Quotes from Matter

Iain M. Banks ·  593 pages

Rating: (18.8K votes)


“Even galaxy-spanning anarchist utopias of stupefying full-spectrum civilisational power have turf wars within their unacknowledged militaries.”
― Iain M. Banks, quote from Matter


“In life you hoped to do what you could but mostly you did what you were told and that was the end of it.”
― Iain M. Banks, quote from Matter


“it hung above the livid, bruised land like an admonition”
― Iain M. Banks, quote from Matter


“War, famine, disease, genocide. Death, in a million different forms, often painful and protracted for the poor individual wretches involved. What god would so arrange the universe to predispose its creations to experience such suffering, or be the cause of it in others?”
― Iain M. Banks, quote from Matter


“Part of the training of a Special Circumstances agent was learning a) that the rules were supposed to be broken sometimes, b) just how to go about breaking the rules, and c) how to get away with it, whether the rule-breaking had led to a successful outcome or not.”
― Iain M. Banks, quote from Matter



“War, famine, disease, genocide. Death, in a million different forms, often painful and protracted for the poor individual wretches involved. What god would so arrange the universe to predispose its creations to experience such suffering, or be the cause of it in others? What master of simulations or arbitrator of a game would set up the initial conditions to the same pitiless effect? God or programmer, the charge would be the same: that of near-infinitely sadistic cruelty; deliberate, premeditated barbarism on an unspeakably horrific scale.”

Hyrlis looked expectantly at them. “You see?” he said. “By this reasoning we must, after all, be at the most base level of reality – or at the most exalted, however one wishes to look at it. Just as reality can blithely exhibit the most absurd coincidences that no credible fiction could convince us of, so only reality – produced, ultimately, by matter in the raw – can be so unthinkingly cruel. Nothing able to think, nothing able to comprehend culpability, justice or morality could encompass such purposefully invoked savagery without representing the absolute definition of evil. It is that unthinkingness that saves us. And condemns us, too, of course; we are as a result our own moral agents, and there is no escape from that responsibility, no appeal to a higher power that might be said to have artificially constrained or directed us.”
― Iain M. Banks, quote from Matter


“The Xinthia were regarded with something approaching affection by even the most ruthless and unsentimental of the galaxy’s Involved, partly because they had done much great work in the past – they had been particularly active in the Swarm Wars of great antiquity, battling runaway nanotech outbreaks, Swarmata in general and other Monopathic Hegemonising Events – but mostly because they were no threat to anybody any more and a system of the galactic community’s size and complexity just seemed to need one grouping that everybody was allowed to like. Utterly ancient, once near-invincibly powerful, now reduced to one paltry solar system and a few eccentric individuals hiding in the Cores of Shellworlds for no discernible reason, the Xinthia were seen as eccentric, bumbling, well-meaning, civilisationally exhausted – the joke was they hadn’t the energy to Sublime – and generally as the honoured good-as-dead deserving of a comfortable retirement.”
― Iain M. Banks, quote from Matter


“Welcome to the future, she thought, surveying all this wordage and tat. All our tragedies and triumphs, our lives and deaths, our shames and joys are just stuffing for your emptiness.”
― Iain M. Banks, quote from Matter


“Did that make him a bad man? Perhaps, though if so then arguably all men were bad. A proposition his wife would probably agree with, as would most of the women Holse had known, from his poor mother onwards. That was not his fault either, though. Most men – most women, too, no doubt – lived and died under the general weight of the drives and needs, expectations and demands they experienced from within and without, beaten this way and that by longings for sex, love, admiration, comfort, importance and wealth and whatever else was their particular fancy, as well as being at the same time channelled into whatever furrows were deemed appropriate for them by those on high.

In life you hoped to do what you could but mostly you did what you were told and that was the end of it.”
― Iain M. Banks, quote from Matter


“But no matter whether we are all in a still greater game, this one here before us is at a cruder grain than that which it models. Entire battles, and sometimes therefore wars, can hinge on a jammed gun, a failed battery, a single shell being dud or an individual soldier suddenly turning and running, or throwing himself on a grenade.” Hyrlis shook his head. “That cannot be fully modelled, not reliably, not consistently. That you need to play out in reality, or the most detailed simulation you have available, which is effectively the same thing.”
― Iain M. Banks, quote from Matter



“Holse wasn’t about to get involved in any theological arguments. He looked serious and nodded, hoping this would do.”
― Iain M. Banks, quote from Matter


“paid with money you did not have? He thought not. By choosing to starve you became your own oppressor, keeping yourself in line, harming yourself for having the temerity to be poor, when by rights that ought to be a constable’s job. Show any initiative or imagination and you were called lazy, shifty, crafty, incorrigible. So he’d dismissed talk of honour; it was just a way of making the rich and powerful feel better about themselves”
― Iain M. Banks, quote from Matter


About the author

Iain M. Banks
Born place: in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland
Born date February 16, 1954
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