BANKS/USE OF WEAPONS
Banks is a phenomenon: the wildly successful, fearlessly creative author of brilliant and disturbing non-genre novels, hes equally at home writing pure science fiction of a peculiarly gnarly energy and elegance WILLIAM GIBSON
There is now no British SF writer to whose work I look forward to with greater keenness THE TIMES
Few of us have been exposed to a talent so manifest and of such extraordinary breadth THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF SCIENCE FICTION
Poetic, humorous, baffling, terrifying, sexy - the books of Iain M. Banks are all these things and more NME
Also by Iain M. Banks
Consider Phlebas The Player of Games The State of the Art Against a Dark Background Feersum Endjinn Excession Inversions Look to Windward
This novel (and all other Iain (M) Banks books) is still in print in the UK. If you've read his in-print stuff and can't get ahold of this, mosey over to amazon.co.uk.
Now, my two cents: This, along with Philip K. Dick's A Scanner Darkly and Orwell's 1984, is the grestest SF book ever written (my opinion, of course, but I trust it, so you should too). You could call it anti-space-opera; as an earlier reviewer said, it is the flip side to airy Star Wars style spaceship shoot-em-ups--Use of Weapons is to The Lensman Series what Apocolypse Now is to The Green Barrets.
You can't miss with Banks (except perhaps with Excession, where he's dissapeared somewhere up the Culture's Mind's arses and can't find his way out--though in the end, even that is a worthwhile read). He is a truly talented author who creates mainstream and SF masterpieces in alternating years, and you'll be doing yourself a favour by buying a book of his.
And Look to Windward, out in the UK for a year now, gets its US release in August--sign up your pre-order now!
Banks intertwines two stories: one of The Culture and one of a world not yet contacted by The Culture. That pre-contact world is the home of a four children, a brother, two sisters and another boy, hidden from others, who is almost a brother. The oldest brother is the protagonist of both stories. Here we see him as a boy and young man, and see one aspect of the use weapons. Because the brother and the almost-brother become enemies in a war that knows no restraints.
The other story involves The Culture's efforts to subtly and less-subtly control other, non-Culture civilizations, through its Contact division and the Special Circumstances unit of Contact. Special Circumstances does the dirty work for Contact. Like much of the nomenclature in The Culture, names are euphemisms or worse. You see, special cases may require Special Circumstances, where the usual rules of Contact don't apply.
Cheradenine Zakalwe is a mercenary for Special Circumstances. He is a weapon in its hands. He takes his assignments without knowing if he is fighting on the winning or losing side, whether he is working with good guys or bad guys, or whether The Culture wants him to succeed or fail. No more than a rifle knows or cares where it is aimed, he is a weapon in the hands of his employers.
Diziet Sma is his handler. Early in the book, she recalls a time when her drone, itself an intelligent, thinking machine, used its weapons in full when Sma was attacked. Banks' description of her reaction to an unrestrained use of weapons is more than ironic.
Cheradenine Zakalwe is also the brother in that family on that unnamed world.Read more ›