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Use of Weapons (1990)

by Iain M. Banks

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Culture (3)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,8391131,749 (4.02)1 / 197
"The man known as Cheradenine Zakalwe was one of Special Circumstances' foremost agents, changing the destiny of planets to suit the Culture through intrigue, dirty tricks and military action. The woman known as Diziet Sma had plucked him from obscurity and pushed him towards his present eminence, but despite all their dealings she did not know him as well as she thought. The drone known as Skaffen-Amtiskaw knew both of these people. It had once saved the woman's life by massacring her attackers in a particularly bloody manner. It believed the man to be a lost cause. But not even its machine could see the horrors in his past"--From publisher description.… (more)
  1. 40
    Gridlinked by Neal Asher (goodiegoodie)
  2. 62
    Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds (EatSleepChuck)
  3. 30
    Hard to be a god by Arkady Strugatsky (prezzey)
    prezzey: Banks seems to have been inspired by the Strugatskys' concept of Progressors. Similar theme, different perspective (Western vs Eastern bloc) - if you liked one, you will probably be interested in the other.
  4. 31
    The Skinner by Neal Asher (goodiegoodie)
  5. 21
    Hyperion by Dan Simmons (TarsolyGer)
  6. 00
    A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge (TarsolyGer)
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» See also 197 mentions

English (108)  Italian (2)  French (2)  Spanish (1)  All languages (113)
Showing 1-5 of 108 (next | show all)
This is my second Culture novel, having recently finished A Player of Games. It would seem that these books largely stand on their own, so I’m not sure there is any value in reading them “in order”, or even reading all of them if one gets poor reviews. I felt A Player of Games gave a very good background on the Culture universe, perhaps more so than this book, which actually had very little Culture background.

The Culture is a civilization set far in the future. It is utopian, with everlasting life and no scarcity of resources. In addition to humanoids, the Culture is populated by sentient artificial intelligence, both in the form of bots and ships. Any needs and even desires are met instantly. Interstellar travel is the norm, though there is no explanation for how this occurs or why there is no time dilation, as communication occurs easily, over many light years.

This novel largely focuses on two people. Most prominently featured is Cheradenine Zakalwe, a mercenary operating under the Special Circumstances branch of Culture. Zakalwe is called in whenever some especially dirty work needs to be done, primarily militarily, as “official” Culture operatives are seemingly disallowed from behaving in such a manner.

The second character is Diziet Sma, Zakalwe’s Culture handler, who dispatches and then frequently is forced to rescue him at the end of his assignments.

The book is a little bit hard to follow, as chapters alternate between the “current” assignment and flashbacks into Zakalwe’s past, which feature previous adventures and childhood memories. This became a problem for me, as I frequently read 20-30 pages/night, sometimes missing a day or two. That doesn’t work well with this book, which needs to be consumed in larger chunks over a shorter period of time, if one wants to maintain a grasp on the storyline.

Bottom line, I enjoyed A Player of Games quite a bit more, but will proceed with additional Culture novels. ( )
  santhony | Sep 30, 2021 |
Loved it. That twist tho. ( )
  codykh | Jun 28, 2021 |
One of the better Culture novels. I need to re-read it to do a proper review, but I consider this one of the top 4 books in the series. ( )
  Karlstar | Apr 26, 2021 |
This was a fascinating meditation on war and weapons used therein. More so the horrors that are committed in the process of war. ( )
  yuguuk | Mar 2, 2021 |
I had heard that Banks's Culture novels improved considerably after the middling Consider Phlebas, and that certainly seemed to be the case with the spectacular second entry, The Player of Games, but I can't help but feel like Use of Weapons is one step forward, two steps back. The book definitely has its big, splashy "here's your science fiction" moments and beautiful, smaller parts as well, but I can't help but feel like the entire thing was disjointed and confusing. I'll give Book 4 a whirl, but this is a second strike for Banks in my book. ( )
  skolastic | Feb 2, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 108 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (41 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Banks, Iain M.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Keynäs, VilleTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Salwowski, MarkCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Walotsky, RonCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Youll,PaulCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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“Tell me, what is happiness?” (Prologue)
She made her way through the turbine hall, surrounded by an ever-changing ring of friends, admirers and animals – nebula to her attractive focus – talking to her guests, giving instructions to her staff, making suggestions and offering compliments to the many and various entertainers. (One)
Dust as usual followed them, though the young man said several times he thought it might rain. (Epilogue)
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You might call them soft, because they’re very reluctant to kill, and they might agree with you, but they’re soft the way the ocean is soft, and, well; ask any sea captain how harmless and puny the ocean can be.
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"The man known as Cheradenine Zakalwe was one of Special Circumstances' foremost agents, changing the destiny of planets to suit the Culture through intrigue, dirty tricks and military action. The woman known as Diziet Sma had plucked him from obscurity and pushed him towards his present eminence, but despite all their dealings she did not know him as well as she thought. The drone known as Skaffen-Amtiskaw knew both of these people. It had once saved the woman's life by massacring her attackers in a particularly bloody manner. It believed the man to be a lost cause. But not even its machine could see the horrors in his past"--From publisher description.

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Orbit Books

2 editions of this book were published by Orbit Books.

Editions: 185723135X, 0316030570

Hachette Book Group

An edition of this book was published by Hachette Book Group.

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