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Against a Dark Background [Paperback]

Iain M. Banks
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan. 5 1995
Sharrow was once the leader of a personality-attuned combat team in one of the sporadic little commercial wars in the civilization based around the planet Golter. Now she is hunted by the Huhsz, a religious cult which believes that she is the last obstacle before the faith's apotheosis.

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Product Description

From Library Journal

On the run from a cult of intergalactic religious fanatics who want her death, the Lady Sharrow emerges from retirement to seek out a powerful artifact that may save her life--the legendary Lady Gun, a weapon that kills by altering the reality around it. The author of Consider Phlebas ( LJ 5/15/88) and The Player of Games ( LJ 2/15/89) has constructed a richly hued, far-future tapestry for his latest space adventure. Sophisticated prose, complex characters, and an unbridled imagination combine in this tale of high drama and intrigue. A good choice for most libraries.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

Review

'Banks ain’t kidding. He warned you up front that this is a dark novel.' -- Norman Spinrad

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
The back of the book has a quote from a reviewer saying "He warns you up front, this is a dark novel."
Well, compared to Banks' _The Wasp Factory_, this really isn't such a dark novel. I'll quote another reviewer from USENET who said "I can't trust an author who develops characters and kills them." This, however, is also a trait of Banks', and I cant imagine anyone would read this book expecting everyone to escape unscathed from the ominous, looming evil which permeates, quite frankly, every Banks book I've read.
The book tells a story of a woman, who becomes a metaphor for the star system she lives in. Unlike the Culture novels, the "Golter" system is at least a hundred million light years from the nearest star. They are entirely isolated. They have colonized all the planets and moons in their system, but have no hope of ever reaching anyone else. Sharrow is the same way. Alone, even while surrounded by others.
As the system society begins to attack itself, so, too, does Sharrow lose friends. Entire cities are wiped out.
This is not unexpected. You're reading a Banks novel. However, the finish of the book (as other reviewers have hinted, the last 100 pages are worth the rest of the book being somewhat slow and, well, pointless) is quite profound, and ties the rest of the story together in ways I really hadn't anticipated. It actually took me a couple days to reflect on it, and how I felt about the story he had told.
Surprisingly, after a couple days, I realized that what Banks was getting at was the good that actually came out of all the death and destruction in the book. I'll leave the reader to discover that on their own.
I'd highly recommend this to any Banks fan, but perhaps not to a first time Banks reader. Consider _Excession_ instead.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is a book that gives me goose bumps every time I think about it. Just like Banks' 'Feersum Endjinn', this is what I would call a 'perfect' book- perfect because I could not wish it to be different in the smallest detail. SF is particulalrly difficult to write well, because one has to work just as hard on the setting and background as the story itself. Many SF authors often sacrifice one for the other, but Banks' has mastery over both.The worlds he creates are logically consistant and is also believably mysterious full of the gaps of knowledge that the narrative viewpoint of a single person would suffer from. It's those little touches that only experienced and gifted writers truly master. Banks is one such author.
The dark atmosphere, the wonderful female lead character(one of the best ever in SF)and a truly haunting plot with 4-d chracters force me to turn the pages of this book over every now and again, either in my mind or between my fingers. If you enjoyed this novel, you should look into the works of the Australian Sci Fi author Greg Egan.
The only thing that I regret about this novel is that like many of Banks' works it is far from well known. Why, I cannot imagine.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece of future intrigue and adventure Nov. 21 1998
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I read this book a a few years back and remember the hunger I had to keep reading. "Against a Dark Background" is a network of characters and ideas the likes of which I have not seen before. It ranks with "Ender's Game". "Snow Crash", and "Neuromancer" in concept and delivery. This tale, and others by Banks, are well worth every second spent finding and reading them.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good start, depressing end. April 5 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
First the positive things: If you like sci-fi with a chaotic dark future setting, you'll like this book. And if you're into RPGing, you'll discover typical situations which Sharrow's 'team' encounters in this sci-fi road movie/novel.
But in the end, the book left me kinda hollow, if not depressed. Almost all the major characters are dead, quite some questions are left open, and if you pay close attention, there are more than a few events/developments which are at best questionable (i.e. if I didnt miss something, Girmeyn cant be older than 15(!) if he really is what Geis claimed him to be).
Of course, Banks had to make his point, how the Lazy Gun and his main character are linked together (I dont wanna tell too much for those ppl who havent read this book yet), but I'm repeating myself - too many deaths dont leave much room to cheer about.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is a fascinating book. Rich in imagination and with a plot that keeps you turning the pages, I have to say it is one of my all-time favorite sci-fi books. I'd rank it up there with Hyperion (Simmons), Dune (Herbert) and Ender's Game (Card) --- certainly no slouches there. This is definitely a book that I will re-read periodically throughout my life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Banks blows the doors off 'space opera' Jan. 29 1997
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I've been reading SF for 30 years, and these days, Iain Banks is one of the few SF authors I buy unhesitatingly - Greg Bear is another. I read "Consider Phlebas" first - it's wonderful - similar to "Against a Dark Background", but I don't know if it is still in print.

Banks has a kind of wild, fervid, dark imagination that takes his work beyond the formula and cliche that permeates so much SF, yet his books are not really distopian or tragic. I think of Larry Niven and Arthur C. Clarke, but he is more complex and wittier, and his worlds and characters are vastly more engaging. Hmm - Remember the feeling of awe you got from "Rendezvous with Rama" and "Ringworld"? Mix in some "Die Hard" and "Alice In Wonderland"... That's as close as I can get
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Not for discerning readers
I don't know how I managed to read the whole book, maybe because I didn't have anything else to read or that in the first pages I spotted a too friendly character that I suspected... Read more
Published on Aug. 13 2012 by Pop Powl
2.0 out of 5 stars Against A Dark Background
I'm sorry to say I didn't enjoy Mr. Banks vision of a future world. His protagonist, Sharrow never really grabbed me as a living, breathing character involved in this quest she... Read more
Published on Feb. 27 2012 by R. W. Hogan
1.0 out of 5 stars Befuddling
Very confusing storylines that never go anywhere and characters that never come to life made this a very difficult read. Mr. Read more
Published on May 31 2002 by Phillip G. Cameron
2.0 out of 5 stars a confused tale
This is a confusing, disappointing book. I wish I could say that it had potential and the author simply dropped the ball on the follow through, but I'd be lying to you. Read more
Published on Sept. 8 2001 by Justus Pendleton
3.0 out of 5 stars Rue
I can't decide if this book should get 3 or 4 stars. It is a good book, no doubt about that, it's just that I can't stand the kind of despair and doom that permeats the book. Read more
Published on Aug. 17 2001 by Greger Wikstrand
5.0 out of 5 stars The one man Scottish invasion
There are quite a few arguments that Iain Banks is among the top three greatest living authors of the latter part of the last century (and going into the next). Read more
Published on Oct. 31 2000 by Michael Battaglia
5.0 out of 5 stars BETTER THAN SEX
This is the finest science fiction novel I've ever read. Banks puts you in a totally unique, self-contained world, but never contradicts himself and never dwells on the details to... Read more
Published on Dec 23 1999 by JACOBUS VALK
5.0 out of 5 stars Great ideas, great writing, lots of action
First he blows you away with a different great idea or two every chapter, then he make you laugh your ass off while his characters make jokes in the face of death, then he ends it... Read more
Published on Dec 9 1999 by Shane Tiernan
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