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Inversions (Culture) by Iain M. Banks
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Inversions (Culture) (original 1998; edition 2007)

by Iain M. Banks (Author)

Series: The Culture (6)

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2,897473,353 (3.67)1 / 78
Iain M. Banks, the international bestselling author of "The Player of Games" and "Consider Phlebas, " is a true original, a literary visionary whose brilliant speculative fiction has transported us into worlds of unbounded imagination. Now, in his acclaimed new novel, Banks presents an engrossing portrait of an alien world, and of two very different people bound by a startling and mysterious secret. On a backward world with six moons, an alert spy reports on the doings of one Dr. Vosill, who has mysteriously become the personal physician to the king despite being a foreigner and, even more unthinkably, a woman. Vosill has more enemies than she first realizes. But then she also has more remedies in hand than those who wish her ill can ever guess. Elsewhere, in another palace across the mountains, a man named DeWar serves as chief bodyguard to the Protector General of Tassasen, a profession he describes as the business of "assassinating assassins." DeWar, too, has his enemies, but his foes strike more swiftly, and his means of combating them are more direct. No one trusts the doctor, and the bodyguard trusts no one, but is there a hidden commonality linking their disparate histories? Spiraling around a central core of mystery, deceit, love, and betrayal. "Inversions" is a dazzling work of science fiction from a versatile and imaginative author writing at the height of his remarkable powers.… (more)
Member:kevinpars
Title:Inversions (Culture)
Authors:Iain M. Banks (Author)
Info:Gallery Books (2007), Edition: Reprint, 352 pages
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Inversions by Iain M. Banks (1998)

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» See also 78 mentions

English (43)  French (2)  Italian (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (47)
Showing 1-5 of 43 (next | show all)
I always thought the most interesting Literary Utopia was Iain M. Banks' The Culture and “Inversion” is one of its finest examples, not because I thought it was a utopia per se, but because it sparked such interesting debates. It was always a fun point of discussion between me and a friend of mine. Banks believed it was a vision of an ideal future thriving on freedom, I thought it was a kind of insidious metaphor for forced democratisation: you can have heaven on earth, but you'll have no choice in the matter and, if you don't like it, your society will be conquered (“Consider Phlebas”) or subtlety couped (“The Player Of Games”).

Anyway, It's this sense of nuance that I feel is lacking in today’s SF, where a kind of cheap nihilism and cynicism reigns. I enjoy “Black Mirror”, but over the years it seems to have adopted a more teenage sense of nihilistic transgression that becomes a little tiresome and seems out of whack with humanity in general (at least if you ask Steven Pinker or Johan Norberg).

“Star Trek” is an interesting example, but it does involve a lot of hand waving: even with the backdrop of the wars, there's very little explanation of how the politics actually holds together compared to say Babylon 5. It's still a good example, as the Federation have an Utopian ethos, but it does do plenty of interestingly hypocritical meddling of its own. Another good example of Utopia is Asimov's Foundation novels and the suggestion (which seems to being revived in popular culture re: “Game Of Thrones”) that what may eventually bring people together is an existential and alien threat rather an a humane and winning argument.

I think Banks always left it up to the reader to make up their own mind on whether they considered it an Utopian society or not, and even though I know they might not be considered highbrow, the way he was always able to show the almost symbiotic relationship between the Culture's anarchic positiveness and freedom within with its aggressive desire to pacify and manipulate other societies: all of course in the name of good (how often have we heard that in real life). Interestingly, both the Culture and Gaia involve a sacrifice of autonomy in a sense.

"Inversions" is possibly the most character-based of the Culture novels with two beautiful love stories at its heart. At times it might seem like the coma/dream passages from "The Bridge" until the knife missiles appear at the denouement and you realize you are seeing Special Circumstances from the inside... ( )
1 vote antao | Aug 22, 2020 |
Rather than focus on a grand scale space-opera, I think Banks wanted to dump us into a backwater gravity-well and let us have a sense of what it would be like to tour as a doctor, perhaps Culture trained, among the crude creatures of a Medieval period.

Mind you, I didn't quite pick up any definitive proof of actual Culture interference, mind you, because our PoV is actually from the apprentice to the good doctor who hailed from foreign parts, but I think the guess is a very good one, anyway. :)

So what of the story?

Actually, this one shares in the great reversals of our understanding, just like the other Culture novels. We go along with interesting tales only to have a reveal that shatters our understanding of what we read. That stuff is fantastic, by the way. :)

In this case, meet a doctor who befriends the King and practically ALL of the court and the nobles mistrust and plot against her. If feels like one hell of a romance, honestly. I got into all the characters and loved the banter, rooted for the good guys and hoped all the others would get their just deserts.

It's a simple tale on the surface, yet there's always past horrors to work through and there happens to be a certain Captain of the Guard from where the good doctor came from who is out to bring her back or to justice, traveling all the way across the country. What exactly is going on?

Well that is a great deal of this book's charm, from the opening scene with a torturer to the end where everything gets inverted.

Do you fancy a bit of standing on your head?

I'm very impressed by the tale even if there isn't that much SF or Fantasy to hang your hat on. It reads mostly like a Medieval tale. With some rather interesting outcomes, I might add. :)

It's well worth the read. :) ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
Based on the description, I wasn't expecting to enjoy this book as much as other works from Bank. It sounded a little contrived, and as a "Culture novel that isn't a Culture novel" it seemed, well, indecisive at best. But this has turned out to be one of my favorite Banks novels so far. It has certainly stayed with me in the kind of low-level way that many of the best books do, its ideas and images subtly churning around in the background.

The world of the Culture is hinted at in places in the novel, but in fact it drives all the action: the reason for the split narrative, is that the protagonists represent two opposing views on how to intervene in other civilizations and cultures, a debate that often plays out on a larger scale in Banks other work. The genius of the book however is that what is essentially a philosophical investigation never feels heavy-handed. This is a novel of ideas that never throws those ideas or the dilemmas in your face but trusts in the reader to notice them, think about them, or not. The two stories are tightly focused on their own action and plot arcs, but always implicitly interwoven (and then explicitly so) but the ideas that play out on sprawling epic canvases in Banks other work are presented on a smaller stage which, ironically, gives them a chance to breathe and assume greater impact. This accounts, I think, for the way book continues to nag at me even many months later.

The two protagonists are also two of the most interesting characters that Banks has crafted. He is often (unfairly, I think) slighted for being a better writer of action than he is of people, but the characters here are refreshingly ambiguous; admirable, annoying, conflicted, frustrating and frustrated.

It is a violent book, sometimes disturbingly so, and each tale takes place in lands that seem to have been abandoned by morality in any meaningful sense. This is typical of one of Banks preoccupations: if you remove one or more pillars that people often rely upon to guide their behavior, what remains? ( )
  BornAnalog | Jan 7, 2019 |
One of the most fascinating aspects of this book is that it can be read on different levels: for someone not accustomed to Iain Banks’ writing it might appear like a fantasy novel, set in a medieval-like world replete with court intrigue and political games, plotting nobles and selfless heroes, and it can be read as such with no loss or lack of understanding; but for those who have already encountered the Culture, the star-spanning civilization at the center of Banks’ stories, it’s quite another matter.


Full review: Inversions ( )
  SpaceandSorcery | Dec 25, 2018 |
The more I think about this book, the more I feel it is one of my favorite Culture books, even though some argue it isn't truly a Culture book at all. It's a... smaller story, in some ways, more personal. It's slow to get going. The ending may leave you with more questions than answers. In a way it's a long exploration of one of the central questions of the Culture -- the question of whether, and how, to meddle in the affairs of other civilizations -- but (perhaps the biggest inversion of all) it feels more importantly like a story of two very real people, and the small things they do that affect the people near them. Culture books have always told vast stories via human relationships, but Inversions tightens that focus even further. It has me thinking about perspective, about love and loyalty, about the stories we tell about ourselves. ( )
1 vote wirehead | Sep 3, 2018 |
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Iain M. Banksprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bailey,BrianCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bonhorst, IreneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Feruglio Dal Dan, AnnaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gálla, NóraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Janiš, ViktorTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mata Álvarez-Santullano, ManuelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Salwowski, MarkCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Serval, NathalieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Iain M. Banks, the international bestselling author of "The Player of Games" and "Consider Phlebas, " is a true original, a literary visionary whose brilliant speculative fiction has transported us into worlds of unbounded imagination. Now, in his acclaimed new novel, Banks presents an engrossing portrait of an alien world, and of two very different people bound by a startling and mysterious secret. On a backward world with six moons, an alert spy reports on the doings of one Dr. Vosill, who has mysteriously become the personal physician to the king despite being a foreigner and, even more unthinkably, a woman. Vosill has more enemies than she first realizes. But then she also has more remedies in hand than those who wish her ill can ever guess. Elsewhere, in another palace across the mountains, a man named DeWar serves as chief bodyguard to the Protector General of Tassasen, a profession he describes as the business of "assassinating assassins." DeWar, too, has his enemies, but his foes strike more swiftly, and his means of combating them are more direct. No one trusts the doctor, and the bodyguard trusts no one, but is there a hidden commonality linking their disparate histories? Spiraling around a central core of mystery, deceit, love, and betrayal. "Inversions" is a dazzling work of science fiction from a versatile and imaginative author writing at the height of his remarkable powers.

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