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Use Of Weapons (The Culture) Paperback – 26 Mar 1992


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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit; New Ed edition (26 Mar. 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 185723135X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857231359
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.7 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (144 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 20,708 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.

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Review

There is now no British SF writer to whose work I look forward with greater keenness (THE TIMES)

In many ways his best yet... rich, vivid and great fun. (VECTOR)

To say that Banks is Britain's best writer of science fiction would be to understate the case. He's simply one of our best novelists, whatever the genre. Read him (BOOK PEOPLE)

At last SF as it should be written!... If you aren't as yet familiar with these works I urge you to become so at your earliest opportunity. (CRITICAL WAVE)

Book Description

A Culture novel from a modern master of science fiction - a tour de force of brilliant storytelling, world-building and imagination --This text refers to the Perfect Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A. Whitehead TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 24 April 2009
Format: Paperback
Cheradenine Zakalwe is a (non-Culture-born) agent in Special Circumstances, skilled in steering less-developed planets towards the path that the Culture thinks is best for them. Unlike most SC agents, Zakalwe's speciality is fighting and the use of weapons in both prosecuting wars, and averting conflicts. His handler is SC agent Diziet Sma who, along with her drone companion Skaffen-Amtiskaw, has to set out to locate Zakalwe when his abilities are needed again.

I've read enough of Iain Banks' other work to be able to say that Use of Weapons is almost certainly his masterpiece, which is really saying something compared to the high quality of his other novels. In this book everything just works. The characters are sublimely handled, with Banks immersing you in their lives to the point where you stop thinking of them as characters and instead accept them as people. The structure of the story is inventive without over-relishing its own cleverness. The chapters alternate between a forward-moving story about Diziet tracking down Zakalwe for a new mission, and how that mission unfolds, and a backwards-moving one as we follow Zakalwe's story back to his youth. Just to shake things up, both narratives also feature flashbacks to earlier events as well. The structure could have confusingly imploded in on itself (and earlier drafts stretching back fifteen years before it was published are apparently far more complex), but in the published book it works effortlessly. The storylines may be moving in different directions and feel dislocated from one another, but they collide with impressive force at the end of the novel in a stunning final chapter.
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48 of 51 people found the following review helpful By D. MacQueen on 17 Sept. 2007
Format: Paperback
Dark, complex, full of twists, featuring unlikeable characters in almost unremittingly bleak circumstances. Great.

Do you like heroes? Plots where good and evil are easily distinguished? Straightforward, linear narratives? That's not here.

The book is like Marmite - there are those that loved it and those that hated it. The reviews from those that hated it make the same complains - basically the reasons I list for it being a great book in the first sentence.

If that sounds like your cup of tea, buy the book, it is the best of its kind. If it's not your thing, don't buy it, it's the worst of its kind.

Personally I think it's Banks' best.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Simon Whild on 12 April 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
I've read this book three times - the last time only a few years ago. I think it is Banks' richest Culture novel, but perversely, the least approachable at first, simply due to its apparently bizarre structuring. The first time I read the book, I read it in traditional linear fashion from front to back, but because one story line goes forward and the other backwards, this soon gets confusing, especially with all the mid-chapter flashbacks. After finishing the book for the first time, I found myself wondering "What the hell was that all about?" Flash forward a few years to when I had just moved house, and as I was unpacking my books, Use of Weapons lay there at the top of a pile of other books, sneering at me, goading me to read it again. So I did. The result was one of the best novels I've ever read - it took me many years to get that sort of payload out of it, but it was well worth the wait.

I suppose this sort of book, like a lot of so-called literary fiction, takes some work before it clicks. The subconscious has to have time to piece together the "fragmentary wholeness" and realise the author's true intent. The experience for me on that third and final read was like seeing a jumble of light and colours coming rapidly into focus to form a beautiful picture, or seeing a great painting emerge from one of Rolf Harris' wall-sized paintings done with decorating brushes on his TV show circa 1968 or so.

You don't merely read Use of Weapons - you work with it. Like a lot of art that is Modernist inspired, you have to think about this one, otherwise it seems just a load of disjointed nonsense with the odd exciting scene or two.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on 7 Mar. 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Many other reviews of 'Use of Weapons' will hint at its parallel linear/reverse linear narrative, the nature and occupation of the complex and not-very-nice Mr Zakalwe, the beautifully painted Culture, and the terrific hat joke, but I think they miss the visceral nature of the book.
There's a page thumbed down in my much-read edition that describes the origin and nature of a certain chair - the central metaphor of the book. Even as I write about it, my hackles are starting to rise at the thought of what this character did. And yet I liked him, loved the Culture and are lost in awe at Mr Banks' grasp of his art.
There are very few science fiction books that stand up as good literature - this is certainly one of them. Even though I had nightmares for weeks, thank you Iain, for this and for Consider Phlebas (PS I >hated< 'Canal Dreams').
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