Against a Dark Background
Sharrow was once the leader of a personality-attuned combat team in one of the sporadic little commercial wars in the civilisation based around the planet Golter. Now she is hunted by the Huhsz, a religious cult which believes that she is the last obstacle before the faith's apotheosis, and her only hope of escape is to find the last of the apocalyptically powerful Lazy Gu...more
Banks isn't writing a cheesy adventure story; he's not creating a science fiction galaxy for entertainment purposes; he's not playing around at all. He's offering us a warning of what's to come if we keep moving the way we are. He presents a galaxy full of technological wonders where thermonuclear war is tactical and a part of regular business, a gala ...more
The central character of Against a Dark Background is Sharrow, a noble in a distant future star system. Sharrow is the sworn ...more
• Convoluted, non-linear exposition: ✓
It's an Iain Banks. Enough said.
• Weird takes on religion: ✓
He's so imaginative at this game. I loved the church who hate God, and insult Him instead of praying to Him. Almost as much fun as Luskentyrianism in Whit.
• Badass heroine: ✓
Lady Sharrow could take on Lara Croft and Modesty Blaise together with one hand tied behind her bac ...more
Banks makes up worlds, concepts, laws, forms of life, cultures and societies, he gives them all names and it all seems so natural. How splendid is that.
First and foremost, it's an action novel with frustratingly opaque descriptions of the action. It reminded me of C ...more
2020 reread: I liked it less on this reread -- but it's still an I ...more
While this is one of Banks' science fiction novels, it isn't part of his Culture series. This is a great little space opera/heist adventure/action extravagan ...more
• Fun science fiction "heist" story. My friend likened it to Neuromancer ("...but only because of they're both science fiction heist stories") but I thought it was more like The Sting with lasers.
• It's Banks, but it's not a "Culture" novel. I haven't read enough of his Culture novels to know if this is a good thing or not. Golter (the main planet in the story) is said in the text to be more/less "orphaned" -- as though it's simply too far fo ...more
I generally don't pay much attention to those back cover blurbs praising (or in the memorable case of Banks' The Wasp Factory, decrying) a book I'm reading, but this quote really stuck with me after reading Against a Dark Background. While I wouldn't necessarily call it darker than, say, Consider Phlebas, the dramatic shifts in tone Banks takes you through in this book were for me truly disarming. It's a book tha ...more
This is a non-culture science fiction book, dealing with an isolated solar system that is not ours. There have been cycles of great technological advance and descents into barbarism. That serves as an excuse to introduce advanced technology in a magic-like way, so that the story reads more like fantasy than the usual Banks science fiction.
The biggest problem with this book, a ...more
What a train wreck this novel is. It started out very strong, and then fell apart over and over again for the next ~550 pages or so. It had a few moments of brilliance, and some really great ideas (the solipsists especially were fantastic), but it just went on and on and on with diversions and then ended, never adequately pulling itself together.
If you're thinking of reading this, don't. Instead ...more
There are loads of technical quibbles I could make. (Flashbacks that are out of order, flashbacks that serve no purpose, people who randomly shift between being major and minor characters, cool characters that don't seem to serve any role, prominent SF ...more
The plot revolves around Lady Sharrow and her hunt for the last remaining Lazy Gun, the only weapon ever invented that demonstr ...more
Although packed full of Banks' trademark huge ideas, this non-Culture novel fell entirely flat for me. I think it was that the pacing of the book was entirely wrong and it just felt plodding. Despite the fact that Sharrow was constantly on the run and being hunted, there was no sense ...more
All sorts of intriguing plot points are set up, such as the fact that Sharrow, the heroine, underwent a procedure to create a sort of psychic bond between herself and her military unit. Cool! Except that the nature of the bond is never made clear, and nothing in particular comes of it. This sets the tone for the whole book: neat ideas that are introduced, then neve ...more
I'd forgotten just how good this book was. A great and thrilling adventure with some superb world-building. It's easy to forget that Banks' SF output wasn't all just about the Culture, and I'd definitely class this as one of his finest works. I can see why he chose to write this one outside of the Culture, using aristocracy in place of utopianism gave the characters a necessary privilege, and the Lazy Gun stinks of Douglas Adams, which isn't really suitable for ...more
Conclusion: I wouldn't recommend to read this story before the sleep - the book would last forever)))
"Regret is for humans," it said.1993's Against a Dark Background is a good, fat book—possibly the longest single work in Banks' science-fictional oeuvre, and one of the earlier novels credited to Banks-with-the-M. The particular copy I read came to me much more recently, though, from a Little Free Library kiosk very close to my house, and I'm kind of glad I came across this one only after having read a fair number of other Iain M. Banks novels. There's a lot going on here, and while this i ...more
The ultimate failure of a book is when I can't finish it. I'm at page 330 of 600, and I fully expect to never make it to the end. In short, I'm just not interested. The characters are BLAH. In one of the main protagonist's opening scenes, she beats on a guy with whom she'd been having some sort of love affair who also has no chance of defen ...more
|What's the Name o...: SOLVED. Adult Sci-Fi book. Woman searching for rare book, Help from a robot/android who had a steam car. Spoiler ahead. [s]||15||791||Sep 06, 2020 01:54PM|
|Iain Banks / Iain...: Against a Dark Background||1||19||Aug 14, 2012 01:08AM|
Banks's father was an officer in the Admiralty and his mother was once a professional ice skater. Iain Banks was educated at the University of Stirling where he studied English Literature, Philosophy and Psychology. He moved to London and lived in the south of England until 1988 when he returned to Scotland, li ...more