The State of the Art, Paperback Book
3 out of 5 (6 ratings)


The first ever collection of Iain Banks's short fiction, this volume includes the acclaimed novella, The State of the Art.

This is a striking addition to the growing body of Culture lore, and adds definition and scale to the previous works by using the Earth of 1977 as contrast.

The other stories in the collection range from science fiction to horror, dark-coated fantasy to morality tale.

All bear the indefinable stamp of Iain Banks's staggering talent.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Science fiction
  • ISBN: 9781857230307

Other Formats



Free Home Delivery

on all orders

Pick up orders

from local bookshops


Showing 1 - 5 of 6 reviews.

  Previous  |  Next

Review by

I don't much care for Banks' short stories. They lack the flair of character that I enjoy in his novels, and as such failed to suck me in. Best in collection goes to Descendant, in which the survivor of a downed module must walk across a desolate planet in his sentient spacesuit. State of the Art (a play on words here, as a Contact agent muses on whether the Culture can create great Art without the inspiration of sickness, pain and tragedy) is practically polemic as a GCU observes life on Earth for a year and contends with the mixed reaction of its human crew. Sadly this is less effective than it could have been, as it feels like cardboard cut outs reading speeches rather than characters having real conversations - and Earth is so much less awful than other unContacted planets in the Culture's sphere that the arguments all fall a bit flat. Yes, we could be a better planet. No, we're really not as bad as it gets. There's hope for us yet.[NB plenty of non-Culture short stories here too - I just didn't enjoy them]

Review by

Oh god, horrible, horrible, horrible. The short stories are mostly pretentious literary crap. The novella feels like an Ayn Rand rant (not the content but the ultra-didactice style). If you avoid just one Iain M Banks book in your life, make sure this is it.

Review by
Now, the Arbitrary wasn't actually insane; it did its job very well, and as far as I know none of its pranks ever actually hurt anybody, at least not physically. But you have to be a bit wary of a ship that collects snowflakes.A book containing seven short stories and a novella. In the title story, it is 1977 and a General Contact Unit ship from the Culture is in orbit around Earth. The ship and the Contact agents it carries are studying Earth and its inhabitants in minute details in order to decide whether the Culture should make contact with the people of Earth or just continue to observe us. I liked this novella a lot, especially the sarky footnotes by the drone who translated it into English, but the other stories were a bit of a mixed bag.
Review by

Some of the stories are perhaps a bit ropey. But 'State Of the Art' has to be one of the great SF novellas. And 'Piece' is a great mainstream short story.

Review by

These shorts feel a lot like throw away pieces. They're not bad but they feel too loose to have had any <i>real</i> effort put into them. Even the titular novella is lacking in surprises. It's a decent yarn but it ticks all the boxes you'd expect of a Culture story set on Earth without throwing up anything too unexpected (perhaps with the exception of it showcasing a rather nasty side to the Culture on occasion). The novella was interesting but felt rather by the book.As a result I'm not sure there's anything really "must read" in this collection, even for fans of the Culture. People wanting to dip their toe into the water and see if Banks is for them should try his novels which, even the flawed ones, feel more accomplished that this collection.

  Previous  |  Next

Also by Iain M. Banks   |  View all