- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: Orbit; First Edition edition (4 Jun. 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1857236262
- ISBN-13: 978-1857236262
- Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 3.2 x 24.1 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 275,024 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Inversions Hardcover – 4 Jun 1998
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
The characters were engaging but the plot unfurled very slowly and, to begin with, rather aimlessly. It wasn't until the murder of Duke Walen that the story gained some direction and became a more compelling read. But I was still left with many questions unanswered once I'd finished. DeWar's tale seemed plain enough, but Doctor Vosill remained perplexing. I did feel a little shortchanged that the murders in her story weren't effectively solved when so much detail was given to their circumstances. Especially her interest in the dark bird by the window of the room Duke Walen was murdered in. What the hell was significant about that!!! Imagine an episode of Johnathan Creek where the story ends with Johnathan scratching his head and exclaiming "damned if I know!" In my experience Banks usually leaves it till the last minute to explain the plot, but this story didn't seem quite finished and I hadn't expected to be pushed into drawing my own conclusions in a Kafka-esque style.
I don't believe the other reviews give DeWars yarn much credit. I reckon DeWar and Perrunds relationship had more bite to it than the repressed love triangle between Oelph, Vosill and Quience. Vosill only appears fallible on one occasion, the rest of the time she is a rather remote figure. DeWar seemed more human and worked with Perrund on an equal footing.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very well written and interesting tale of a low tech society being influenced by undercover members of a high tech one. Read morePublished 3 days ago by Disco stu
Fairly flimsy connection to Culture universe. Divergent story threads that hint at eventual resolution but simply peter outPublished 2 months ago by johnny omahony
Just the possibility of Culture interference is enough to keep you reading to the end. Good tales from both ends of the realm!Published 4 months ago by davidsensei
Two love stories, a whodunnit, whatdunnit, try and work out what's real in this marvellous tale. I highly recommend it.Published 5 months ago by biggest
I'm blinkered - for me Banks' Culture novels are the work of a genius. I have read this one 3 times and am 1/3 rd through my 4th reading. Read morePublished 7 months ago by baguasrr
It has taken me a while to decide what it is exactly I don't like about this book, but I think now that I see it: This book started out originally as two unrelated novellas that... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Julia
A thoroughly engrossing read. As different from previous books in the series as it could be. But superbly written and wonderful fun to decipher.Published 15 months ago by Mrs. S.
No one here seems to have pointed out that this book makes no sense at all. If it was a standalone fantasy book then OK, but it is supposed to take place in the culture universe... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Aidan M