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on 3 May 2017
As others have said, it's a "Culture" book purely in the setting.
If you'd never read a Culture book before, this reads as a fantasy novel - a good one - but the Culture is only there in the background and one particular moment.

I enjoyed it, but it wasn't quite what I imagined.

Someone else mentioned this is Culture on a micro-level; seeing how Special Circumstances do their thing. It's not a galactic space opera like Excession.
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on 19 September 2017
I'm a huge Iain Banks fan. I love when he has the 'M' to signify the Sci Fi side of things. The Culture novels are an epic read and I have been slowly purchasing them over a couple of years, rationing myself as there is a finite supply of them since his sad passing.. For me, they are the standard by which other books are judged.
Inversions is a Culture story in the very faintest way possible. It is more to do with a medieval type society than huge spaceships whizzing around but there are subtle hints at greater things happening. A slow story but enjoyable none the less.
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on 6 August 2008
This unlike other books written in the sci-fi universe of the Culture does not say 'a culture book' on the front cover. This is probably because if you get it looking for more descriptions of super high-tech weapons and equipment you'll come away sorely disappointed. There are none. None!

The story is about two well placed individuals who it becomes clear are attempting to subtly trying to interfere with a worlds politics and history by respectively healing (the doctor) and protecting (the bodyguard) their respective patrons. Indeed, the chapters are named either 'the doctor' or 'the bodyguard' letting you know who we're focused on. There are a few moments where technology or its presence is hinted at and implied but there is not a single description of anything counting as high technology and you'll only recognise the hints if you've read the other Culture books.

This is a fine story but its more fantasy than sci-fi and the ending leaves a little to be desired. An epilogue about the two agents set in the Culture proper would have been nice but does not appear. If you really love the books of the Culture you'll probably want to get this, too but its the black sheep of the Culture books and lots of what people read those books for is entirely missing from this book.

I'll give it 4 stars because its good, on its own terms and certainly not boring, I came to care what happened to the king, the protector and those around them but its just not a regular culture book. If you've read; 'consider phlebas', 'the player of games', 'use of weapons', 'excession', 'look to windward' and 'matter' ('state of the art' too if you like short stories) and still want more, then go ahead and read it. Since the Culture is such a utopia its been said that stories within it would be dull and so the stories have been about people outside its boundaries or on the fringes of its society, an enemy of it in 'consider phlebas' and a mercenary in 'use of weapons'. This for me, was a bit too far from the comfort of an orbital and a sentient starship.
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on 3 October 2015
I can't get enough of Iain M Bank's "Culture Series". It's such brilliant mixture of space opera, philosophy and "hard science" extrapolated all rolled into a captivating story, that for me it is "unput downable". I like the whole series very much! They do not need to be read in sequence, the context of "the Culture" will sort of gradually seep int your consciousness and be the backdrop to the story. And he's quite sarcastic and funny too at times!
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on 11 April 2012
Whilst I have been a huge admirer of Iain M. Banks' books since I first bought a copy of Consider Phlebas back in 1988 whilst on a business trip to Sheffield, I didn't buy Inversions when it first came out. I suppose the main reason was that I didn't really fancy the blurb on the sleeve of the book, especially since my love of Banks' work stems mostly from a love of space opera. And Inversions does not fall into this particular pigeon hole - at all.

However, now that I have my new Kindle, I decided to check out Inversions, and whilst it is far from my favourite Banks work, it is certainly an intriguing novel in that it poses far more questions than it answers. The two protagonists just might be Culture agents planted in a pre-industrial civilisation, but then again they might not. The dagger carried by one of the characters might be a Culture knife missile, but then again it might not... and so on. As all these hints and clues as to the identity of the protagonists pile up, I found that I really needed to get to the end of the book to find the answers, and I was more than a little dismayed when none are offered. We even get an alternative ending for one of the story threads to muddy the water even more. This means that rather than be entertained, I felt I was being teased.

This means that the reader has to work with the writer and provide his or her own answers. In this sense Inversions works more like a poem than a novel in that the reader has to provide his or her own interpretation of the narrative.

Banks has readily admitted in the past that he actually does write many short stories, but most of them get incorporated into his novels. Inversions is an obvious case in point. It is clearly two novelettes that have been generously padded out to novella length and then intertwined to form a twin-viewpointed novel. I say "padded" advisedly because there are many scenes that simply do not push the plot forward or develop any of the characters. Having said that though, the character of Vossil (another remarkable Banks Babe in the strong, intelligent and ultra-feminine tradition of Perostek Balveda, Diziet Sma, Sharrow, Lededje Y'breq etc.) remains one of Banks' most sympathetic and three-dimensional characters to date. It is just frustrating that we never learn of her ultimate fate.

Shortcomings aside, Inversions is written in two very distinct styles and contains some of Banks' best and most polished prose. It's just a pity that it doesn't have the depth of plotting and the long list of sharply drawn characters that are contained in Banks' other works.
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on 16 March 2012
This is certainly not the typical Iain M Banks culture novel - but then having read all of the novels it's quite clear that one of the defining things about the culture novels is that they defy simple definition. Each is really quite different, and that's one thing which makes the entire series so brilliant. Some present a wide view of the whole culture universe, whereas others present a microscopic snapshot.

A recurring theme in the novels is the tension the culture perceives over the decision whether to intervene in the affairs of less-advanced civilisations. This novel is at the extreme end of the 'microscopic' spectrum, and where as other novels discuss such an intervention from the culture's birds-eye perspective, this novel details a culture intervention from the viewpoint of the civilisation on the receiving end, who are mostly unaware it is even taking place - and it's a very subtle intervention at that.

So this novel is the most restricted of all of them, containing only the barest of allusions to the culture universe itself. That said, it's wonderfully well written, and thoroughly entertaining read - but you'll still get more out of it if you read one or two of the other novels first. Otherwise you're likely to feel frustrated that you're missing some of the context which is hinted at throughout the novel. I'd recommend Look to Windward or The Player of Games as a starting point.
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on 2 June 2013
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. On one level this is a story of intrigue and survival in a world that has technology and social development roughly equating to 16th century Europe. On another level it asks questions about the nature an potential for more economically and technologically advanced societies to influence more 'primitive' ones. So it's a thoughtful book, but also a good read.
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on 1 August 2017
Iain M Banks - what more can one say ? Utterly superb. Just take notes while you read it - they will come in handy later on.
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on 14 February 2015
I really liked this book, even though it is the first time I am reading from Banks. After finishing the book I allowed myself to read about it (not before as to avoid spoilers) and learned that it's a book from the Culture series. So I did not get the Culture references and some parts of the story did not make perfect sense. But I am not decreasing any stars, as it is my ignorance. I will read more from Culture and return to this book.
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on 27 May 2017
Not his finest imho but another great book from Banks. A lovely story on a much smaller scale than other culture novels but with regular hints and references to his greater galaxy.
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