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Inversions [Hardcover]

Iain M. Banks
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 Jun 1998

Iain M. Banks' previous science fiction novel, EXCESSION, was a SUNDAY TIMES hardback and paperback bestseller, and was published to enormous popular and critical acclaim. Without doubt one of the most daring, imaginative and compelling writers of his generation, his new science fiction novel will be a major event in the 1998 publishing calendar.

In the winter palace, the King's new physician has more enemies than she at first realises. But then she also has more remedies to hand than those who wish her ill can know about.

In another palace across the mountains, in the service of the regicidal Protector General, the chief bodyguard too has his enemies. He also has at least one person he cares for deeply and who cares for him, though neither can risk saying so.

Spiralling round a central core of secrecy, deceit, love and betrayal, two stories - linked more closely than even those involved can know - climb to a devastating climax.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit; First Edition edition (4 Jun 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857236262
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857236262
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 427,054 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Iain Banks came to widespread and controversial public notice with the publication of his first novel, THE WASP FACTORY, in 1984. He has since gained enormous popular and critical acclaim for both his mainstream and his science fiction novels.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Science fiction readers know that Iain Banks writes "respectable" novels (such as The Wasp Factory) while his alter ego Iain M. Banks produces equally well-written but often more playful sci-fi--most famously, the gaudy and galaxy- spanning Culture series. In Inversions, Banks is being tricky again. Besides extra moons in the sky and stories of devastating meteor showers that toppled a former Empire, this novel's squalid, preindustrial world seems to have no sci-fi elements. The two entwined stories feature a woman who becomes personal physician to one kingdom's absolute monarch, and the male bodyguard of a rival and more "progressive" country's Cromwell-like Protector. Both protagonists are mysterious outsiders from farther away than the King or Protector can ever imagine. Readers of Banks's other science fiction will spot the clues to their origins. Others may be slightly puzzled, especially by a seeming miracle which intervenes when the doctor faces torture--but can still enjoy the elegant narrative reversals, reflections and echoes. There are also generous helpings of blood, violence, poisoning, ingenious deceits and high excitement, spiced with political philosophy. Banks continues his pleasant habit of never repeating himself. --David Langford


A fantastic, awe-inspiring book ... I can't imagine anyone not being won over by this deeply entertaining, thought-provoking and humane story (EXPRESS)

Taut, hilarious and wicked (MAIL ON SUNDAY)

Compulsive Banksian reading ... thoughtful, intelligently bloody stuff (SFX)

Captivating ... incisive ... as sublime as ever (TIME OUT)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
47 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not for the idle brain 10 Sep 2002
By A Customer
I've read a lot of the Iain Banks' novels but this was my introduction to the *M* and thus his Sci Fi. And yes - I was a bit confused. I liked the story but now - having read more of his Culture novels - I like it much better. I would say that to get central points, and not just plot wise, you would have to be at least familiar with the Culture.
The story works on its own level: We follow two people, cousins from a very distant place to where they are now. One is a doctor, one is a body guard. Both serve the rulers of almost medieval courts, although not in the same place and without being aware that they are in fact on the same planet. Their relationship is never fully revealed. Just like a lot of other aspects you have to work it out for yourself, but the clues are all there.
Certain parts of the plot are basically unexplained (and unsatisfactory) if you are not familiar with the Culture: How the doctor escapes from certain rape, torture and death, how a number of people are killed, how she vanishes and the origins of the Never Never Land that the body guard keep telling stories about.
Reading it for the first time I considered this a fantasy novel. Now it clearly belongs with the Culture novels: It compels you to be the judge of how a civilisation that considers itself superior should treat cultures on a much lower level. Do you interfere? Or do you leave it alone in the trust that its members will find their own way?
The doctor and the body guard disagree (and have done so since childhood). She believes in interference - and through her very subtle methods actually succeeds in making a better than average ruler a very good ruler (a symbol of this is his turning the torture chamber into a wine cellar!). The doctor basically tries to educate, to influence, to argue.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
I found the book engrossing and "got it" quite quickly, but it's obvious from other reviews that readers new to Banks were right there with Uelph in having no idea what was really going on. For example, how the Doctor was able to eavesdrop on conversations when she was nowhere near, how her enemies were bumped off, and how she was miraculously saved from rape and torture, were inexplicable to non-Culture fans. The story is about how two Contact agents of the Culture appear to occupants of a "primitive" planet - I think it's "Use of Weapons" that best explains what's going on here, but all the other Culture books will add to the background information you need to get the most out of this book.
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69 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars People, not things 27 Jan 2003
Plenty has been written here already about the storyline, and anyway in my view less is more when it comes to knowing the plot in advance.
What I look for in these reviews, and what I attempt to give back, is some clue as to whether I personally will enjoy the book. In this approach I end up saying why you might not like it. A reverse recommendation if you will. An inversion.
First off, Inversions is not a classic Culture novel. By classic, I am thinking of the novels of scale. A Player of Games springs to mind. It deals with the Culture on a macro level. We are privy to the bigger picture as the story is recounted. In fact, the storyline is merely a device to introducing to us the nature of the Culture as a whole. Storyline as tour guide.
Inversions does it differently. It deals with a subset. A story within a story, a personal account of what happened. We are not given the bigger picture, there is no macro level narrative. We have to fill in the blanks for ourselves. Such a story can only make complete sense if you know the Culture already.
The story does not fail if you are not Culture-wise, but without that wider understanding your view is blinkered.
Secondly, as mentioned above, this book is a personal account. Rather, it is two personal accounts. The focus is on the people, on the characters - this is pretty much an obvious consequence of such a narrow focus. It is a book about people not things.
As an aside I heard someone on the radio suggest that women like people and men like things. A bit generalised, but enough truth in it to be worth remembering. Inversions is a more feminine book.
So my second 'warning' is that you are not going to revel in GSV's, Superlifters and Plates. Even less Minds, CAM and tightbeam transmissions.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read Some Others First! 2 Feb 2009
This is a beautiful and poignant book, but much more so if you have read any of 'The Culture' series of books!

Unlike the other Culture books this doesn't say 'A Culture Novel' on the front and in fact the Culture is never mentioned explicitly. The novel hangs together without knowing anything about The Culture, but if you know that the two main characters are in fact from The Culture (one as a drop-out ex-Culture citizen 'going native' and one as a SC agent) then you'll get alot more from the novel.

The stories at one stage explains how one of the characters would prefer not to interfere with a blossoming civilisation and how one would indeed interfere directly to try and save lives and help people. As the novel progresses each ends up using the others ideal method (hence the title).

This is a wonderful read, up to Iain M Banks usual very high standard, but if you're new to Iain M Banks start with another novel - without a doubt the best to start with is actually his newest, Matter!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Not very Cultured.
One of the less dramatic.of the Culture series, and barely any culture is present save the two. But a puller of heart strings; fail to love Fossil angular stone; fail to rejoice in... Read more
Published 19 days ago by Contact
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 29 days ago by A. P. Buckland
5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting tale of Culture intervening in less developed...
I have read all of Iain M Banks books, and I read Inversions the year after it was first published in 1999, and it has stayed with me ever since.

This is a Culture book. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Sally Ann Melia
5.0 out of 5 stars Love the Culture
Iain M Banks passed away earlier this year , leaving a massive void in the British Science Fiction community. Read more
Published 5 months ago by E Rogers
1.0 out of 5 stars Socialist Tedium
This book begins with humanist, contradictory nonsense on the first pages, and is based on the notion that nonsense Marxist, Socialist ideas are the inevitable and best future. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Kublai
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great book
I can never fault the authors culture books and it's sad there will be no more. If you have not read any of he's books before, these are hi tec sci-fi books with deep and twisting... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Texxy
5.0 out of 5 stars book
My son loves these books written by Iain M Banks, So there was not doubt that it was well received.
Published 13 months ago by Mrs. L. Walker
5.0 out of 5 stars the best of ian M and the culture
as a long time fan of Ians work in both scifi and classic this is my favourite of all his culture novels and gets re-read over and over. Read more
Published 14 months ago by katy
5.0 out of 5 stars Clever and enjoyable
As a fan on the Culture series, I enjoyed this new book, which writes of an encounter with Special Circumstances written from the perspective of uncomprehending natives. Read more
Published 15 months ago by EJ
4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth a second read
As a fan of the culture series, I was slightly disappointed on first read, but bear with it, the story is an engrossing narrative that leads the reader to make their own... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Max Davis
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