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Inversions by Iain Banks
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Inversions (original 1998; edition 2000)

by Iain Banks

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2,331332,705 (3.63)1 / 60
Member:fivetoedsloth
Title:Inversions
Authors:Iain Banks
Info:New York : Pocket Books, [2000]
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
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Inversions by Iain M. Banks (1998)

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English (31)  Italian (1)  French (1)  All languages (33)
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
I first read this novel when it was published in 1998. On that first reading I enjoyed the book but did not consider it great. On re-reading it I find my opinion of it has improved to the level of its being a good, enjoyable book but still not a great book.

On my first read I had not at first picked up that it was a Culture novel. It was only towards the end that I noticed the traces of the Culture, such as the note from the Doctor to the ship’s captain that she could not attend dinner due to special circumstances.

The main theme I am taking away from this story is something I have known for a long time, i.e. we can never be sure of history, or even the present. As for predicting the future, we only run the risk of making fools of ourselves by trying to do so, even in relation to what appear to be the most obvious potential outcomes. There are various points in the novel where this point is brought to the fore, e.g. on page 22:

”I have read, I think, all the various accounts of what happened in Tassasen during that momentous time, and the most significant difference between those reports seems to be the defree to which they depart most outrageously from what actually happened.”

Also, on page 22:

”-so truth is a question of where one stands, and the direction one is looking in at the time.”

Iain goes on to explain how the past is unknowable because any accounts we read or hear are invariably going to have been filtered in some fashion and amended, and that the present is just as unknowable as time must pass to gain access to the different accounts which will have been distorted based on viewpoint, stance, bias, or whatever, of the source of the accounts.

A key element of this book is its description of how Special Circumstances personnel may operate. It also introduces the debate of how a superior civilisation should behave towards a less developed civilisation.

This is a book I would recommend for fans of Iain M. Banks Culture novels, but it is not a must read. It is, however, an enjoyable read.
( )
  pgmcc | Oct 13, 2014 |
Two neighbouring countries are each inhabited by an outsider with influence over its ruler, mistrusted by the nobility and given to odd ideas. To the initiated, it is an obvious guess (and one soon rewarded) that these outsiders are embedded Culture agents; but their stories are related by an ignorant local, leaving it to the reader to read between the lines.

Whilst there are some vibrant characters (UrLeyn's son Lattens is a joy, as is conflicted Oelph) and entertaining politics, these could belong in any fantasy setting and play second fiddle to the delight of recognising and second-guessing what is really going on. The actual stories of the Dukes' attempts to reveal the good Doctor and the question of whether there is a traitor in UrLeyn's entourage are finely drawn but - I felt - less absorbing than other Culture novels; not least because the relayed narrative device distances us from the protagonists and thus the threat. As ever though, Banks teases us with plenty to think about in the layers within layers of his story.

Given the POV, this is arguably the Culture novel with the least Culture in it, but I found it satisfying in its own right and the late-encountered line that 'she was indisposed due to special circumstances' may be a favourite Banksian witticism. ( )
2 vote imyril | Sep 22, 2014 |
Spoiler ahead...

A Culture book, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it. It’s the Culture from the point of view of a civilisation which hasn’t the framework or breadth of perception to begin to contemplate what the Culture is. But then providing inverted points of view of the Culture is something Banks has been doing since Consider Phlebas. It’s the story of a doctor and a warrior, who you can link together easily, even if you’re not paying close attention. But the resolutions of their stories are very different and the crucible of the story demands an inversion of their roles and approaches. Banks excels with the court intrigues and the contrast of the twin narratives. ( )
2 vote JonArnold | Mar 4, 2014 |
Was expecting the usual high-tech space setting of The Culture and instead I got kings, fiefdoms and medieval politics. Everything is elegantly wrapped in two parallel storylines. Very good.
4.5 ( )
  MickeNimell | Aug 24, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Iain M. Banksprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bailey,BrianCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Salwowski, MarkCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 074341196X, Mass Market Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:38:44 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In the winter palace, the King's new physician has more enemies than she at first realises. In another palace across the mountains, the chief bodyguard of the Protector General also has his enemies.

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