Princessjay's Reviews > Use of Weapons

Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks
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May 08, 12

bookshelves: sci-fi-fantasy
Read from May 01 to 06, 2012

3.5 STARS rounded to FOUR STARS

A book with two story-lines, one of the past, proceeding backwards, one of the present, proceeding forward, with prologue and epilogue both of the future.

Hm. Not sure how I feel about this one.

On the one hand, it is excellently written. Mr. Banks possesses literary flair -- a noteworthy quality for SF. In Zakalwe he created an interesting character: tactically brilliant, self-possessed, apparently able to slide easily into a multitude of different cultures to assume the leadership position... tortured, terrified, throwing his mind and body through bouts of self-punishment for a Mysterious Reason.

On the other hand... it verges on too much. The over-complicated structure to tell what is fundamentally a fairly simple story. The multiple meanings of the title. Do you get it? Do you get it? Yes, I do. The impact of war and the need to win on the human psyche. Cycles repeating. The Culture not as benign as it believes itself to be.

But ultimately, what of it? Was this then, merely an illustration of the human condition, or rather, Zakalwe's condition? Is the point, jealousy/war/need to win = bad? That the western liberal perspective can only lead to hypocrisy?

As with THE PLAYER OF GAMES, I find myself strangely unmoved. Despite its undoubted literary quality, SF-nal inventiveness, this novel is neither an exhilarating space operatic adventure nor a thorough exploration into the philosophical /moral implication of this universe nor even the depth of one man's twisted psyche. Its after-taste is ... flat, kind of tepid.

Nevertheless, excellently written, and definitely worth a read. The highlights are very high indeed. Recommended.
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