Iain M. Banks
I have just added a bibliography and description
of the assorted IA Banks sci-fi books.
I was first introduced to Iain M. Banks when I came across this
Story web site. So far I have read the books Consider Phlebas, Use of Weapons,
Against a Dark Background and Excession. Already it is clear to me that many
elements of these books have been influential in the creation of the story for
Marathon and potentially Halo as well.
One of the first things that struck me in the books was AI's called Minds
that have distinctive human personalities. These turn up in the Culture
stories that Mr. Banks has written. These AI's basically govern the Culture
allowing people to do whatever they like, in fact people can alter themselves
physically or emotionally to suit whatever they like.
These Minds are endowed with distinct personalities much like those of Leela,
Tycho and Durandal in the Marathon games. While reading Excession I saw elements
of all those personality types displayed. Everything from eccentric to compassionate
to conspiratorial they are as human as the people who populate the Culture itself.
Consider Phlebas, in fact most of Banks sci-fi books, deal with truuly
alien cultures vs. the CULTURE (which for all intense purposes can be
considered humanity). I think the biggest links to the Halo universe,
and this is all speculation of course, are the Idrians are religious
fanatics fighting against the CULTURE which is based on a symbiotic
relationship with technology. Minds, AIs, for the most part govern the
CULTURE as well. The Idrians are brutally efficient and don't consider
their enemies worthy of any pity...
Sort of rings very true when you think about the Covenant transmit
some religious message to the terrans and then exterminate them.
There is also of course the ending where Banks illustrates in detail
how murderous the Idrians can be when cut loose on their enemies or
anyone who gets in their way. There is also the element of the planet
having a "mind" of sorts...perhaps this will be the secret of Halo?*
He also is big on artificial style orbitals. In Excession he describes Tier:
Tier was a steeped habitat; it's nine levels all revolved at the
same speed, but that meant that the outer tiers possessed greater
apparent gravity than those near the center. The levels
themselves were sectioned into compartments up to hundreds of
kilometers long and filled with atmospheres of different types and
held at different temperatures, while stunningly complicated and
dazzlingly beautiful array of mirrors and mirrorfields situated
within the staggered cone of the world's axis provided amounts of
sunlight precisely timed, attenuated and where necessary altered
in wavelength to mimic the conditions on a hundred different
worlds for a a hundred different species."
The environmental diversity and civilizational co-dependence it
implied and intermingling it encouraged had been Tier's raison
d'etre, the very foundation of it's purpose and fame for
the seven thousand years it had existed.Its original builders
were, perhaps, unknown; they were believed to have Sublimed
shortly after building it, leaving behind a species-or model,
depending on how you defined these things-of biomechanical
sintricate which ran and maintained the place..."
In these passages I see several possibilites that could impact
the world of Halo. The first is that there is the potential for
many different climates and hence environments in addition to
the vast underground structures we have glimpsed in the
The second possibility here is perhaps the Covenant are
in some way descended or potentially engineered by the creators
of the Halo orbital?
In reading "Against a Dark Background" I came across this passage:
"The Lazy Guns had not had a happy history; they had turned up
during the Interregnum following the Second War, seemingly
products of Halo; the vast Thrial-polar Machine Intelligence
artifact/habitat destroyed by whatever mysterious weapon had been
fired from - and which appeared to ave obliterated - the moons
of the giant gas planet Phrastesis."
So Halo is a machine AI? So far it has been the only reference in
any of his books I have found...Could Halo be an AI that occupies the
orbital much as the Minds from Banks' Culture books occupy large
More to come...If you would like to submit something...
please feel free.
Would you like to read some of these books? They're pretty damn hard to find in the USA
as most of them are out of print :( I've managed to get my copies from two sources:
Amazon UK and
The Bookplace. Both are in
England so prepare to be hammered on pricing ^-^.
* Is quoted from a thread I participated in on the Halo message boards.
here to read the full thread.