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on 15 August 2000
If there is a problem with 'Inversions' it is that it is definitely NOT a stand alone piece. Instead it is more of an interesting postscript to the 'culture' novels. That said it is a compelling read in its own right, but the entire point of the story is only really accessible if you have read his other SF. Banks is clearly having some fun, trying to work in a fantasy setting and trying to produce a more relaxed, restrained novel than much of his output. He succeeds, but for readers new to Banks this will seem boring and vaguely incomprehensible.
I cannot reiterate enough the need to read other Banks novels before this one if you are to fully appreciate its subtle charms. Secretly Inversions is about duty, loyalty and love. Not every SF book needs hard science or explosions to make it worthwhile.
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on 8 July 2002
I don't understand why Banks wrote this novel in the way he did, or even the point of writing it. Usually, Banks writes books with characters who display depth in plots that are multi-layered and thought-provoking. This book goes nowhere and says nothing. It's a book without a plot and without direction - the kind of stream-of-consciousness writing one associates with a bright but immature adolescent.
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on 19 January 2017
Very well written and interesting tale of a low tech society being influenced by undercover members of a high tech one. Written from the perspective of a couple of members of the former. Don't expect lazers, spaceships, robots and wormholes (if you want those read excision the previous book in the series... which packed with all of the above and is freaking awesome 5**) but none the less this is a very engaging read.
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on 17 October 2015
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 and that's where the problem lies. You would never find anything like medieval Europe popping up on another planet in a universe that is supposed to be our own just 10 thousand or whatever years in the future. It just could not be. And yet the book is full of references to string quartets, hunting, wrestling, daggers, swords, canons, musket powder and a million other things that are particlar to a small section and period of our own planet would never have developed on another planet, or at least not all of them in the exact same way to produce a carbon copy of medieval europe. It is totally lacking in imagination (something that is normally Bank's strong point) and has a negative impact on the culture series as a whole. To be avoided, or enjoyed solely as a fantasy novel, but then alas it makes no sense either due to the culture elements within. Three stars however for being a well written enjoyable read.
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on 9 July 1999
This is my first Banks novel, and I read it more as a whim than anything else. It hooked me from the first page, and I roared through it - but I was left with a sense of and...now what? The first 350 pages seemed almost scene-setting, like the first book in a series. Then things started happening, and you feel let down, and confused. How did the torturers die? Who are these people - what are there backgrounds? Why did xy and z happen? Motivation anyone? The book was well written, with a pleasant style, but I ended feeling like the author hadn't fully let us in on what was going on, or that he didn't know. Mysterious central characters and flying daggers may be familiar to hard core Banks readers but they just left me thinking I won't bother again.
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on 20 October 1999
The setting, not sci-fi at all, and the stories, do not make it much interesting. I read other books by Iain M. Banks, so i could understand the tricks and the truths behind the story, however nothing really happens, the two characters never meet, and they never reveal themselves, which is a bit disappointing. Probably the author, in order to surprise us, did not provide any surprise, but it was a bit disappointing, as i said.
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on 22 April 1999
'Inversions' is a Culture novel. There, I've said it, spoiled the whole novel for you.
Not really, I haven't. If you are a longtime fan of Banks' Culture universe then the tell-tale signs are all present. If you've never read a Banks novel (SF or otherwise) then this is very fine introduction indeed.
This is more of an historical novel than anything. Iain 'H' Banks, you might say. It is set on a primitive planet, where two individuals in different countries are influencing those in power through various means.
They are in fact members of Special Circumstances, an elite portion of the Culture that involves itself with contacting and 'helping' civilisations more primitive than themselves.
Although this is less of a Culture book than his others, and the least SF of all his SF novels, it is still a great read and Banks still manages to be more inventive than almost all other novelists at work in this or any other genre.
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on 9 April 2013
When I reached the end I remember thinking, and the point of that was...?

A pleasant enough read but pretty flimsy fair. Two short story ideas that together never made a coherent novel.

Disappointing.
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on 26 June 1999
This book is not what you immediately expect from Banks. It does not have the same feel as Consider Phlebas, or Feersum Endjinn. Like Feersum Endjinn however, he is moving away from the stylised and cliched SF stories that most SF-readers expect, and giving us something less accessible, and more subtle. I personally liked this book very much. It revolves around two stories about two characters, neither of whom fit in with their surroundings, and are (though this is implicit only) members of The Culture living amongst a less developed society. The science in what is otherwise a straight finction novel emerges from the interaction between these the advanced and less advanced characters. Their effect on the societies they live within are great, but unpredictable. These are the interesting factors in Banks' novel. If you are looking for Space Opera, I would recommend The Player of Games, otherwise, this is a fantastic read.
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on 30 January 2002
Some reviewers have said they couldn't put this down - I had trouble making myself pick it up!
Banks novels - particularly the SF ones - are usually bursting with original ideas. This novel has none and I found myself skimming great chunks just to get to the end. It's not that two stories are completely uninteresting but Banks takes far too long in the telling of these them (tales that would probably form a sub-plot in one of his other novels). Edited down by 100 pages or so it would probably make a decent novel.
As others have said this is more of a fantasy novel with a king a harem and squabbling barons and nobles it could almost be a historical novel but for that fact it is obviously set on another planet. It consists of two parallel tales which never overlap. While the story of the Doctor is the more satisfying the technique of telling it third hand via the doctors assistant doesn't quite come off. While the story of DeWar the bodyguard is particularly overstretched.
This is really for Banks completists only if you haven't read any of the 'M' books before start elsewhere - The Player of Game or Against A Dark Background. This is the only Banks book I have read where I felt I had completely wasted my time!
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