Saturday, March 24, 2012

Use of Weapons

Title: Use of Weapons
Author: Iain M. Banks
Series: Culture, book 3
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 1990

Recommendation: Yes, read it. Really. It's worth it.
Rating: 8.5/10

Summary: Cheradenine Zakalawe is an agent of the Culture who is sent to various planets to use his military genius to turn the tide of events on those planets in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. He wins his wars and escapes alive, but his past will not stop haunting him.

Reactions: This book's main character has been nominated as the most interesting SF hero in science fiction by Fantasy Book Critic. And I can't disagree with this; Cheradenine is unique in his experiences and in his problems, and there's a surprising depth to him that the whole book revolves around. The supporting cast is good too, but Cheradenine mostly outshines them in the novel.

The most difficult part of the book is it's structure. It's written in a very fragmented way where each chapter is part of Cheradenine's story, but not consecutive in time. The story telling weaves all over the place and Banks really makes the reader work to keep up with narrative. The way the story is structured is both irritating and brilliant at the same time. The style really works as a complement to Cheradenine's personality and story, but as a reader having to be plunged into completely different places and times without much of a timeline is exhausting. I still really enjoyed it though.

I had no trouble finishing this book, it kept me interested throughout and getting to the very end was absolutely worth it with a twist at the end of it that makes a lot of sense once you think about it, but I didn't consciously see coming earlier in the book.

Banks is a top notch writer and the fact that he was able to pull-off a book this complicated in structure is quite an achievement. His writing is excellent too and despite being a part of a series, the book can be read as a standalone. It's just part of the same universe as the previous books and I would say probably my favorite of his so far (even though I enjoyed The Player of Games quite a bit too). I definitely recommend it.


  1. For some reason this book really didn't do it for me when I read it a while ago. Not only did I see the final twist coming from miles away, IIRC it also suffered from opponents that were to cut-out with too little agency and motivation of their own - one of my main problem with Ian M. Banks' books. Glad you enjoyed it though and I'll probably give Player of Games a shot eventually when I have forgotten how unhappy I was with the other Culture novels.

    1. Player of Games was one of the books where I did see the twist coming, but it didn't really matter since I feel much more character focused when I read and the main character in Player of Games changes quite a bit through the book which is what made it interesting for me. Plus, he plays strategy games!! :)

      I didn't really notice the opponents being too stock -- I guess you could say that about some of the wars he fights, but I felt that didn't matter as much as the journey itself.