This is a blog with spoiler free reviews. Most will be Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, but there will be some books in other genres, including the occasional Non-Fiction review. There is an ongoing series of Cover Reveal Round-Ups, and sometimes I'll write an article on something that interests me.

23 January, 2012


Cover design: Blacksheep


ISBN: 978-1-85723-135-9
Pages: 411
Publisher: Orbit
First published: 13 September 1990
This edition published: 26 March 1992

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.

   This is the third in the series of Culture novels. And as the others this is technically a stand alone novel. Even though I came late to Banks' Culture and am reading them in publication order, I find it refreshing that he has chosen to not make an endless series, but instead tells different stories set in the same universe.
   There is a steady trickle of information about the Culture here, and reading them in order will give you a feeling that the world(/universe) is growing, much like you would get in a Fantasy novel when the characters travel to different areas of the map.

   This time we get the story of "super-spy" Cheradenine Zakalwe, a character it is very easy to write off a "outer space James Bond". Comparisons to Bond are almost inevitable, and I noted it myself, but I felt that this was a much more realistic portrayal of such an agent. And there certainly is much more to Zakalwe than just being a Bond clone.

   Banks actually give us two stories in this novel, the main linear plot and a side-plot consisting of the story of Zakalwe. These two narratives work very well together, instead of taking attention away from each other they serve to give more depth, and the "B-story" doesn't feel like it is thrown in to increase the page-count, as is sometime the case.
   Both plots keep building up suspense as they progress, and this keeps up the level of suspense as you are reading. And you are rewarded with a reveal that, to me at least, was pretty mind-blowing.

   All in all this is a great book. Both the characters and the story is very interesting and the Culture setting just gets better the more you read about it. I can see the reason that Banks is hailed by many as the master of Space Opera.
   This is a great book for fans of Science Fiction, and the Culture series makes a good start to written SF for those who like SF movies but have never gotten around to reading Science Fiction.

Reviews: Consider Phlebas  The Player of Games

Links: Iain M. Banks  Orbit

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