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

by Iain Banks

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2,459372,500 (3.63)1 / 71
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 (34)  French (2)  Italian (1)  All languages (37)
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
My favourite so far ( )
  sundowneruk | Feb 2, 2016 |
Inversions takes place on a mediaeval world, with two parallel stories: one concerns a bodyguard to a ruler, and the other is a King’s female foreign doctor. The bodyguard obsesses about keeping his master safe, and is exceptionally good at his job. The doctor is generations better than her counterparts and deals deftly with the misogyny and xenophobia surrounding her. Even when her safety or life is at stake, she still manages to extricate herself from the dangers with the greatest of ease, possibly with the help of a mysterious blunt knife (which may or may not be a culture weapon or even battle drone) she always carries around with her. In both interleaved stories there are long political subplots and threats, with one nation’s story warring against the other.

This hardly sounds like a typical culture novel and that is because it isn’t. In fact, only a couple of pages have anything science-fiction or remotely culture based in the whole novel. We do eventually find, though, that these two main characters came from the culture, where there is a continuous ethical debate about what to do with primitive societies. Do you ignore them? Do you try to help them in a patronising way as if they were children? Or do you work subtly from within, nudging them in the right direction? It is this last option that the two culture characters choose here, with limited success. In other words, the whole novel debates Star Trek’s prime directive.

The trouble for me with this novel though is that what I primarily love about the culture books is the fantastic set of technology ideas and the futuristic world they conjure up. But that is almost completely missing here, and the mediaeval story about warring nations isn’t really interesting in itself to sustain me. It is rather slow for a start and little of it stands out except for the intrigue about the doctor, which is relatively thin. There is some connection between the two main characters in their past cultural lives, as mainly told by the bodyguard in stories, but exactly what their relationship is is unclear. I wish that more connections were made between them, and their background in the culture was at least a little bit more prominently painted.

This is therefore not a culture novel I can recommend, and I half wish I gave it a miss and moved on to the next proper one in the series. ( )
  RachDan | Dec 23, 2015 |
Please read the full review on Weighing A Pig Doesn't Fatten It...

When cancer tragically stole Iain Banks from our world in June 2013, I still had 4 of his books on my TBR-pile. Surface Detail, Inversions, The Algebraist and Transition. I decided to savour those, since there would never be the joy of waiting for a new Iain M. Banks to be published again. I decided to read Surface Detail first, so that I at least could achieve some kind of closure with the Culture series – Surface Detail being the last Culture novel I had to read. After more than a decade of near abstinence of fiction, it was this series that really turned me into an avid fiction reader again. As such, they will always occupy a special place in my memory. A friend of mine told me he liked The Algebraist – a non-Culture SF novel which features sentient gass giants among other things – a lot, and found Transition to be one of the wildest books he ever read. That set the order for the remaining books: read Inversions first, then The Algebraist and end with Transition, maybe in a year or two, three.

Over a week ago, I decided to start Inversions. It feels more like a fantasy story than science fiction. (...) ( )
  bormgans | Dec 15, 2015 |
Not my favorite Banks. Characters were not vivid. Many episodes ran on much too long. Strong ending, however. ( )
  crosbyp | Nov 14, 2015 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:28 -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.

(summary from another edition)

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