisation or society created by the Scottish writer Iain M. Banks and features in a number of his space opera novels and works of short fiction, collectively called the Culture series.

    In the series, the Culture is composed primarily of sentient beings of the pan-human variety, artificially intelligent sentient machines, and a small number of other sentient "alien" life forms. Machine intelligences range from human-equivalent drones to hyper-intelligent Minds. The Culture's economy is maintained automatically by its non-sentient machines, with high-level work entrusted to the Minds' subroutines, which allows its humanoid and drone citizens to indulge their passions, romances, hobbies, or other activities, without servitude. Many of the series' protagonists are humanoids who choose to work for the Culture's elite diplomatic or espionage organisations, and interact with other civilisations whose citizens hold wildly different ideologies, morals, and technologies.

    The Culture has a grasp of technology that is advanced relative to most other civilisations that share the galaxy. Most of the Culture's citizens do not live on planets but in artificial habitats such as orbitals and ships, the largest of which are home to billions of individuals. The Culture's citizens have been genetically enhanced to live for centuries and have modified mental control over their physiology, including the ability to introduce a variety of psychoactive drugs into their systems, change biological sex, or switch off pain at will. Culture technology can transform individuals into vastly different body forms, although the Culture standard form remains fairly close to human.

    The Culture holds peace and individual freedom as core values, and a central theme of the series is ethical struggle it faces when interacting with other societies - some of which brutalise their own members, pose threats to other civilisations, or threaten the Culture itself. It tends to make major decisions based on the consensus formed by its Minds and, if appropriate, its citizens. In one instance, a direct democratic vote of trillions – the entire population – decided The Culture would go to war with a rival civilisation. Those who objected to the Culture's subsequent militarisation broke off from the meta-civilisation, forming their own separate civilisation; a hallmark of the Culture is its ambiguity. In contrast to the many interstellar societies and empires which share its fictional universe, the Culture is difficult to define, geographically or sociologically, and "fades out at the edges".

    The Culture is characterized as being a post-scarcity society, having overcome most physical constraints on life and being an egalitarian, stable society without the use of any form of force or compulsion, except where necessary to protect others.

    Minds, extremely powerful artificial intelligences, have an important role. They administer this abundance for the benefit of all. As one commentator has said:

    Investing all power in his individualistic, sometime eccentric, but always benign, A.I. Minds, Banks knew what he was doing; this is the only way a liberal anarchy could be achieved, by taking what is best in humans and placing it beyond corruption, which means out of human control. The danger involved in this imaginative step, though, is clear; one of the problems with the Culture novels as novels is that the central characters, the Minds, are too powerful and, to put it bluntly, too good.

    The novels of the Culture cycle, therefore, mostly deal with people at the fringes of the Culture: diplomats, spies, or mercenaries; those who interact with other civilisations, and who do the Culture's dirty work in moving those societies closer to the Culture ideal, sometimes by force.

    The Culture is a symbiotic society of artificial intelligences (AIs) (Minds and drones), humanoids and other alien species who all share equal status. All essential work is performed (as far as possible) by non-sentient devices, freeing sentients to do only things that they enjoy (administrative work requiring sentience is undertaken by the AIs using a bare fraction of their mental power, or by people who take on the work out of free choice). As such, the Culture is a post-scarcity society, where technological advances ensure that no one lacks any material goods or services. As a consequence, the Culture has no need of economic constructs such as money (as is apparent when it deals with civilisations in which money is still important). The Culture rejects all forms of economics based on anything other than voluntary activity. "Money implies poverty" is a common saying in the Culture.

    Marain is the Culture's shared constructed language. The Culture believes the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis that language influences thought, and Marain was designed by early Minds to exploit this effect, while also "appealing to poets, pedants, engineers and programmers". Designed to be represented either in binary or symbol-written form, Marain is also regarded as an aesthetically pleasing language by the Culture. The symbols of the Marain alphabet can be displayed in three-by-three grids of binary (yes/no, black/white) dots and thus correspond to nine-bit wide binary numbers.

    Related comments are made by the narrator in The Player of Games regarding gender-specific pronouns, which Marain speakers do not use in typical conversation unless specifying one's gender is necessary, and by general reflection on the fact that Marain places much less structural emphasis on (or even lacks) concepts like possession and ownership, dominance and submission, and especially aggression. Many of these concepts would in fact be somewhat theoretical to the average Culture citizen. Indeed, the presence of these concepts in other civilisations signify the brutality and hierarchy associated with forms of empire that the Culture strives to avoid.

    Marain itself is also open to encryption and dialect-specific implementations for different parts of the Culture. M1 is basic Nonary Marain, the three-by-three grid. All Culture citizens can communicate in this variant. Other variants include M8 through M16, which are encrypted by various degrees, and are typically used by the Contact Section. Higher level encryptions exist, the highest of these being M32. M32 and lower level encrypted signals are the province of Special Circumstances (SC). Use of M32 is reserved for extremely secret and reserved information and communication within Special Circumstances. That said, M32 has an air of notoriety in the Culture, and in the thoughts of most may best be articulated as "the Unbreakable, Inviolable, Holy of Holies Special Circumstances M32" as described by prospective SC agent Ulver Seich. Ships and Minds also have a slightly distasteful view of SC procedure associated with M32, one Ship Mind going so far as to object to the standard SC attitude of "Full scale, stark raving M32 don't-talk-about-this-or-we'll-pull-your-plugs-out-baby paranoia" on the use of the encryption.

    There are no laws as such in the Culture. Social norms are enforced by convention (personal reputation, "good manners", and by, as described in The Player of Games, possible ostracism and involuntary supervision for more serious crimes). Minds generally refrain from using their all-seeing capabilities to influence people's reputations, though they are not necessarily themselves above judging people based on such observations, as described in Excession. Minds also judge each other, with one of the more relevant criteria being the quality of their treatment of sentients in their care. Hub Minds for example are generally nominated from well-regarded GSV (the largest class of ships) Minds, and then upgraded to care for the billions living on the artificial habitats.

    The only serious prohibitions that seem to exist are against harming sentient beings, or forcing them into undertaking any act (another concept that seems unnatural to and is, in fact, almost unheard of by almost all Culture citizens). As mentioned in The Player of Games, the Culture does have the occasional "crime of passion" (as described by an Azadian) and the punishment was to be "slap-droned", or to have a drone assigned to follow the offender and "make sure [they] don't do it again".

    While the enforcement in theory could lead to a Big Brother-style surveillance society, in practice social convention among the Minds prohibits them from watching, or interfering in, citizens' lives unless requested, or unless they perceive severe risk. The practice of reading a sentient's mind without permission (something the Culture is technologically easily capable of) is also strictly taboo. The whole plot of Look to Windward relies on a Hub Mind not reading an agent's mind (with certain precautions in case this rule gets violated). Minds that do so anyway are considered deviant and shunned by other Minds (see GCU Grey Area). At one point it is said that if the Culture actually had written laws, the sanctity of one's own thoughts against the intrusion of others would be the first on the books.

    This gives some measure of privacy and protection; though the very nature of Culture society would, strictly speaking, make keeping secrets irrelevant: most of them would be considered neither shameful nor criminal. It does allow the Minds in particular to scheme amongst themselves in a very efficient manner, and occasionally withhold information.

    The Culture has no flag, symbol or logo. According to Consider Phlebas, people can recognize items made by the Culture implicitly, by the way they are simple, efficient and aesthetic. The main outright symbol of the Culture, the one by which it is most explicitly and proudly recognized, is not a visual symbol, but its language, Marain, which is used far beyond the Culture itself. It is often employed in the galaxy as a de facto lingua franca among people who don't share a language. Even the main character of Consider Phlebas, an enemy of the Culture, ready to die to help in its downfall, is fluent in Marain and uses it with other non-Culture characters out of sheer convenience.

    It would have helped if the Culture had used some sort of emblem or logo; but, pointlessly unhelpful and unrealistic to the last, the Culture refused to place its trust in symbols. It maintained that it was what it was and had no need for such outward representation. The Culture was every single individual human and machine in it, not one thing. Just as it could not imprison itself with laws, impoverish itself with money or misguide itself with leaders, so it would not misrepresent itself with signs.

    The Culture is a posthuman society, which originally arose when seven or eight roughly humanoid space-faring species coalesced into a quasi-collective (a group-civilisation) ultimately consisting of approximately thirty trillion (short scale) sentient (more properly, sapient) beings (this includes artificial intelligences). In Banks's universe, a good part (but by no means an overwhelming percentage) of all sentient species is of the "pan-human" type, as noted in Matter.

    Although the Culture was originated by humanoid species, subsequent interactions with other civilisations have introduced many non-humanoid species into the Culture (including some former enemy civilisations), though the majority of the biological Culture is still pan-human. Little uniformity exists in the Culture, and its citizens are such by choice, free to change physical form and even species (though some stranger biological conversions are irreversible, and conversion from biological to artificial sentience is considered to be what is known as an Unusual Life Choice). All members are also free to join, leave, and rejoin, or indeed declare themselves to be, say, 80% Culture.

    Within the novels, opponents of the Culture have argued that the role of humans in the Culture is nothing more than that of pets, or parasites on Culture Minds, and that they can have nothing genuinely useful to contribute to a society where science is close to omniscient about the physical universe, where every ailment has been cured, and where every thought can be read. Many of the Culture novels in fact contain characters (from within or without the Culture) wondering how far-reaching the Minds' dominance of the Culture is, and how much of the democratic process within it might in fact be a sham: subtly but very powerfully influenced by the Minds in much the same ways Contact and Special Circumstances influence other societies. Also, except for some mentions about a vote over the Idiran-Culture War, and the existence of a very small number of "Referrers" (humans of especially acute reasoning), few biological entities are ever described as being involved in any high-level decisions.

    On the other hand, the Culture can be seen as fundamentally hedonistic (one of the main objectives for any being, including Minds, is to have fun rather than to be "useful"). Also, Minds are constructed, by convention, to care for and value human beings. While a General Contact Unit (GCU) does not strictly need a crew (and could construct artificial avatars when it did), a real human crew adds richness to its existence, and offers distraction during otherwise dull periods. In Consider Phlebas it is noted that Minds still find humans fascinating, especially their odd ability to sometimes achieve similarly advanced reasoning as their much more complex machine brains.

    To a large degree, the freedoms enjoyed by humans in the Culture are only available because Minds choose to provide them. The freedoms include the ability to leave the Culture when desired, often forming new associated but separate societies with Culture ships and Minds, most notably the Zetetic Elench and the ultra-pacifist and non-interventionist Peace Faction.

    Techniques in genetics have advanced in the Culture to the point where bodies can be freed from built-in limitations. Citizens of the Culture refer to a normal human as "human-basic" and the vast majority opt for significant enhancements: severed limbs grow back, sexual physiology can be voluntarily changed from male to female and back (though the process takes time),[7] sexual stimulation and endurance are strongly heightened in both sexes (something that is often the subject of envious debate among other species), pain can be switched off, toxins can be bypassed away from the digestive system, autonomic functions such as heart rate can be switched to conscious control, reflexes like blinking can be switched off, and bones and muscles adapt quickly to changes in gravity without the need to exercise. The degree of enhancement found in Culture individuals varies to taste, with certain of the more exotic enhancements limited to Special Circumstances personnel (for example, weapons systems embedded in various parts of the body).

    Most Culture individuals opt to have drug glands that allow for hormonal levels and other chemical secretions to be consciously monitored, released and controlled. These allow owners to secrete on command any of a wide selection of synthetic drugs, from the merely relaxing to the mind-altering: "Snap" is described in Use of Weapons and The Player of Games as "The Culture's favourite breakfast drug". "Sharp Blue" is described as a utility drug, as opposed to a sensory enhancer or a sexual stimulant, that helps in problem solving. "Quicken", mentioned in Excession, speeds up the user's neural processes so that time seems to slow down, allowing them to think and have mental conversation (for example with artificial intelligences) in far less time than it appears to take to the outside observer. "Sperk", as described in Matter, is a mood- and energy-enhancing drug, while other such self-produced drugs include "Calm", "Gain", "Charge", "Recall", "Diffuse", "Somnabsolute", "Softnow", "Focal", "Edge", "Drill", "Gung", "Winnow" and "Crystal Fugue State". The glanded substances have no permanent side-effects and are non-habit-forming.

    See also: List of civilisations in the Culture series
    For all their genetic improvements, the Culture is by no means eugenically uniform. Human members in the Culture setting vary in size, colour and shape as in reality, and with possibly even further natural differences: in the novella The State of the Art, it is mentioned that a character "looks like a Yeti", and that there is variance among the Culture in minor details such as the number of toes or of joints on each finger. It is mentioned in Excession that:

    "the tenor of the time had generally turned against ... outlandishness and people had mostly returned to looking more like people over the last millennium", previously "as the fashions of the intervening times had ordained – people ... had resembled birds, fish, dirigible balloons, snakes, small clouds of cohesive smoke and animated bushes".

    Some Culture citizens opt to leave the constraints of a human or even humanoid body altogether, opting to take on the appearance of one of the myriad other galactic sentients (perhaps in order to live with them) or even non-sentient objects as commented upon in Matter (though this process can be irreversible if the desired form is too removed from the structure of the human brain). Certain eccentrics have chosen to become drones or even Minds themselves, though this is considered rude and possibly even insulting by most humans and AIs alike.

    While the Culture is generally pan-humanoid (and tends to call itself "human"), various other species and individuals of other species have become part of the Culture.

    As all Culture citizens are of perfect genetic health, the very rare cases of a Culture citizen showing any physical deformity are almost certain to be a sort of fashion statement of somewhat dubious taste.

    Almost all Culture citizens are very sociable, of great intellectual capability and learning, and possess very well-balanced psyches. Their biological make-up and their growing up in an enlightened society make neuroses and lesser emotions like greed or (strong) jealousy practically unknown, and produce persons that, in any lesser society, appear very self-composed and charismatic. Character traits like strong shyness, while very rare, are not fully unknown, as shown in Excession. As described there and in Player of Games, a Culture citizen who becomes dysfunctional enough to pose a serious nuisance or threat to others would be offered (voluntary) psychological adjustment therapy and might potentially find himself under constant (non-voluntary) oversight by representatives of the local Mind. In extreme cases, as described in Use of Weapons and Surface Detail, dangerous individuals have been known to be assigned a "slap-drone", a robotic follower who ensures that the person in question doesn't continue to endanger the safety of others.

    As well as humans and other biological species, sentient artificial intelligences are also members of the Culture. These can be broadly categorised into drones and Minds. Also, by custom, as described in Excession, any artefact (be it a tool or vessel) above a certain capability level has to be given sentience.

    Drones are roughly comparable in intelligence and social status to that of the Culture's biological members. Their intelligence is measured against that of an average biological member of the Culture; a so-called "1.0 value" drone would be considered the mental equal of a biological citizen, whereas lesser drones such as the menial service units of Orbitals are merely proto-sentient (capable of limited reaction to unprogrammed events, but possessing no consciousness, and thus not considered citizens; these take care of much of the menial work in the Culture). The sentience of advanced drones has various levels of redundancy, from systems similar to that of Minds (though much reduced in capability) down to electronic, to mechanical and finally biochemical back-up brains.

    Although drones are artificial, the parameters that prescribe their minds are not rigidly constrained, and sentient drones are full individuals, with their own personalities, opinions and quirks. Like biological citizens, Culture drones generally have lengthy names. They also have a form of sexual intercourse for pleasure, called being "in thrall", though this is an intellect-only interfacing with another sympathetic drone.

    While civilian drones do generally match humans in intelligence, drones built especially as Contact or Special Circumstances agents are often several times more intelligent, and imbued with extremely powerful senses, powers and armaments (usually forcefield and effector-based, though occasionally more destructive weaponry such as lasers or, exceptionally, "knife-missiles" are referred to) all powered by antimatter reactors. Despite being purpose-built, these drones are still allowed individual personalities and given a choice in lifestyle. Indeed, some are eventually deemed psychologically unsuitable as agents (for example as Mawhrin-Skel notes about itself in The Player of Games) and must choose (or choose to choose)[8] either mental reprofiling or demilitarisation and discharge from Special Circumstances.

    Physically, drones are floating units of various sizes and shapes, usually with no visible moving parts. Drones get around the limitations of this inanimation with the ability to project "fields": both those capable of physical force, which allow them to manipulate objects, as well as visible, coloured fields called "auras", which are used to enable the drone to express emotion. There is a complex drone code based on aura colours and patterns (which is fully understood by biological Culture citizens as well). Drones have full control of their auras and can display emotions they're not feeling or can switch their aura off. The drone, Jase, in Consider Phlebas, is described as being constructed before the use of auras, and refuses to be retrofitted with them, preferring to remain inscrutable.

    In size drones vary substantially: the oldest still alive (eight or nine thousand years old) tend to be around the size of humans, whereas later technology allows drones to be small enough to lie in a human's cupped palm; modern drones may be any size between these extremes according to fashion and personal preference. Some drones are also designed as utility equipment with its own sentience, such as the gelfield protective suit described in Excession.

    By contrast to drones, Minds are orders of magnitude more powerful and intelligent than the Culture's other biological and artificial citizens. Typically they inhabit and act as the controllers of large-scale Culture hardware such as ships or space-based habitats. Unsurprisingly, given their duties, Minds are tremendously powerful: capable of running all of the functions of a ship or habitat, while holding potentially billions of simultaneous conversations with the citizens that live aboard them. To allow them to perform at such a high degree, they exist partially in hyperspace to get around hindrances to computing power such as the speed of light.

    In Iain M. Banks's Culture series, most larger starships, some inhabited planets and all orbitals have their own Minds: sapient, hyperintelligent machines originally built by biological species, which have evolved, redesigned themselves, and become many times more intelligent than their original creators.[9] According to Consider Phlebas, a Mind is an ellipsoid object roughly the size of a bus and weighing around 15,000 tons. A Mind is in fact a 4-D entity, meaning that the ellipsoid is only the protrusion of the larger four dimensional device into our 3D 'real space'.

    In the Culture universe, Minds have become an indispensable part of the prevailing society, enabling much of its post-scarcity amenities by planning and automating societal functions, and by handling day-to-day administration with mere fractions of their mental power.

    The main difference between Minds and other extremely powerful artificial intelligences in fiction is that they are highly humanistic and benevolent. They are so both by design, and by their shared culture. They are often even rather eccentric. Yet, by and large, they show no wish to supplant or dominate their erstwhile creators.

    On the other hand, it can also be argued that to the Minds, the human-like members of the Culture amount to little more than pets, whose wants are followed on a Mind's whim. Within the Series, this dynamic is played on more than once.[10] In 'Excession', it is also played on to put a Mind in its place—in the mythology, a Mind is not thought to be a god, still, but an artificial intelligence capable of surprise, and even fear.

    Although the Culture is a type of utopian anarchy, Minds most closely approach the status of leaders, and would likely be considered godlike in less rational societies. As independent, thinking beings, each has its own character, and indeed, legally (insofar as the Culture has a 'legal system'), each is a Culture citizen. Some Minds are more aggressive, some more calm; some don't mind mischief, others simply demonstrate intellectual curiosity. But above all they tend to behave rationally and benevolently in their decisions.

    As mentioned before, Minds can serve several different purposes, but Culture ships and habitats have one special attribute: the Mind and the ship or habitat are perceived as one entity; in some ways the Mind is the ship, certainly from its passengers' point of view. It seems normal practice to address the ship's Mind as "Ship" (and an Orbital hub as "Hub"). However, a Mind can transfer its 'mind state' into and out of its ship 'body', and even switch roles entirely, becoming (for example) an Orbital Hub from a warship.

    More often than not, the Mind's character defines the ship's purpose. Minds do not end up in roles unsuited to them; an antisocial Mind simply would not volunteer to organise the care of thousands of humans, for example. On occasion groupings of two or three Minds may run a ship. This seems normal practice for larger vehicles such as GSVs, though smaller ships only ever seem to have one Mind.

    Banks also hints at a Mind's personality becoming defined at least partially before its creation or 'birth'. Warships, as an example, are designed to revel in controlled destruction; seeing a certain glory in achieving a 'worthwhile' death also seems characteristic. The presence of human crews on board warships may discourage such recklessness, since in the normal course of things, a Mind would not risk beings other than itself.

    With their almost godlike powers of reasoning and action comes a temptation to bend (or break) Cultural norms of ethical behaviour, if deemed necessary for some greater good. In The Player of Games, a Culture citizen is blackmailed, apparently by Special Circumstances Minds, into assisting the overthrow of a barbaric empire, while in Excession, a conspiracy by some Minds to start a war against an oppressive alien race nearly comes to fruition. Yet even in these rare cases, the essentially benevolent intentions of Minds towards other Culture citizens is never in question. More than any other beings in the Culture, Minds are the ones faced with interesting ethical dilemmas.

    While Minds would likely have different capabilities, especially seeing their widely differing ages (and thus technological sophistication), this is not a theme of the books. It might be speculated that the older Minds are upgraded to keep in step with the advances in technology, thus making this point moot. It is also noted in Matter that every Culture Mind writes its own OS, thus continually improving itself and, as a side benefit, becoming much less vulnerable to outside takeover by electronic means and viruses, as every Mind's processing functions work differently.

    The high computing power of the Mind is apparently enabled by thought processes (and electronics) being constantly in hyperspace (thus circumventing the light speed limit in computation).[11] Minds do have back-up capabilities functioning with light-speed if the hyperspace capabilities fail - however, this reduces their computational powers by several orders of magnitude (though they remain sentient).

    The storage capability of a GSV Mind is described in Consider Phlebas as 1030 bytes (1 million yottabytes).

    The Culture is a society undergoing slow (by present-day Earth standards) but constant technological change, so the stated capacity of Minds is open to change. In the last 3000 years the capacity of Minds has increased considerably. By the time of the events of the novel Excession in the mid 19th century, Minds from the first millennium BCE are referred to jocularly as minds, with a small 'm'. Their capacities only allows them to be considered equivalent to what are now known as AI Cores, small (in the literal physical sense) Artificial intelligences used in shuttles, trans-light modules, Drones, and other machines not large enough for a full scale Mind. While still considered sentient, a mind's power at this point is considered greatly inferior to a contemporary Mind. That said, It is possible for Minds to have upgrades, improvements and enhancements given to them since construction, to allow them to remain up to date.

    Using the sensory equipment available to the Culture, Minds can see inside solid objects; in principle they can also read minds by examining the cellular processes inside a living brain, but Culture Minds regard such mindreading as taboo. The only known Mind to break this Taboo, the GCU Grey Area seen in Excession, is largely ostracized and shunned by other Minds as a result. In Look to Windward an example is cited of an attempt to destroy a Culture Mind by smuggling a minuscule antimatter bomb onto a Culture orbital inside the head of a Chelgrian agent. However the bomb ends up being spotted without the taboo being broken.

    In Consider Phlebas, a typical Mind is described as a mirror-like ellipsoid of several dozen cubic metres, but weighing many thousands of tons, due to the fact that it is made up of hyper-dense matter. It is noted that most of its 'body' only exists in the real world at the outer shell, the inner workings staying constantly within hyperspace.

    The Mind in Consider Phlebas is also described as having internal power sources which function as back-up shield generators and space propulsion, and seeing the rational, safety-conscious thinking of Minds, it would be reasonable to assume that all Minds have such features, as well as a complement of drones and other remote sensors as also described.

    Other equipment available to them spans the whole range of the Culture's technological capabilities and its practically limitless resources. However, this equipment would more correctly be considered emplaced in the ship or orbital that the Mind is controlling, rather than being part of the Mind itself.[11]

    Minds are constructed entities, which have general parameters fixed by their constructors (other Minds) before 'birth', not unlike biological beings. A wide variety of characteristics can be and are manipulated, such as introversion-extroversion, aggressiveness (for warships) or general disposition.

    However, the character of a Mind evolves as well, and Minds often change over the course of centuries, sometimes changing personality entirely. This is often followed by them becoming eccentric or at least somewhat odd. Others drift from the Culture-accepted ethical norms, and may even start influencing their own society in subtle ways, selfishly furthering their own views of how the Culture should act.

    Minds have also been known to commit suicide to escape punishment, or because of grief.

    Minds are constructed with a personality typical of the Culture's interests, i.e. full of curiosity, general benevolence (expressed in the 'good works' actions of the Culture, or in the protectiveness regarding sentient beings) and respect for the Culture's customs.[12]

    Nonetheless, Minds have their own interests in addition to what their peers expect them to do for the Culture, and may develop fascinations or hobbies like other sentient beings do.[13][14]

    The mental capabilities of Minds are described in Excession to be vast enough to run entire universe-simulations inside their own imaginations, exploring metamathical (a fictional branch of metamathematics) scenarios, an activity addictive enough to cause some Minds to totally withdraw from caring about our own physical reality into "Infinite Fun Space", their own, ironic and understated term for this sort of activity.

    Ship Minds
    One of the main activities of Ship Minds is the guidance of spaceships from a certain minimum size upwards. A culture spaceship is the Mind and vice versa; there are no different names for the two, and a spaceship without a Mind would be considered damaged or incomplete to the Culture.[15]

    These ships provide a convenient 'body' for a Mind, which is too large and too important to be contained within smaller, more fragile shells. Following the 'body' analogy, it also provides the Mind with the capability of physical movement. As Minds are living beings with curiosity, emotion and wishes of their own, such mobility is likely very important to most.

    Culture Minds (mostly also being ships) usually give themselves whimsical names, though these often hint at their function as well. Even the names of warships retain this humorous approach, though the implications are much darker.

    Non-Ship Minds
    Some Minds also take on functions which either preclude or discourage movement. These usually administer various types of Culture facilities:

    • Orbital Hubs – A Culture Orbital is a smaller version of a ringworld, with large numbers of people living on the inside surface of them, in a planet-like environment.[16]
    • Rocks – Minds in charge of planetoid-like structures, built/accreted, mostly from the earliest times of the Culture before it moved into space-built orbitals.
    • Stores – Minds of a quiet temperament run these asteroids, containing vast hangars, full of mothballed military ships or other equipment. Some 'Rocks' also act as 'Stores'.
    • University Sages – Minds that run Culture universities / schools, a very important function as every Culture citizen has an extensive education and further learning is considered one of the most important reasons for life in the Culture.
    Atypical Minds
    • Eccentric – Culture Minds who have become "... a bit odd" (as compared to the very rational standards of other Culture Minds). Existing at the fringe of the Culture, they can be considered (and consider themselves) as somewhat, but not wholly part of the Culture.
    • Sabbaticaler – Culture Minds who have decided to abdicate from their peer-pressure based duties in the Culture for a time.
    • Ulterior – Minds of the Culture Ulterior, an umbrella term for all the no-longer-quite-Culture factions.
    • Converts – Minds (or sentient computers) from other societies who have chosen to join the Culture.
    • Absconder – Minds who have completely left the Culture, especially when in doing so having deserted some form of task.
    • Deranged – A more extreme version of Eccentric as implied in The Hydrogen Sonata
    Minds' names
    Minds (and, as a consequence, Culture starships) usually bear names that do a little more than just identify them. The Minds themselves choose their own names, and thus they usually express something about a particular Mind's attitude, character or aims in their personal life. They range from funny to just plain cryptic. Some examples are:

    • Sanctioned Parts List – a habitation / factory ship
    • So Much For Subtlety – a habitation / factory ship
    • All Through With This Niceness And Negotiation Stuff – a warship
    • Attitude Adjuster – a warship
    • Of Course I Still Love You – an ambassador ship
    • Funny, It Worked Last Time... – an ambassador ship
    Some humanoid or drone Culture citizens have long names, often with seven or more words. Some of these words specify the citizen's origin (place of birth or manufacture), some an occupation, and some may denote specific philosophical or political alignments (chosen later in life by the citizen themselves), or make other similarly personal statements. An example would be Diziet Sma, whose full name is Rasd-Coduresa Diziet Embless Sma da' Marenhide:

    • Rasd-Coduresa is the planetary system of her birth, and the specific object (planet, orbital, Dyson sphere, etc.). The -sa suffix is roughly equivalent to -er in English. By this convention, Earth humans would all be named Sun-Earthsa (or Sun-Earther).
    • Diziet is her given name. This is chosen by a parent, usually the mother.
    • Embless is her chosen name. Most Culture citizens choose this when they reach adulthood (according to The Player of Games this is known as "completing one's name"). As with all conventions in the Culture, it may be broken or ignored: some change their chosen name during their lives, some never take one.
    • Sma is her surname, usually taken from one's mother.
    • da' Marenhide is the house or estate she was raised within, the da' or dam being similar to von in German. (The usual formation is dam; da' is used in Sma's name because the house name begins with an M, eliding an awkward phoneme repetition.)
    Iain Banks gave his own Culture name as "Sun-Earther Iain El-Bonko Banks of North Queensferry".[2]

    The Culture has a relatively relaxed attitude towards death. Genetic manipulation and the continual benevolent surveillance of the Minds make natural or accidental death almost unknown. Advanced technology allows citizens to make backup copies of their personalities, allowing them to be resurrected in case of death. The form of that resurrection can be specified by the citizen, with personalities returning either in the same biological form, in an artificial form (see below), or even just within virtual reality. Some citizens choose to go into "storage" (a form of suspended animation) for long periods of time, out of boredom or curiosity about the future.

    Attitudes individual citizens have towards death are varied (and have varied throughout the Culture's history). While many, if not most, citizens make some use of backup technology, many others do not, preferring instead to risk death without the possibility of recovery (for example when engaging in extreme sports). These citizens are sometimes called "disposables", and are described in Look to Windward. Taking into account such accidents, voluntary euthanasia for emotional reasons, or choices like sublimation, the average lifespan of humans is described in Excession as being around 350 to 400 years. Some citizens choose to forgo death altogether, although this is rarely done and is viewed as an eccentricity. Other options instead of death include conversion of an individual's consciousness into an AI, joining of a group mind (which can include biological and non-biological consciousnesses), or subliming (usually in association with a group mind).

    Concerning the lifespan of drones and Minds, given the durability of Culture technology and the options of mindstate backups, it is reasonable to assume that they live as long as they choose. Even Minds, with their utmost complexity, are known to be backed up (and reactivated if they for example die in a risky mission, see GSV Lasting Damage). It is noted that even Minds themselves do not necessarily live forever either, often choosing to eventually sublime or even killing themselves (as does the double-Mind GSV Lasting Damage due to its choices in the Culture-Idiran war).

  11. A Chorus of Disapproval

    A Chorus of Disapproval TV Screaming Service / FFS! star 9 Staff Member Manager

    Aug 19, 2003
  12. VadersLaMent

    VadersLaMent Chosen One star 10

    Apr 3, 2002
    I've read that before. Then started reading Culture books.
  13. Healer_Leona

    Healer_Leona Squirrel Rangler of Fun & Games star 9 Staff Member Manager

    Jul 7, 2000
    Sounds intriguing and I will be looking for a good series to read once I'm finished with The Expanse.
  14. VadersLaMent

    VadersLaMent Chosen One star 10

    Apr 3, 2002
    I did not know it was actually two authors, neither named James Corey. Anyway, due out next year.

    The final book
  15. Healer_Leona

    Healer_Leona Squirrel Rangler of Fun & Games star 9 Staff Member Manager

    Jul 7, 2000
    2/3rds done with Babylon's Ashes and I have a comment or two about Fred Johnson.

    I know it's old but I'll do spoiler tags in case someone hasn't read and wants to.

    I was shocked at his death. Not that he died, but how. Dying quietly of a stroke felt like such a letdown for the Butcher of Anderson Station. I get the sereis talked about how apparently easy it was to stroke out during a hard burn and yeah, someone would eventually, I just thought he'd go down fighting. Or maybe that's just what I wanted.

    I really did like the scene of Anderson Dawes explaining his speech he had ready for him in the Chapel. =((

    That's it.
    darthcaedus1138 likes this.
  16. Healer_Leona

    Healer_Leona Squirrel Rangler of Fun & Games star 9 Staff Member Manager

    Jul 7, 2000
    Finally finished Babylon's Ashes. Took so long because I read another book that I could only have a for week.

    I feel like this one was originally going to be the end of the series. They tied up the ends pretty well and I would have been quite satisfied had it been the last one. Granted, I'm glad it's not, just picked up Persepolis Rising and looking forward to more Expanse.
    darthcaedus1138 likes this.
  17. Darth McClain

    Darth McClain Manager Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Feb 5, 2000
    Love your signature, Healer_Leona!

    It's been a little bit since I've read Babylon's Ashes, slightly disagree with you about Fred.

    We'd heard about the dangers of high G burns, but we hadn't seen it happen to anyone we care about. While it would have been awesome to see Fred take out someone like Book Ashford in a blaze of glory, I do like that the a character so defined by his military actions and subsequent atonements/repentance was killed by the limits of the human body instead of fighting.
  18. Healer_Leona

    Healer_Leona Squirrel Rangler of Fun & Games star 9 Staff Member Manager

    Jul 7, 2000
    I can't fault that thinking.

    So started Persepolis Rising and irritated from the get go... 30 years pass???? WHAT!?! That's a hellova lot of stories we are missing and I happen to want a couple or dozen more books done on those years.

    That's all. :p
    Jedi Ben likes this.
  19. Ghost

    Ghost Chosen One star 7

    Oct 13, 2003
    It's a trilogy of trilogies.
  20. dp4m

    dp4m Also a Narc star 10

    Nov 8, 2001
    It's not.

    It's four-duologies, and a capstone. That's the outline, I believe. 1 + 2 closes a story. 3 + 4 closes a story. 5 + 6 closes a story. 7 + 8 closes a story. And 9 is the finale.
    Lord Vivec likes this.
  21. Ghost

    Ghost Chosen One star 7

    Oct 13, 2003
    It's felt like a trilogy of trilogies to me. First three leading up to the Protomolecule's purpose: opening that gate, and the Solar System gaining safe access to it. Then certain events regarding the colonization and other effects from opening humanity up to much more than the Solar System. And then the last 3 being the jump-forward with the third/new status quo.
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2020
  22. dp4m

    dp4m Also a Narc star 10

    Nov 8, 2001
    Yes, but you're objectively wrong. lol...

    I mean, even I'm basically wrong labeling it 4 duologies and a finale. But it's...
    1) The protomolecule discovery and what it does/wants.
    2) The ring gates, what it means, and what's on the other side.
    3) The last gasp of the dying OPA and Mars military, discovery of the Gate killers and dutchmen.
    4) 30 years time jump -- and then dealing with the fallout of the previous three duologies (protomolecule insight, Cortezar, Duarte, etc.).
  23. dp4m

    dp4m Also a Narc star 10

    Nov 8, 2001
    Happy International Coffee Day, everyone! Find someone to look at you the way James Holden looks at coffee!

  24. Healer_Leona

    Healer_Leona Squirrel Rangler of Fun & Games star 9 Staff Member Manager

    Jul 7, 2000
    3/4ths thru Persepolis Rising and just finished the Bobbie/Amos fight. Holy crap! While reading I was so mad at Amos thinking it was just him going full pyschopath and then the convo afterward giving us more insight into him and how much he really cares for Clarissa's end of life situation. Damn just heartbreaking.

    Looking forward to seeing this in the series.
  25. dp4m

    dp4m Also a Narc star 10

    Nov 8, 2001