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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.


'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
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The one man Scottish invasion Oct. 31 2000
Format:Mass Market Paperback
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). He has absolutely no problem writing either straight (but weird) fiction or pure science-fiction but he treats both genres with respect and every work glistens with quality. Those who think that he just slums in the SF genre just to pay the bills in between books are highly mistaken and some of his best work can be found there. This one is I think the only non-Culture SF work (you can make a case for The Bridge but that one's more a Kafka nightmare than anything else) and definitely worth the time. The hallmarks that regular readers already know and love are here, involving plot, finely detailed characters, breakneck action, an offbeat and downbeat attitude and an interesting world that everyone lives in. The deal here is that a cult is looking for the last Lazy Gun (a weapon of mass destruction that has a power that has to be seen to be believed), and Sharrow has to find it before they do. Her family has the last one, but nobody knows where it is and so between dodging people trying to kill her, she has to piece together clues thousands of years old. Not that she's alone in the quest, she gathers a team of close friends to help her and off they go. I do absolutely no justice to the plot in this fashion, this is barely even a basic structure and when you read it you'll see how rich and detailed this book is. The twists are many and almost always surprising, the dialogue is witty and to the point and the situations are nothing short of fascinating. Read more ›
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2.0 out of 5 stars Against A Dark Background Feb. 27 2012
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 sets out on, and it all truly seemed contrived. More cardboard than carnal. I am a big Sci/Fi fan, but this severely unexplained mismash of ideas in the novel's beginning failed to draw me into the universe he envisions and because I fail to believe in his hero, I also fail to care about what happens to her.
With castles and dungeons, and towers aplenty Mr. Banks seems directed more to a Fantasy world than what I would characterize as Sci/Fi.
Although I did like the way Mr. Banks writes; his talent is certainly on display that way, I didn't care much for his quest for a mysterious unexplained weapon. With a much more defined storyline I'm sure I would try Ian Banks again, but not unless I was sure of the novel's direction. Overall I was diappointed having heard so many good reviews of his work.
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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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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
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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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 23 months ago by Pop Powl
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 Good start, depressing end.
First the positive things: If you like sci-fi with a chaotic dark future setting, you'll like this book. Read more
Published on April 5 2002 by Jan-Thorsten Reszat
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 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
5.0 out of 5 stars A Hidden Treasure- Iain M Banks, SF artist extrodinaire
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... Read more
Published on May 24 1999
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