I have begun to reread Banks' work as my first readings more than a decade ago were haphazard and out of sequence.

Currently deep in The Algebraist and trying to fit the period into the Culture universe - it seems to be before the Culture arose.

Does anyone have a view on the time line?


1 Answer 1


Your confusion likely stems from the fact that along with Feersum Endjinn and Against a Dark Background, this novel is science fictional but not set in the Culture fictional universe.

AJ: You have a new book out this month, The Algebraist, which is an Iain M. Banks, so presumably science fiction?

IB: It is, yes, but it’s not part of the Culture series. The idea was to write something that wasn’t a Culture novel that Culture fans would enjoy. It was quite complex in terms of details and the back story and so forth, and that held me up for longer than usual. It was always going to be a long book anyway, and it’s actually longer than I intended. It probably could become a trilogy, but for now it’s a standalone novel.

Northings Interview. Iain Banks, A Restless Imagination

For the record, The Algebraist is set in the year 4034AD, several millennia after Earth was contacted by The Culture in that fictional universe.

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    I don't think its clear that Against a Dark Background isn't in the Culture universe. It could easily be but its too far away to matter. At least, I don't think there are any inconsistencies between the two universes, as is clearly the case with the Algebraist and the Culture.
    – Moriarty
    Commented Jan 9, 2020 at 22:45
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    @Moriarty - Banks stated (repeatedly) that AaDB isn't set in the Culture universe; "One was an idea for a sequel to Against A Dark Background which is the first non-Culture one going way back and the second was for a sequel to the Algebraist. So, I mean really just initial ideas, nothing else." - fantasy-faction.com/2012/iain-m-banks-interview-part-one
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 9, 2020 at 22:53
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    Valorum, it's probably splitting hairs but that quote makes it clear that AaDB isn't a Culture novel, but not that it isn't set in the same universe. A quick google doesn't turn up anything definitive.
    – Moriarty
    Commented Jan 10, 2020 at 1:41

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