back to article Use of Weapons declared best sci-fi film never made

Our poll to name the best sci-fi film never made has returned Use of Weapons by Iain M Banks as the book Reg readers would most like to see projected on the silver screen. useofweaponsnovelcover The 50 candidates attracted a whopping 27,088 votes, with the winner securing 10,032. Runner-up was Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle …


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  1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Mr Staberinde, I presume?

    That would be an epic movie but people would have to have larger bladders than they needed for Titanic.

    Maybe an anime series?

    1. Chika


      Chances are that the anime producers would probably come up with a better adaptation that wHollyWeird ever could. Having said that, they could turn it into a -mon series or, worse still, a Magical Girl series! ARRRGH!!!

      1. Anonymous Coward


        Yeah, 'cos that story is just crying out for loads of tentacle-rape and paedophilia...

        1. David Hicks


          The stereotypes aren't entirely unfounded, it's true.

          OTOH try watching something like Ghost In The Shell sometime, I'd recommend the Stand Alone Complex series. No suspiciously young girls, no tentacle rape. Also no spoon-feeding every little story detail like western media, it leaves a bit more to be figured out and thought about.

          I enjoy them, once in a while. They do sci-fi very well.

          When they're not drawing a 200 foot tall monster destroying tokyo with it's hundreds of giant prehensile penises that is.

  2. amanfromearth
    Thumb Down


    One of you 10,000 voters should go edit the wiki page for Use Of Weapons, because I just read the summary and it sounds like a pile of steaming...

    1. dogged
      Thumb Down

      de gustibus non est disputandum

      but that doesn't alter the fact that you're wrong.

    2. nichomach

      The (demilitarised) ROU

      Xenophobe would like you to know that it's only targeting you with its secondary weapon arrays because it doesn't want to appear overly aggressive...

    3. John Hughes
      Thumb Up

      Forget the wiki

      Read the book.

      And if you don't understand whats happening it's Ken Macleods fault.

    4. sabba

      I have to agree...

      ...this sounds like a horrendous book. Banks whilst obviously a clever chappie sometimes tries too hard for his own good (or for the good of his readers). I fail to see how this book could ever be made into anything vaguely watchable. So it must be a prime candidate for Hollywood!!

      1. breakfast Silver badge

        So that book you've never read...

        Would you say this book you have never read is better or worse than the other books you have never read?

        I sometimes think partial ignorance is worse than total ignorance when it comes to making ill-informed statements about artistic endeavours.

  3. Chris Procter

    Iain M Banks FTW, not my favorite though

    Personally after reading 'Consider phlebas' and 'The Player of games' (which is brilliant!!) I was underwhelmed by 'Use of Weapons'.

    I'd love to see 'Consider Phlebas' as a large scale Galactica style TV series though, as I don't think a film could squeeze it in.

    I've not been able to make a dent in any of the other Culture books, I really struggle with them after the first three...

    1. James Philp

      Try Excession

      That's a nice easy reading Culture novel...

    2. John Hughes
      Thumb Up

      Consider Phlebas would make a better film.

      The CAT flying through the GSV.

      Raiding the gigantic on a collision course with the edge of the oribital.

      The command system.

      What would be the good scenes in UoW? The "hero" carving "HELP" in birdshit with his ruined body?

    3. Ian Stephenson
      Thumb Up


      though I'd put Player above Consider.

      It's worth making the effort for Excession though.

      <QUOTE> Ulver laughed. 'It looks,' she snorted, 'like a dildo!'

      'That's appropriate,' Churt Lyne said. 'Armed, it can fuck solar systems.'


    4. NickNameNick

      My favorite is excession

      Damned if I can see a way of taking a story mostly constructed from the interior monologues of the unimaginably powerful shipminds, and converting it into a watchable movie.

      How the hell do you get a shipminds visible manifestation, and multi-kilomiter long ships hull, probably concealed by layer upon layer of 'fields', to emote in a fasion an audience can appreciate?

      Or a drone, for that matter?

      1. Ammaross Danan


        "How the hell do you get a shipminds visible manifestation, and multi-kilomiter long ships hull, probably concealed by layer upon layer of 'fields', to emote in a fasion an audience can appreciate?"

        It's simple. Ever seen Tank Police?

    5. Melonfish
      Thumb Up

      I consider it the best.

      Consider Phlebas is a fantastic book, but if you're going to read any others can i suggest Excession it is without doubt a fantastic read.

  4. Ian Stephenson
    Thumb Up

    Brad Dourif in the lead role!

    Says it all about the mental state of the lead character.

    1. nichomach
      Thumb Up


      ...Babylon 5 - "Passing Through Gethsemane"? Yep, that'd do...

  5. Andy Farley

    Great choice.

    Use of Weapons would be an epic - you really need short stories for films, which tells you something.

    If we're not talking Sci-Fi then "What good is a glass dagger" would make an excellent movie.

    Still discerning choice from El Reg's readers. Have a pint on me.

  6. irish donkey
    Thumb Up

    Never read this one....

    But thinking about it.

    What would be the recommended gateway book to Iain M Banks.

    1. Eponymous Cowherd
      Thumb Up

      Read them in any order

      There isn't anything linking the various "culture" novels (apart from the fact that they are all set in the same "universe"), so any order is fine.

      1. Jamie Kitson

        Consider Phlebas First

        I think Consider Phlebas is a good introduction to the Culture. As others have said, Excession and Use of Weapons are the two stand-out books in the series.

    2. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD

      Two options

      1. Chronologically (ie date of publication)

      2. Out of 'order'.

      You can do either. As pointed out, the books don't have any real dependencies on one another.

      I tend to read authors chronologically unless they have a work that stands out amongst others, a 'Must read' if you must.

      In Banks case, the books are all good imho. Can't really pick a 'Must read' but Excession tends to stand out a bit more because of the Mind dialogues and all the intrigue and oh.. Feersum Endjinn (Not a Culture novel) for reasons that will become very obvious when you first pick it up (and others as you get deeper into it).

      1. Sapient Fridge

        Feersum Endjinn

        Feersum Endjinn is the only Ian Banks book that I found impossible to read, well not impossible but running the continual phonetic to word translation in my head was more work than fun. I gave up about 1/3 through as I just wasn't enjoying it.

    3. RoboJ1M
      Thumb Up

      Use of Weapons

      I read Use of Weapons first and it's been my favorite and most memorable first read of an author since.

      But you can read them in any order.


      I voted for this one!! WINNER!!

      1. BorkedAgain
        Thumb Up


        I'd read "Consider Phlebas" before "Look to Windward", since LtW is a sort of follow-up, but I don't think there's a real dependancy; you'll just get more out of it that way.

        But really, all of them, in any order, are very good. Excession is fan-flippin'-tastic but utterly unfilmable; the images are much better in your own head...

    4. Tim
      Thumb Up

      @Irish donkey - gateway books

      Start with The Player of Games. It's a single story, rather than the epic space opera stuff in the larger books (Consider Phlebas etc.) but it's still very rich in detail. The concept is interesting and the story is brilliantly paced and plotted. I found it to be the perfect introduction.

  7. xenny
    Thumb Down

    One small flaw

    The plot twist that makes Use of Weapons so cool relies on you not realising the details of the Zakalwe/chairmaker situation until right at the end.

    If you can see the actors, that won't work.

    Additionally, I think it would be beyond challenging to keep track of and show all the flash forwards/flashbacks/reverse chronologies in a film.

    Fantastic book, abysmal film potential.

    1. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD

      This is true.

      They're all quite hard to make into films, some more than others.

      I wouldn't think translating Banks to the silver screen would be impossible though, it's just the matter of picking the right material and the right people to do it.

      At risk of heresy, I actually thought LOTR was pretty well done, considering the bulk of the work.

      And... contrast that with something apparently written for the silver screen. Inception. Brilliant plot/story line, special effects.. but oh my god, why was it so badly implemented in just so many ways? Totally killed a great story, imho.

    2. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: One small flaw

      Piece of piss.

      Just ensure that both of the two actors playing the parts in the flashback sequences look sufficiently like the older chap playing Zakalwe for it to make sense when the bombshell drops.......

      1. nichomach

        Don't even have to do that

        Appearance is pretty malleable in the Culture anyway, and IIRC Special Circumstances aren't above altering someone beyond recognition to more comfortably fit local circumstances.

    3. Jean-Luc

      @One small flaw - Wouldn't be too hard

      to introduce cosmetic surgery in the plot. Especially in the Culture's context, where people can will themselves to change sex.

      You're right the flash back/forward would be tricky, but just the kind of stuff good films are made of. Overall, I think the chair makes it way too creepy though - Mountains of Madness's R rating sunk that project.

    4. This post has been deleted by its author

    5. Benchops

      Well crafted book

      The (main) twist effectively happens on the ambiguity of one sentence in the middle of the book (I'm not going to say which one for spoiler's sake). I remember thinking "but wait! he said..." and going back and realising what it really meant!

      I don't think the flashbacks would be too challenging these days (Lost had a recognisable incidental noise to alert you to flashbacks), and Slaughterhouse 5 is surely the daddy of all mixed chronology stories and still made a great (if odd) film.

      Having said that, I'd prefer to see Matter or even Inversions as a film.

      Recommendation for Culture entry point: Player of Games.

      +1 for the hat special edition idea!

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        They made a film of Slaughterhouse 5?

        Will have to try and pick that one up

        Trafalamadorians FTW!

  8. Eponymous Cowherd
    Thumb Up

    The white chair......

    makes my hair stand on end when I think about it.......

    1. BoldMan


      I have to admit that freaked me out when I first read the book - Banks always manages to put at least one "eeewww" scene in his novels...

  9. Conrad Longmore

    The Forever War

    The Forever War is allegedly going ahead..

    1. Alien8n


      Listed on IMDB as a possible 2013 release. Director apparently Ridley Scott, so it'll either be very very good, or so full of "set scenes" to be unwatchable. Also, just looking at the IMDB summary, it looks like they're taking just the very base plot of the book and throwing out pretty much all of the book's storyline (much like they did with I Robot)

  10. My Alter Ego


    I read that as "Use of Weapons declared best sci-fi film ever made", and was wondering how the hell I missed it. Saying that, maybe it's for the best as I tend to be let down by films made from books that I've enjoyed.

    @amanfromearth: I tend to at least try reading the book before reserving judgement, but then maybe that's just me.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Distribution of votes.

    That's a *very* skewed distribution there. Did somebody use a script?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Black Helicopters

      My thought exactly

      Especially as, when I voted Mote in God's Eye had over 7000 votes and at that time over 50% of the votes polled - it does sound like a few people spotted you did not need to be logged in to vote ....

      Still it is a very good book, but personally I don't think any of the Culture Novels are that worthy of being made in to a movie (not sure about Mote either having said that).

    2. sisk

      I was thinking it

      When the second place book has 10 times the votes of the third place book I have to think that there were a couple of competing scripts.

    3. Bob Terwilliger

      Fixing a poll like this

      Would be trivial to a Mind....

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Siena Miller for Diziet

    As per her catsuit in GI Joe. Nuff said.

  13. Diziet Sma
    Thumb Up

    Didn't banks say....

    that Use of Weapons was 'unfilmable'? It would be a very cool movie project for an ambitious and talented producer though.

    1. Pet Peeve
      Thumb Up

      Dang right

      I think it's totally unfilmable, because of the unusual (and brilliant) narrative structure, which hides the key plot point until the end/beginning.

      It's one of the masterpieces of SF, but if you're making a culture film, go with The Player of Games.

      1. Intractable Potsherd

        Banks is always going to be difficult to take from page to screen

        Does anyone else remember the dreadful version of "Crow Road" (a "non-M" Banks novel for those that don't know) done by the BBC in the mid-late 90s? Relatively straight-forward past/present storytelling you would think, but somehow it all went horribly wrong.

        Best to leave Banks to the imagination, I think (I voted for Clarke's "Childhood's End").

    2. Anton Ivanov

      He did

      Neither were Solaris and Picnic by the Road.

      Let's be real - it would take Tarkovsky reincarnating into a new body to film it. It requires a proper producer and a proper director.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Not the best choice for me, but Mr Banks culture stuff would provide a nice setting for a series of films.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Skaffen amtiskaw

    Special Edition to be released with a hat?

  16. Michael C

    Tad Williams?

    Not a SINGLE vote for Otherland? Could have sworn I listed that one. Maybe I noted it would have to be a TV series not a movie and it got discounted. (4 very large books to tell a single story, not going to do well on film, but would make an amazing TV series!)

    1. Tom Maddox Silver badge


      They could cut out the tedious unedited twaddle, and it would fit into the length of music video.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    IRobot could have been included

    Wish they'd made a movie of IRobot.

    - because they didn't - they made an unrelated (inverted?) movie of the same name as the book.

  18. envmod

    not necessarily the best IMB book for film IMO

    personally, I feel Consider Phlebas or Excession would translate better onto film. I am a huge Iain M. Banks fan however, so would love to see any of his books make it to the big screen. In fact, they would all make epic movies - Matter would be an especially good one as well. Currently reading Surface Detail which is brilliant.

    We need at least some Iain M. Banks films! Done well of course....

    1. Eponymous Cowherd

      Yes, and No

      Consider Phlebas would make a great film because of its linear plot and strong primary characters.

      Excession is one of my favourite "Culture" novels because of the way it concentrates on the interactions between a number of Minds. The problem is, how would you ever translate this into a film?

      I'd like to see an Affronter, however.

    2. Anton Ivanov
      Thumb Up

      Out of all Banks books The Algebraist is the best candidate

      The Algebraist is the best candidate out of all Banks books. It is more of a fast paced action than a dialogue and can be cut here and there for sake of fitting into a 2h movie format.

      It will also make any special effect guru salivate at the mere idea. A fleet of superships rising out of the depth of a gas giant? Yum...

      In any case, it is a pity that Stainless Steel Rat scored so low. Garry Garrison is infinitely more filmable than Banks.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Garry Garrison?


  19. Eponymous Cowherd

    Another recommendation

    Having been working my way through the "Culture" novels on my Kindle, I came to the latest "Surface Detail", only to discover the Kindle edition is *more* expensive (£8.99) than the hardback. No way am I going to pay that.

    So I looked for something else to provide my sci-fi fix and came across the Spinward Fringe books by Randolph Lalonde. The first volume is free, so I thought I'd give it a go.

    They are straight-to-ebook publications, so I wasn't expecting much. I was, however, pleasantly surprised. There are rough edges a-plenty, but its actually a damn good read and, because of its straightforward "space opera" plot, would make a decent TV series.

    1. Thecowking
      Thumb Up

      Funny you should say that

      I started them at the weekend, on #4 at the moment and yes, he definitely needs a better proof reader and a quick primer in physics, but the story, characters and dialogue are spot on.

      And with the first book being free, the second being only £0.69 and the rest at very reasonable (sub fiver) prices, how could I say no?

      1. Eponymous Cowherd
        Thumb Up


        I'm on #4 "Frontline, too", turning into a bit of a splatterfest with our heroes in the middle of it all :-D

        Perhaps The Register might like to start reviewing some of these straight--to-eBook novels. Some, like Lalonde's, are pretty good, others are complete drivel, and it can be pretty hard to tell from the reviews as some people are either very easy to please or are friends of the author......

    2. Arthur McGiven

      blame the gov

      If our lords and masters would only exempt e-books from VAT as they have done for paper ones ,,, but it is odd how variable the effect is on final prices for Kindle editions

    3. AdamWill

      don't bother

      fwiw, I wouldn't bother with Surface Detail until you can get it for a quid or something. I thought it was terrible, and I say that as a huge Culture fan.

      1. Eponymous Cowherd
        Thumb Up

        Poor surface detail

        I doubt it will ever be a quid. The other Culture books are priced at a smidge under the paperback price, which is just about acceptable for a top-notch eBook, from a top author, perfectly formatted.

        The trouble is, according to a number of reviews, Surface Detail has serious formatting problems, which would be unforgivable at the regular £4.99 price point, but at £8.99 its nothing short of criminal.

    4. KrisMac
      Thumb Up

      Surface Detail

      I read 'Surface Detail' recently. I didn't think it was the best Culture novel ever, but the concept of the 'Hells' blew me away. One of the best parts of the Culture series is the fact that Bank's vision of interconnected virtual worlds is only a hair beadth away form current reality.

      I can easily suspend my disbelief to imagine a world where everyone is 100% integrated into the 'net' - afeter all I watch my kids on Facebook all the time and despite the scary implications they are certainly 'immersed' in what they do....

    5. h4rm0ny

      Re: Eponymous Cowherd

      Wow. Are you just cutting and pasting your favourite post every week here?

      Talk about grinding an axe. The Kindle edition is six pence more for the same words. You keep posting your outrage that the Kindle edition is more expensive, but then I don't suppose it would sound quite so rabble-rousing to shout that the Kindle edition cost 16p more than Amazon's own heavily discounted version (hardback's RRP is £18.99). Amazon mark down a lot of their books below what you'd pay in a shop. And as I pointed out to you a month ago, the layout errors in the Kindle version were corrected and made available to every purchaser - try doing that with a print copy. So as you've already had this pointed out to you, you have no excuse for repeatedly stating the same misleading statements about formatting errors.

  20. Not Installed Properly

    Liveware Problem

    Did you seriously just judge a book by its wikipedia summary? For shame...

    xenny is right. Astonishingly good story, Use of Weapons, and an amazing book. Make a terrible film though. If you were going to do it, wouldnt it be better implemented as a side plot in a series...An important side plot, but still. And what a series it would be...

    @irish donkey - Excession, or Against a Dark Background. But then Use of Weapons was the first one I read.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    surface detail

    @Irish Donkey

    the latest is pretty good and seems to be set within the UoW timeline

    excession is the one i keep going back to

    i am a big fan of the GCU Grey Area

  22. Drew Scott


    I voted for Excession personally, but Use of Weapons is good. Haven't read it in a while, so might have to revisit.

    1. MacroRodent
      Thumb Up

      Yes, and Excession would actually be filmable

      Excession is pretty straightforward, compared to Use of Weapons. The latter would get butchered in the Hollywood process, whicle Excession might emerge as an enjoyable space opera.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Any Culture will do

    Use of Weapons was the first one I read, so it's as good as any to start with.

    Anyway, I thought Consider Phlebas was already on it's way to being a film? In an early stage no doubt but any of them would surely be "filmable". Excession would be damn hard though.

  24. Steve Powell 1

    State of The Art

    Would be simpler to make and is an equally good Ian Banks Culture story. it is however a short story as opposed to a full novel. And based here on Earth. So more filmable and about the right size for a film.

    1. rpjs

      The BBC

      Did a rather good radio adaptation a couple of years back.

  25. bluesxman

    What majority?

    "The 50 candidates attracted a whopping 27,088 votes, with the winner securing 10,032"

    But what would have won if Alternative Voting had been used?

    Enquiring minds of Electoral Reformers need to know!

  26. Steve Powell 1

    State of the Art

    Is a culture short story from Mr Banks. Film length, linear and based here on Earth. Muc more do-able. And it still has Ms Sma.

  27. Nick L
    Thumb Up

    TPoG wuz robbed!

    well, with the predilection I have for the user name 'chiark', I had to go for the player of games... If you liked Use of Weapons, you'll definitely like Surface Detail which is Banks back on tip top form. Great to see so many Banks supporters coming out of the woodwork, but it makes me wonder if the vote was somehow coordinated?

    I must admit I have no idea how well any Banks book would translate to film: I have quite a clear picture in my head of various bits... Although seeing what a film maker delivers for Azad would be fascinating!

    It's great to see this list, as it makes me realise there's a lot of (non Banks) Sci Fi that I should read. Thank you El Reg.

  28. philbigdog
    Jobs Horns

    Cheradinine Zakalwe

    Just re-read UoW following on from Surface Detail (which was brilliant and probably quite filmable, Hells included ;). UoW is my most-re-read of his sci-fi, not sure why I have to keep going back to it, as they are all excellent reads. I think he has steadily improved with recent efforts - either that or I've improved my intellect a bit.

    Phlebas would be my favorite for a blockbuster film - not that I've ever imagined many scenes from it on film, oh no.

  29. James Hughes 1

    City and the Stars

    You guys should all read it - not one of Clarkes best known books, but would make a great film. At least 104 people agree with me anyway!

  30. Trevor 3

    I'm a little disturbed...

    that Ian Banks fans were up for voting for their favourite book rather than thinking about how exactly it could be turned into a movie without losing the plot points and character definitions.

    That's why I voted for something simpler that could have easily been turned into a film, due to the books being more of a set of set pieces rather than a continuous looping twisting plot line. You could chop one out and the film would still make sense.

    Saying that though, 10,000+ people like the winning book, so I'll definitely go and read it later, thanks for the suggestion!

    Pint because its Wednesday

  31. johnnytruant

    Much as I like Use of Weapons

    I rather think that Surface Detail would translate better to film, not to mention being a better first contact with the Culture for the uninitiated.

    Bank's publicist is on this story already, btw:

  32. Frigby

    No Neal Asher

    Hi, looked down list and saw nothing by Neal Asher. The Spatterjay books would make good films as would the cormac novels. In fact I'd love to see the Skinner or Gridlinked on the big screen.

    1. johnnytruant

      You missed one

      Cowl. Cowl would make an awesome film. Spatterjay and Cormac sequences are excellent, but Cowl is Asher's best book by a long, long way.

    2. Elmer Phud
      Thumb Up


      I've always thought that they would be great for movies but they suffer from the same problems as some of the Culture books - the huge part that the AI's have.

      Saying that, a trip out on a boat on the sea would be one hell of a scary sequence, and then there's the Skinner.

      The opening set-up of the fights in the book to explain the tissue regeneration could be really messy ;-)

  33. N@
    Thumb Up

    I agree

    I was thinking about that (after I voted for it)... You'd need to disguise them somehow, or make Zakalwe look different (maimed or something) in his culture time, so that you couldn't recognize him... But then, that wouldn't work, since the culture would just fix it, like they replaced his body.

    There's got to be some way around it... It's such a good twist, it would be a shame to loose it - or lose UoW as a film because of it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Probably can be done... a clever director. Lots of films use devices that surprisingly work, like the old "start at the end" where you see the protagonist die in the opening sequence, but then by the magic of cinema they somehow contrive to make you "forget" this until 90 minutes later where you suddenly realise whats coming and where its been going. Of course, this relies on having a truly *good* director capable of carefully manipulating the audience, in the same way good authors do. I think too often lately hollywood has been relying on the visual spectacular to get bums on seats. I can't remember the last good film I saw. And although I would love to see a *good* version of any of the books in the poll, holy fuck I so much do NOT want to see a Hollywooded version of any of them. That would ruin it for me... For example "I, Robot"....sigh...

  34. Perpetual Cyclist
    Thumb Down

    Something fishy...

    Two books got more votes than the next 48 put together. Something smells of trawler rigging.

    Personally I think Foundation (3rd) was the obvious winner, not least because it is the only one I have read!

    1. Jonathan 29

      Foundation - beware

      Foundation is in pre-production and still on track to be ruined by Roland Emmerich - the man who brought you 2012, Independence Day, Godzilla and other gems. Thoughtful sci-fi indeed. I wonder if they will get Keanu Reeves or Will Smith to play Hari Seldon. Please stop.

  35. Random Menace

    At least one breaks the rules

    Yeah, it was pretty bad, but it exists.

  36. Sean Baggaley 1

    So, over 10000 people voted for the least filmable book.

    Good luck with that.

    I'd have voted for Harry Harrison's second "Stainless Steel Rat" novel. The first is an intro, an old short story, and a romance novella squished into 84 pages. It's a decent enough introduction to the character, but very episodic. The second book is a single, standalone, novel from end to end, and rattles along at a very good pace. At just over 100 pages, it's excellent movie fodder.

    In general, older "Golden Age" SF novels were much shorter than their modern counterparts, which makes them arguably the best choice for movies. Iain M. Banks' SF novels are great reads, but they'd be far better suited to the TV mini-series format. They're just too long and detailed.

    1. David Evans

      words go here

      That was my thinking too. Its why I thought The Mote In God's Eye was a better option as a "filmable" piece of SF. Use of Weapons would be better off getting the HBO treatment.

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        The Mote in Gods Eye

        Although it is one of my all-time favourite books, it's a bit long, especially as it is so fast moving as everyone is almost constantly in a state of disciplined panic. I'm sure it could be cut down, but would loose much of the background that is essential to the story.

        I'd love to see the first contact with MacArthur tearing through the light sail and wedging the Crazy Eddie probe into the hanger filmed. It's a terrific bit of writing, and would translate to the screen really well IMHO.

        I was really surprised that Oath of Fealty never made it into the lists. That would film well with a small principal cast and much that could be filmed without a huge CGI budget. It could also be marketed as a near future story to the mass market.

  37. Sleepy 3

    No Matter?

    Not a single mention of Matter? Memorable for being one of the few Banks books with likeable (human) characters, combined with lots of action in exotic locations.

    1. OrsonX

      lots of action in exotic locations


      are his other novels lacking in this?!

      Did you really like Matter? I thought it was one of his worst books.... as if he'd forced himself to write something...., anything....

  38. Cheeky Rat

    Since we are disregarding bad movie-versions of classic Sci-Fi novels........

    ........ can we please have a decent flim version of Damnation Alley (Roger Zelazny) ?

  39. dwieske

    any culture novel would do but.....

    I love them all, but the thing I would be really interested in is a series (like they''re doing for game of thrones atm) from peter F. Hamilton's "The Nights Dawn" trilogy....Which is one of the longest most epic sci-fi stories I ever read...

    also surface detail does seem to be very suitable to convert to the big screen, moreso then some others but I think look to windward, matter, and player of games also are very promising to convert

  40. snafu

    Impossible movie

    "Use of Weapons" is a great story… and pretty unfilmable as a standalone movie, sorry. You need a TV miniseries there.

  41. HP Cynic

    Only to be expected

    Predictable but at least one of his better Culture Novels won the vote.

    Excession is still by far the best so I'll hold out for that as the 2nd Culture Movie <WINK>

  42. Gordon 10

    Filmable imb

    Hate to say this but a filmable version of the culture novels would be Neal Ashers Agent Cormac novels. Very culture inspired and good in their own right but much more filmable. Line War or Brass Man would work very well on the screen.

  43. Schultz
    Thumb Up

    Good choice

    Too bad that a movie will just cover a fraction of the book, but that worked OK for Blade Runner.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Surprise winner, to say the least

    I was sort of expecting an odd-ball winner, but I'm pretty shocked that the winner is a book I've never even heard of.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    If you have read all the novels and are still looking for a Culture-esque fix of reading, you could do worse then try "Alastair Reynolds" stuff - with the added advantage that he has a strong science background and it shows in the novels.

  46. Sander van der Wal
    Gates Halo

    Better rethink this...

    Americans making a movie about a Communist state that actually works?

    Nows, if Cuba had a proper movie industry. Or North Korea...

    1. Tom Maddox Silver badge

      Not so fast

      Americans also made Star Trek.

  47. Pahhh

    uhm..... really....

    Use of Weapons is certainly one if not my favourite of Bank's culture books and probably one of my favourite SF books but like other posters mentioned I cannot see how it could be made into a film.

    I do think the amount of votes is a bit odd too. Given this is an IT site I have to wonder if there wasnt a bit of uhm... cheating going on. Obviously the guy with the Use of Weapons script was better than the guy with the Mote script lol.... Maybe Anonymous were invoved in this!

  48. Andrew Garrard
    Thumb Down


    Having seen UoW in first place early on, I borrowed it from a friend and started reading. I'm about half way through.

    Is it enjoyable? Yes.

    Would it work as a film? Less convinced. Too many threads, too much internal monologue.

    I stand by Ender's Game as a better choice, partly because it's short, but you'd have to find a way to get a young cast to kill people convincingly (and possibly grow with it). It wouldn't work with everyone aged up, like the TV version of Game of Thrones.

    I like Foundation, but I can't see that being anything other than tedious as a film. I'll look up TMIGE once I've finished UoW. The poll has, at least, been a good recommendation (even if the majority of the top two suggests some organised voting).

    Apologies for duplicates - I can't read the other comments without risking spoilers...

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      @Andrew Garrard re: Enders Game

      is one of the few books that I had to read cover-to-cover in a single session. But the tactics that made Ender so different would be almost impossible to relate on the screen, it would be just too confusing for most people, especially in the zero-gravity encounters when there is no 'up'.

      If I remember correctly, there was only a single child death in Battle School (and a documented history of a few more that are mentioned, but not detailed), and this was not in one of the set battles, but a bullying incident that would not be too difficult to portray. In the battle room, participants are 'frozen' by immobilization suits and guns not that different from laser-zone guns instead of killed.

      All of the 'real' battle scenes except the flashbacks to the first war were deliberately stylised so that they appeared like tactical exercises to the children. That would be easypeasy to film.

  49. Doug Glass


    As interesting as I found UoW, Jack L. Chalker's "Soulrider" saga was far better and will never get made into a movie because of a variety of reasons.

    But as with ant colonies, organization is everything and UoW's fans are to be commended.

  50. envmod


    i also really love Feersum Endjinn but i might be in the minority on that one. would make a good film though...

    1. OrsonX

      Against A Dark Background

      It's a shame AADB isn't a Culture novel as it's awesome!!

      Feersum is also brilliant, but perhaps not on your first read (when it can be a struggle), really worth a re-read and appreciating what actually happens at the end.... a fearsome engine indeed!

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Use of Weapons

    is without doubt one of the finest SF novels ever written, no matter how you look at it. Who else but Banks could tell half of the story forwards and the other half backwards, with the chapters alternating between the forwards half and backwards half?

    If you don't agree, you can go and sit in the chair over in the corner.

    Yes, that one with the leather cushion.

  52. Nigel 11


    Odd, that no-one is keen on "Look to Windward" or "Against a Dark Background".

    "Look to Windward" has a relatively straightforward plot to film, and a Mind that mere humans can easily empathize with. Perhaps a bit gloomy, but some great movies are. I thought this might be the last Culture novel when I first read it - had the feel of an author closing the door on his creation.

    "Against a Dark Background" isn't part of the Culture series, so carries less baggage. Again, could make a great film.

    1. Rattus Rattus


      I thought Look to Windward would be far more easily filmed than most of Banks's books. Since the Mind in question is motivated by it's historical part in the Idiran war, and the war forms an important historical event in the background to the story, it would also make a good followup to a film of Consider Phlebas.

  53. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Oh well

    Time to hand in my SciFi geek card I guess - never even heard of this.

    1. Eponymous Cowherd


      If you haven't heard if Ian M Banks or Use of Weapons, you shouldn't have been issued with a Sci-Fi geek card in the first place.

  54. Peter Fairbrother 1

    Wasp factory

    Not really SF, no "M", and eeeewwwww!

    But it'd be filmable.

  55. Paul Fiera

    Use of Weapons or...

    ...any Iain M. Banks Culture novel. Excession, to name one.

  56. disgruntled yank


    Perhaps El Reg should start a poll for "Sci Fi movies better never made." I have a few for the list.

  57. OrsonX

    Surface Detail

    1/3 of way through.... well written, propper Culture to chew on.... but just can't decide as yet whether I'm convinced about the "Virtual Hells" as a viable story line? I guess you have to have some kind of story..... and it's pretty interesting.... I just can't help but think that advanced civs would have dumped their religious baggage a very long time before reaching the tech capability to even contemplate a VR hell. I'm surprised that Iain didn't think like wise?

    There is also mention of "sending a text message", is Iain getting sloppy? In the past it would have been a glyph or some such.......

    1. BorkedAgain

      Our civ is pretty advanced...

      ...and there's still no sign of loosing the grip of the Sky Fairy, or his scary cousin. I thought the VR Hells were a nice metaphor for cloud, too (*ahem*)

      And the text message? How would you describe a message that is formed of text? As your namesake said (quoting Blish, I believe) "If it looks like a rabbit and acts like a rabbit, calling it a shmeerp doesn't make it alien."

      Anyway. Banks is one of those very rare beasts: a writer producing works that span genres and universes, every single one of which I'd be happy to recommend as quality literature. Not above reproach, mind, but he's a far better writer than I am. I'd give your left arm to be as talented as him...


      1. OrsonX

        body parts

        Agreed, Iain's the best. I'll let him off the txt message. So long as we don't have Minds tweeting each other....

  58. The Fuzzy Wotnot

    Thank you very much!

    Looking for something new to read, never read anything by Mr Banks so this should be interesting. £3 second-hand from Amazon, a bargain.

  59. DF118
    Thumb Up

    Nobody has mentioned that...

    ...IIRC, IMB has a stated lack of desire to see his work adapted for the big screen.

    While we're dreaming though, I would LOVE to see Excession done well and it's the one I voted for but - as others have said - it would be almost impossible to do it justice. Use of Weapons would turn out the better movie for that reason alone.

    PS: Dear Reg - I fucking LOVE that you do stuff like this from time to time!

    1. ponder

      IMB reluctant ro have his books madeinto films?

      Not really - he has stated a reluctance for it to be made by Hollywood though.

  60. DF118

    And while we're on it...

    I'm surprised to see Peter F Hamilton's Night's Dawn Trilogy scored higher than Pandora's Star. The latter would make a MUCH better movie for the simple reason that the baddies and their shenanigans are every bit as thought-provoking as the Borg, as well as being nastier in many ways.

  61. trydk

    Drat and Bother, I Missed the Poll

    Since I lost interest in BOFH, I seem visit El Reg so rarely as to miss a poll like this. Bother and piffle!

    But after reading Peter F Hamilton's books Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained, I think *they* would make a good epic or two to film. Is Mr Hamilton on the list at all?

    Ah, well, I will just have my thoughts linger here, near the end of the comments.

  62. Al 14


    Look to windward would be better.

  63. Bananimal

    Love it

    Use of Weapons was my introduction to the Culture and I think its a great starting point and could make a great film, Excession also has great film potential. I didn't really like Consider Phlebas, can't remember why.

    1. Rattus Rattus

      re: "I didn't really like Consider Phlebas, can't remember why"

      Maybe because Horza was a bit of a whiny emo?

  64. Morteus

    I'm not convinced...

    ... that Use of Weapons would make a good movie. The uninitiated could be confused by the constant flash-backs and those having read it are unlikely to be impressed with the interpretation of someone else perspective.

    Consider Phlebas would probably make a better movie as it is more linear and a less complex story line. Also the action is better paced, and Horza would make an excellent anti-hero if he is well cast.

  65. zenkaon
    Thumb Down

    Not Use of Weapons

    I've read most Culture books and find that "Use of Weapons" is one of the worse, or more accurately the least best.

    It seems unfocused, the wars Zakalwai fights in seem vague and are never explained and once you realise the twist......It was a big disappointment after reading "consider phelbos" and "The player of games", which are much better books. Consider Phelbos would make a much better film.

    IMHO the film industry should leave this well alone, they will ruin it

  66. HeWhoDoesntLikeFUD

    Peter F. Hamilton's

    ...Night's Dawn should be first, hands down...

  67. A.A.Hamilton

    The movie has already been made...

    ... I watch it my mind over and over gain, along with all the Iain M and Iain Banks books. Nobody is going to make a better set of graphics than those in my mind.

    Remember the old Infocom slogan - that so true: "we put our graphics where the Sun don't shine", while others ended up with an effect that could be described with identical words but a totally different meaning.

    Banks' books are not all equal - some are more equal than others, but I'm thankful to have read them all.

  68. Anton Geijsendorpher
    Thumb Up

    Do you not know what an OCP is?

    Then you better read Excession!

    Problem with making a movie of this book is that it would only be a few minutes long.

    50% of the dialogue is between ship minds which all took place is a few microseconds ;-)

    (Even the battle scenes are measured in seconds)

    Have to agree that "Consider Phlebas" or even "Player of Games" would be better movie options as both would appeal to a wider audience + would hopefully generate enough interrest/revenue to make UoW / Excession which would make me *very* happy!

    If you are not the SciFi type - try reading "The Bridge", this is one of Iain Banks (note the missing "M.") non-culture books - you will be reading it more than once....

  69. gronkle

    Something, anything Culture, just do it.

    Not sure if Use of Weapons could be done justice as a movie, huge fan though I am of most of Banks' Scifi.

    I'd echo the comments further up regarding almost any of the culture books being better suited to work as a series and based on past and current form I'd say HBO seem to have the teeth and clout to carry it off, or at least make a fair stab at it.

    Algebraist, Against a Dark Background etc. (the better one-offs), would make excellent movies though, I think.

  70. DaiKiwi

    Strike out the first two places

    There was some serious vote rigging going on.

    The next five places look much more interesting and realistic.

    My vote went to Enders Game. Done CGI-anime style - like Appleseed & Vexille - it would look great, you don't have to age up the characters (or not much), and can use decent voice talent to get better performances than any child will deliver.

    Foundation might work as a mini series, since it pretty episodic, but I don't think would work as a film.

  71. corestore

    May the best bot win

    Apparently, it did.


  72. Furbian

    What poll? Useless Weapons more like...

    I have a friend who I trusted to give me interesting books that he'd read. After going through about 6 Bank's novels, I read 'Use of Weapons' and told my friend that I didn't like it? Apparently he thought I liked Banks, no he didn't like it either.

    My vote would be for the Algebraist, loved it. Actually almost ANY culture novel, apart from Inversions (which isn't quite a culture novel), would be better than Use of Weapons.

    Yes I am a stereotypical IT chap , I love Dune.

    BUT... what about William Gibson's Neuromancer?! Just 2%?!

    Slight Spoiler alert for Use of Weapons, don't the ultra advanced Culture do reference checks?

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Reference checks?

      I'm sure they do, that's kind of the point. Means to an end, and all that. I'd have to agree with you about the Algebraist though, although the twist in that one does have a massive great big, "I'm a completely unrelated plot point" clue to the twist right near the beginning of the book.

  73. Sarah Davis

    too suspicious

    thats a huge jump between 2nd and 3rd place, too huge, was the vote rigged from the start as part of a publicity stunt, or was it a genuine vote where organised voting was arranged? (di you check the ip's and vote times?)

    either way it renders the whole thing pointless, clearly there has been tampering in some way

    if it had been by a few hundred even, at least it would have been believable, but a jump of over 1000% !! LOL - right, in your dreams, you'd have to be immensly gullable to believe this is an honest poll.

    Shame on you El Reg, you've turned into a science fiction site.

  74. Eponymous Cowherd

    Sort of culture films.....

    A couple of things on YouTube:

    Someone's idea of a Culture orbital.

    Bored Human and Drone. The person who posted it thinks its based on The Culture. While it has a Culture feel to it, there are a number of things that don't seem quite right (No "aura" field on the drone, for one, and the names, for another)

  75. Thomas Swann
    Thumb Up

    Zakalwe Enfranchised

    That twist would be a real 'Fight Club' moment.

  76. James 32

    State of the art

    Would make the best movie introduction to the culture. It's not a massive story, so would be ideally placed to introduce the culture and set the scene for follow on movies. I think the story would appeal to a lot of people which would enhance the popularity of the larger stories.

    Use of weapons could be the sequel as Diziet Sma is in both stories...

  77. ganymede io device

    abnormal distribution

    Applying Fitt's Law (not a novel), would the close proximity of the choice 'Use of Weapons – Iain M Banks and the button 'Yes, please bring that soon to a cinema near me' have any relation to the skewed distibribution?

    Not only is Use of Weapons hard to film, but I think Iain M said that he's been asked about the Player of Games rules by computer games coders and screenwriters but the rules are unfortunately and perhaps deliberately incomplete.

    Me, I'm planning to listen to China Miéville talk about Embassytown. His last novel Kraken would make a very watchable movie.


    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      I recently read Kraken too

      One of those few books, like those by Iain Banks, that kept me reading well past my bed time.

    2. BorkedAgain

      ...As would Wyndham's The Kraken Wakes...

      ...but I suspect I may be a little late to suggest that...

  78. raving angry loony

    say never made

    Given the treatment that Hollywood gave to Dune (the Lynch fuckup, not the well done one by John Harrison), Starship Troopers , I Robot and a host of other novels, I can only hope that these were books that should STAY never made by Hollywood (or Bollywood, or any other wood).

  79. Nick Pettefar

    Film Fun

    Stainless Steel Rat! That would make a great series of films.

    Forget Banks, far too intellectual. I've read everything he's written though, even The Bridge!

    1. Gollum_HKT

      Yeah but what about "Bill The Galactic Hero'

      And what about any of the Pern novels or even Piers Anthony's Xanth or Incarnations series - who said it had to be "PURE" Sci-Fi?

  80. Lan ser


    Sorry but this poll is so obviously skewed its not worth the silicon its saved on.

  81. Gollum_HKT


    I agree with the SSR suggestion but might I suggest the "Bill the galactic hero" series would make as good if not better a "Horrorwood" movie, TBH I have read IMB's books and really am not overly fond of them. What is wrong with the "Brain Ship" series by Anne McCaffrey - or even the Pern novels, anyone of them would make a better movie.

    Just my 50c's worth though

  82. Gollum_HKT

    SSR or Bill The Galactic Hero

    Both of which would make watchable box office movies, not just purist Sci-Fi bollocks (No offence I like the IMB novels, I just don't think they would work cinematically) even going further to suggest a Pern movie

  83. Gollum_HKT

    WTF come anything I post just doesn't show up?

  84. Gollum_HKT

    @Lan ser

    I have to agree there, I didn't think Ian M Banks books would even get anywhere ear. But @Nick Petterfar how about a move based on the "Bill the galactic hero" series, it would rank about as high as the Star Wars $hite.

  85. Gollum_HKT

    @Nick Pettefar

    Yeah the SSR series would make a good action/adventure move series, but what about the "Bill the galactic hero" series - I think they would make (a) better movie(s) as they have the family bit too that horrorwood likes

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