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Amazon is developing a series based on Iain M. Banks’ sci-fi novel Consider Phlebas

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The first installment of Banks’ Culture series

Image: Orbit Books

Last fall, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos charged his company’s studio division to produce bigger shows with a “global appeal,” in an attempt to compete with other streaming video companies in the race to produce high-end original content. Since then, Amazon has moved quickly to begin developing an impressive slate of genre television shows that include adaptations of novels such as Ringworld, Snow Crash, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Now, The Hollywood Reporter reports that Amazon has acquired the rights to another huge book: Consider Phlebas, the first installment of Iain M. Banks’s space opera Culture series.

THR reports that Amazon will partner with British screenwriter Dennis Kelly (who created the critically acclaimed Channel 4 series Utopia), and that should the scripts for the series work out, it will order it directly to a series. By acquiring big-name franchises such as Lord of the Rings, while facing intense competition from companies like Netflix, Apple, and Disney, it’s clear that Amazon is working to aggressively pursue major projects that play with complicated stories.

The Culture series is an undisputed classic of modern science fiction. Banks — who died in 2013 — forged a dual career as a literary and science fiction novelist. He began the series in 1987 with Consider Phlebas, which introduced readers to a space-faring, utopian society of humans, aliens, and artificial intelligences living across the galaxy. The novel follows an episode in a war between the Culture and the Idiran Empire, in which a shapeshifting mercenary named Horza is hired by the Idirans to track down a Culture artificial intelligence that was shot down and hiding on a forbidden world.

Should the series go forward and be successful with viewers, Amazon would have plenty of options to keep the show going for years: Banks followed up Consider Phlebas with nine additional installments in his lifetime, each a standalone story in his larger world. His work earned him legions of fans including SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who named his company’s two drone ships after starships from Banks’ series.