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Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks

Use of Weapons (original 1990; edition 2008)

by Iain M. Banks

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,808821,361 (4.03)1 / 147
Title:Use of Weapons
Authors:Iain M. Banks
Info:Orbit (2008), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 512 pages
Collections:Your library

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. 20
    Hyperion by Dan Simmons (TarsolyGer)
  6. 00
    A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge (TarsolyGer)

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English (78)  Italian (2)  French (2)  Spanish (1)  All languages (83)
Showing 1-5 of 78 (next | show all)
Cheradenine Zakalwe (why the crazy names?) is an agent of the Contact section of the Culture. This book tells the story of an important mission he is recruited for by his long-time handler Diziet Sma (again, the names!) to bring back an important political leader from retirement in order to avoid a war that is brewing in that system.

Interspersed with the mission are chapters of flashbacks to Zakalwe's origin and previous missions as a soldier in his home planet and as a mercenary for the Culture. The flashbacks are not chronological, and are thus a bit confusing, though it eventually becomes clear. Meanwhile, the significance of the word "Staberinde" is gradually revealed- also a confusing concept eventually cleared up.

As with his other Culture books, Banks doesn't tell a conventional history of that civilization, but instead weaves a story that is insignificant in the geopolitics of his world, but which reveals much about the Culture. This story is really about Zakalwe himself and the guilt that a soldier can carry with him.

So far, my favorite Banks book is "Player of Games". This one, and some of his others, can frustrate with confusing timelines and names- they require some close reading- but it's worth it.

Great twist here at the end, which I won't spoil. I did not see it coming, but in retrospect it totally makes sense. ( )
  DanTarlin | Apr 9, 2016 |
Iain Banks is really a great writer. Like much of his other work, Use of Weapons is exciting and violent, intense and philosophical. It is the story of a man called Zakalwe, a mercenary agent for the benevolent managers of interstellar civilization, The Culture. Sent to various primitive planets to interfere with politics or lead armies, he seems to believe he is always acting for the good - but he also obviously has some deep trauma in his past. In alternating segments, we see the present and the past, learning more about the history of Zakalwe and the agent who recruited him, the woman Diziet Sma. The way the events are revealed is well-done, the effect powerful, shocking - and thought-provoking. Highly recommended. (Extra points for a great beheading scene!) ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
Possibly the best 'Culture' book I've read so far. This is the 4th Culture book I've read.
Really good story with an unexpected 'kick' at the end. Slowly making my way through the Culture series in publication order after reading [b:The Hydrogen Sonata|13497991|The Hydrogen Sonata (Culture, #10)|Iain M. Banks|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1340894566s/13497991.jpg|19042585] (Culture #10) first. ( )
  sundowneruk | Feb 2, 2016 |
Banks writes great space opera with smart allusions to present-day. His writing is very visually oriented. He describes not only what his characters are seeing, but also steps back and lets us see what a dispassionate observer might observe from a distance. "The Culture" shows us the dark side of what we are and what we could be if we were truly enlightened. It's grand and it's fun, but it gets a bit confusing. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
My second Culture book. Iain M. Banks is probably the most popular author of space opera still working today, and I love [b:Consider Phlebas|8935689|Consider Phlebas (Culture, #1)|Iain M. Banks|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51TrnvvDCLL._SL75_.jpg|14366], I found it gripping from beginning to end. Use of Weapons is often named—in forums and such—as the best book in this series (nine volumes published so far). With so many odds stacked in its favor what could go wrong? A portentous rhetorical question if ever there was one!

This is an interesting story about the life of the central character - Cheradenine Zakalwe (cool name), his trials and tribulations and his deep dark secrets. Some parts of it are quite humorous, especially anything scene involving a snarky drone (a robot to you Culture n00bs), my favorite jovial part is a scene about an "Injured Party" (that is so fudged up!). Most of the book is darker than the ace of spades though. What raises Banks above most sf authors is his literate prose style, many evocative passages here for the discerning readers. His character development skill is also second to none, even though the major characters are not necessarily likable, they are still fascinating and believable.

Unfortunately I find this book too clever by half, almost literally by half! The problem for me is the book's unusual structure, two alternating time lines, one moving conventionally forward and a flashback timeline that move backward (in chapter sequence that is, not people walking backward and spooning soup from their mouths into bowls). If you are going to read this book it is worth noting that the forward moving "present day" chapter numbers are shown in words (one, two etc.), the strangely backward flashback chapter numbers are in reverse order roman numerals (XIII, XII etc.). Forewarned is forearmed and I don't see how knowing this could possibly spoil the book for you. For me the book tend to grind to halt on the "flashback" chapters as their relation to previously read chapters only become apparent if you make the mental effort to rearrange the sequence in your head. For me it is too much exertion and plays hell with the sense of continuity. The most "relaxing" way to read this book is to not try to understand how each "roman numeral" chapters connect to the previous chapters you have read, just read them as you would read independent short stories, bearing in mind that the connection will become clear by the end of the book.

For me (I really want to stress the for me part) this book needs to be read twice for full appreciation, unfortunately while I quite like the book I am not so enamored of it that I would actually do that. I can almost rate this book at four stars, but I think 3.8 stars sounds about right. Given the prevailing consensus of opinion there is a very good chance that you will like it more than I do though, I can be a bit of a philistine sometime! ( )
  apatt | Dec 26, 2015 |
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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)
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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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 185723135X, Paperback)

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 or 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 burnt-out case. But not even its machine intelligence could see the horrors in his past.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:07 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Ferociously intelligent, both witty and horrific, this novel from Ian M. Banks, author of 'Consider Phlebas' and 'The player of Games', is science fiction at its best.

(summary from another edition)

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Orbit Books

2 editions of this book were published by Orbit Books.

Editions: 185723135X, 0316030570

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