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While reading book 1 (Consider Phlebas) in the culture series, I'm struggling to understand what the Dra'Azon actually is.

The Dra'Azon will attack ships that attempt to breach the quiet barrier around Schar's World, and it's powerful enough to prevent both the Idiran's and the Culture from breaching the exclusion zone. So I initially thought that the Dra'Azon was like a big ship.

However the actual physical characteristics of the Dra'Azon are not described which leads me to believe that it's more like a being of energy.

I'd like to know if the Dra'Azon has a physical presence, or if it's like a ghost or being of energy?

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    IIRC, the Dra'azon were originally an Elder race that partially sublimed.. will check some references later when I can and post an answer....
    – Alith
    Commented Jun 7, 2021 at 9:08

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Very little description of the Dra'Azon is given in the book. The clearest statement is given when Fal is being briefed:

the Dra'Azon had made Schar's World one of their Planets of the Dead.  If you were a pure-energy superspecies long retired from the normal, matter-based life of the galaxy, and your conceit was to cordon off and preserve the odd planet or two you thought might serve as a fitting monument to death and futility, Schar's World with its short and sordid history sounded like the sort of place you'd put pretty near the top of your list.

So it appears they were beings of pure energy. I don't think it is clear from Consider Phlebas whether they had Sublimed or not, although being "retired from the normal, matter-based life of the galaxy" would tend to imply it. The Culture wiki states "they were a particularly reclusive, partially Sublimed, Elder civilization", a description that comes from Banks' later novel Matter. They were still clearly able to interact physically with the universe though. For example, all the debris from the fighting on Schar's World was found compressed in a tight ball, under the ice at one of the planet's poles. Clearly only the Dra'Azon were able to have done this.

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