9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This review is from: Inversions (Paperback)
I've read a couple of Iain Banks' novels and, being a sci fi fan, was looking forward to sampling his sci fi fare. Inversions left me confused, on many counts, not least being quite where the science was. The Doctor seemed to be a practitioner of empirical method in the corrupt politics of a medieval court (a la William of Baskerville in The Name Of The Rose), but otherwise it seemed to be nothing more than a tour of feudal politics.
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. I thought their relationship was more interesting than Oelph's constant "yes mistress" answers to Vosill. Furthermore, I'd venture that Vosill was the only member of the Culture, though I haven't read the other novels and may well have missed some obvious references. Vosill was always aware of events surrounding her and seemed enigmatically assured in all of them. DeWar simply got overtaken by his circumstances and had none of the mysterious 'magic' that seemed freely available to the Doctor.
Judging by the other reviews of this book I'll find all the answers I want in his other 'Culture' novels (I think I've got the gist of it now). This is reassuring since I could see several sleepless ahead of me trying to figure this one out (I think everyone in the office is sick of me banging on about this already).
All in all, a pretty good read. If I hadn't read these reviews, and found out about the Culture, I wouldn't have been compelled to read any of Banks' other sci fi novels. As it is, I'm intrigued ...