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Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks
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Use of Weapons (original 1990; edition 1992)

by Iain M. Banks (Author)

Series: The Culture (3)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,5971041,732 (4.03)1 / 189
"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)
Member:Jisi
Title:Use of Weapons
Authors:Iain M. Banks (Author)
Info:Time Warner Books Uk (1992), Edition: New Ed, 434 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:None

Work details

Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks (1990)

  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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English (99)  Italian (2)  French (2)  Spanish (1)  All languages (104)
Showing 1-5 of 99 (next | show all)
This was kind of a rough read, and solidified some of how I've been thinking about Banks. Structurally, this is interesting, using alternating chapters that are moving opposite directions in time, to fill out the main character. It feels like the most wholeheartedly nihilistic of the Culture novels I've read so far; Banks has at least sketched out one of the best fully-automated gay space communist utopias out there, and then spends pretty much all his time on its edges or outside us, the better to focus on pointless depravity and suffering. It's a little weird. There was one big twist that I didn't see coming here, but it was immediately preceded by big twists that were massively telegraphed, so, again, weird. In conclusion, Iain M. Banks would like you to know that the Prime Directive is a load of horse-shit. ( )
  jakecasella | Sep 21, 2020 |
i BUT 7 So, in the end – not ‘the end’ but about 150 pages in, since that is my designated end, and why not in a book that starts where it does? – what is it about this writing ‘technique’? I still think it is true that having more than one story gadding about in different directions is a way of getting away with not having a story that is sufficient to fill up a novel. But at the same time, I’m starting to wonder if it is a way of letting pseudo-intellectuals who profess horror – or at least boredom – with the whodunit, have the same experience whilst telling themselves it is something superior. For this is what one does in this sort of book. You spend the whole time wondering what the fuck is going on…at some point you start picking up the clues and towards the end you feel like you have probably solved it in the way the author intended – but we’ll just read on to the end to check.

ii MAYBE 6 But it explains something. To me the book had nothing to do with the Culture book I had read and liked: Player of Games. And lo, it turns out this is no great surprise. It wasn’t a Culture book. It was shoved into the Culture series long after it was written. I wonder if simplifying it, if that is what the process of making it publishable meant, included the turning of characters into movie-style caricatures….Sorry, that’s how Sma, the overly cutesy drone with the name too long to write down and the hero (he’s got too many names, they change, to write down) seem to me. I’m guessing it would make a great movie, but I keep thinking that about his sci fi stories.

iii I’M 5 Tim, in his review http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/20607884 of this says:


Despite being the third of Banks' "Culture" science fiction novels to be published, he wrote a much more complex version of this story in 1974, before any of his books saw print. He later said it was so complex it "was impossible to comprehend without thinking in six dimensions". He credits fellow Scottish author Ken McLeod with getting him to sort this baroque novel into a publishable form.


So why isn’t that the book I got then? The publishable one? Can I get my money back?

iv JUST 4 Not that I got that far…I would not want to be seen to be writing this under false pretences. I’m just assuming that if I’d keep struggling on, it would finally have made sense.


v NOT 3 Sigh. ‘Bloody writers.’ Why can’t they write books how God intended? Why can’t they just start at the beginning and stop at the end, with a gradual progression from the one to the other? What’s with starting at some random page in the middle and heading out in shambolic way, ‘tying all the loose ends’ together at some point where finally, you think to yourself, ‘Ah. Things will be okay now. It will all start making sense’ and you turn the page and –

nothing. La musica, it is finished. Shit.

vi NEARLY 2 But I took a look around Goodreads and people seem, by and large, to consider this was a deliberate technique on the part of the writer.

vii GOOD 1 Sigh. ‘Bloody printing presses.’ That was my first thought when I noticed that there were two stories in this book and one of them was going backwards. It happens all the time, that sort of thing, they cock up the order in some way in the production process and you end up with something you have to stand on your head to read.

viii 8 ENOUGH
  bringbackbooks | Jun 16, 2020 |
This is a rather surprising novel. I mean, on the one hand, it is filled with glorious ultraviolence, satisfying all atavistic tendencies, but on the other hand, it's almost poetry, devoted to all the ideals that the Culture is known for. Peace, objectivism, minimalistic good, and respect.

Where does war really fit? Well, in the end, there's always a niche for everything, and, indeed, everyone.

So what was so damn surprising?

I can't, I won't, tell you.

*sigh* It's a long story, full of daring-do, future-feeling, peace-striving effort.

It's also a story told backward, a reflection of now told one scene in the past going further and further back, fleshing out and building the character of the One Who Uses Weapons, eventually ending the book where he began.

*sigh*

I'm sorry. This was and exhausting tale, thrilling and surprising.

I just have to sit down a moment.

(Thanks, Manny, for the beautiful notion.)

This book, like all that I've ever read by Iain M. Banks, is brilliant. By all rights, it shouldn't be. It's full of action, smart dialog, and overt messages. That should be enough for most tales. But no, he always goes that one extra step and pulls a twist. Bravo! A virtuoso performance! It's a real art.

This chair isn't really that comfortable, but I did have to sit. I think it'll go very nicely in my living room. ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
I had originally marked this as 4 stars but had to come back and make it one of the few 5 star books on my "Read" shelf. I've been thinking about it all day after reading it and that's always a good sign that a book has entertained me. I can't say much without being spoilery but if you've read a couple of Culture books already and want to know which one to read next then this is it! ( )
  usuallymatt | Mar 21, 2020 |
The weakest of the trilogy. The Culture characters (Sma and the drone) were great, and it seemed so was the main protagonist. Half way through he seemed to be a major masochist. The alternating timelines, one moving forward, the other backward, start to grind the plot into dust. ( )
  jklavanian | Feb 3, 2020 |
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» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Banks, Iain M.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Keynäs, VilleTranslatorsecondary 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

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