Friday, October 16, 2009

Book: Iain M. Banks' "Use Of Weapons"

I don't often give authors more than one chance to grab me. If their first book doesn't meet my expectations, they go to the bottom of my list. I make few exceptions and, for some reason, I gave Iain M. Banks three chances. I'm glad I did.

I've posted about the other two Banks books here and here. Neither of these really wowed me but I am intrigued by the universe Banks has created. My third Culture book, "Use of Weapons", added to this universe and did it in an interesting way that captivated me.

The book follows the life of Cheradenine Zakalwe, an agent for the Culture Special Circumstances. The book is organised into two story streams. One takes place in the present (the Present of the book, not our present) and the other expands on Zakalwe's history. At first I was confused. The second stream follows his history in reverse. Both streams have different chapter numbers and the second stream's chapters are numbered in reverse so I should have seen it coming but the first four or five chapters confused me. As I got more into it, things finally clicked into place and the story sucked me in.

Zakalwe, recruited by the culture to 'influence' primitive world's social evolution, often by starting or ending wars, is the first interesting Banks character I've read. As I read on, I wanted to know more about him and frankly, I liked him. He is brash, unscrupulous, and effective at what he does. A sort of an heroic anti-hero. Unlike the protagonists of the other two Banks books I've read, Zakalwe is well written and interesting.

The book ends with a twist. I suppose it was telegraphed but I was so engrossed that I missed it and was caught somewhat by surprise - pleasantly so. I won't say what it is, don't want to ruin it for anyone, but it fits.

Banks has earned the right to stay on my list. I will be reading more of his books. Recommended.

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