Amazon have announced an adaptation of Scottish writer Iain M. Banks’ Consider Phlebas, the first novel in his iconic Culture series, and this could be the beginning of something colossal.
Every TV company and streaming platform is looking for their version of Game of Thrones, and this could be it for Amazon.
The Culture series is similarly beloved, similarly ambitious and similarly acclaimed to those books. The sprawling, nine-book series covers over a thousand years and spreads all over the galaxy. It’s set in a post-scarcity environment where reduced needs lead to a kind of far-future, AI-led socialism, along with occasional wars with less-advanced civilizations (and the complex ethical and moral issues of such). It’s at times hilarious, harrowing, frustrating (one Culture novel has a twist within its final sentence, which is basically unfair) and laden with running gags - even at its most serious, hard sci-fi, this is a series where spaceships carry names like I Blame Your Mother and Ultimate Ship the Second.
Jeff Bezos is a fan, apparently, announcing the acquisition himself:
The first book is about a spy tasked with recovering a potentially war-winning AI, and will form the basis of the TV series, but if Bezos is tweeting that they’re making the whole lot, they’re making the whole lot.
The series is being written by Dennis Kelly, who wrote the non-song parts of the Matilda stage show, the awesomely distressing miniseries Utopia (“Where is Jessica Hyde?”) and co-wrote the criminally underseen Pulling with Sharon Horgan.
“Iain Banks has long been a hero of mine, and his innate warmth, humor and humanism shines through these novels,” says Kelly. “Far from being the dystopian nightmares that we are used to, Banks creates a kind of flawed paradise, a society truly worth fighting for - rather than a warning from the future, his books are a beckoning.” The series is being produced by Brad Pitt’s production company, Plan B.
Iain M. Banks died in 2013. He had parallel writing careers, publishing mainstream (but always weird) fiction as Iain Banks and hard SF as Iain M. Banks. His most famous work outside of The Culture was The Wasp Factory, described by one newspaper as “a work of unparalleled depravity”.
Jeff Bezos isn’t the only billionaire fan of The Culture. Elon Musk named two SpaceX drones after ships mentioned in the series, Just Read the Instructions and Of Course I Still Love You, and construction is afoot on a third, A Shortfall of Gravitas.