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Inversions

(Culture #6)

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  13,958 ratings  ·  539 reviews

In the winter palace, the King's new physician has more enemies than she at first realises. But then she also has more remedies to hand than those who wish her ill can know about.

In another palace across the mountains, in the service of the regicidal Protector General, the chief bodyguard, too, has his enemies. But his enemies strike more swiftly, and his means of combatin

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Kindle Edition, 393 pages
Published May 27th 1999 by Little, Brown Book Group (first published June 1998)
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Bill Wilson I've read 5 other Culture books, and now just finished this - you're right, it doesn't seem like a Culture universe book at all unless you are eagle e…moreI've read 5 other Culture books, and now just finished this - you're right, it doesn't seem like a Culture universe book at all unless you are eagle eyed for subtle references here and there. But other than a knowing wink, I don't see what value those references provide in understanding any other Culture book.(less)
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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Kevin Kelsey
I definitely understand those that see Inversions as an inferior Culture novel, but I absolutely disagree with them. This is a view of the Culture from below, through all kinds of obfuscation.

It’s definitely the most subtle of the Culture novels; so subtle that I think a lot of readers aren’t grasping the scope of what it's about. I would suggest only reading Inversions after having read a few other culture novels in close succession; it is very, very subtle but absolutely brilliant.

Told from th
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Brad
Nov 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I must preface my review with my surprise. I just took a look at the responses to this book from my goodreads friends and the star ratings are only fair to middling. It makes me wonder if my love for this book is, perhaps, a little misguided. Either that or I am a more discerning reader than everyone else. Yeah ... that's probably it ;) So here's my review:

Iain M. Banks' books are packed with big, way-out-there moments. Grandmas explode, people wake up in rooms full of shit, ships run intentiona
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mark monday
Still waters run deep within Inversions, concealing strange schemes and fierce ambitions, reservoirs of grief, questions on the nature of humanity, longings for death and for love. In terms of setting and scope, this is an intriguing outlier in the Culture series. Yet it has all of its masterful author's hallmarks: ironic and emotionally detached prose, an eye for the small thing symbolic of greater things, a fascination with systems of power and individual culpability, and an ease with ambiguit ...more
Bradley
Mar 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-shelf, sci-fi
Rather than focus on a grand scale space-opera, I think Banks wanted to dump us into a backwater gravity-well and let us have a sense of what it would be like to tour as a doctor, perhaps Culture trained, among the crude creatures of a Medieval period.

Mind you, I didn't quite pick up any definitive proof of actual Culture interference, mind you, because our PoV is actually from the apprentice to the good doctor who hailed from foreign parts, but I think the guess is a very good one, anyway. :)

So
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Luke Harris
Jun 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
*Spoilers* Banks' Culture series so far has been, what I will refer to as, hard sci-fi. Gargantuan megaships which house billions of people, immensely advanced Artificial Intelligences independently managing entire worlds, tiny drones with the ability to kill several people in a matter of seconds, Orbitals 3million kilometres in diameter, ships capable of travelling at hundreds of thousands of times the speed of light, tiny weapons with enormous destructive capabilities which can shrink down to ...more
Jamie
Oct 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Banks is in fine form, weaving a wonderfully somber tale full of personal discovery, tormented relationships and intrigue. Rather than a Culture sci-fi story as I was expecting, this has the feel of historical fiction, with a setting akin to war torn medieval Europe. There are only subtle hints of the Culture and really no sci-fi to speak of. The themes are some that recur frequently in the Culture series, focusing particularly on the human and emotional costs of war, self discovery, and especia ...more
Phoenixfalls
I have to say, first off, that every single review I saw of this book online (even ones as short as a single line) gives away something you are not supposed to know until the very end, if you figure it out at all. These details that they spoil are not exactly essential to the plot, but one was spoiled for me (and I think the novel lost some of its tautness as a result) and the one that was not spoiled I was very glad wasn't spoiled because it was a minor mystery I spent the first half of the nov ...more
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My favorite book by Iain [M] Banks, who is one of my absolute favorite authors. It's in his "Culture" series of novels, but that's only shown by a couple of minor details. It's fully a stand-alone novel - sci-fi with a fantasy feel to it. I stayed up late-late-late last night finishing this - it was a GREAT book. I was really impressed by the way all the little clues fit together... without giving it all away too soon!
Aerin
Inversions, like so many of Banks' books, is slippery. Every time I think I have a hold on it, it slithers out of my grasp. It's this element that keeps drawing me back in to the Culture series, as strange and frustrating as it often is. I keep trying different techniques to pin these books down, thinking at some point I will find the right angle from which to sneak up on them. I hope I never find it.

The plot of Inversions is fairly straightforward - the book is really two interweaved novellas
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Wanda
This book goes to show what a sophisticated writer Iain Banks was. I was looking forward to another Culture novel, but a few chapters in, I was confused. The tale is told as two intertwining stories, set in two rather mediaeval societies. There are no AI minds, no sentient space craft, no “Cultured" humanity swanning around. I set my misgivings aside and just enjoyed the interplay of the two tales, at least until I arrived at the final chapters.

Suddenly, things became clear. The stories that th
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Patrick Soares
This book is phenomenal.

Inversions is a very different approach to what one expects when reading a Culture novel: there's no spaceships, no Artificial Intelligences and no sci fi elements whatsoever. Because of this, Inversions is commonly regarded has one of the weakest entries in the Culture series, but personally, such assessement couldn't be further from the truth: Inversions stands on par with the rest of the series.

Actually I would go even further: Inversions is one of the strongest books
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Terry
Jul 11, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lori
Dec 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this so much. It's my last virgin read of A Culture book except for the short story collection, and I'm glad it was the last because I found it be the best kind of fairy tale. It actually has no direct mention of the Culture and takes place on your typical medieval fantasy world where women are secondary citizens. There are 2 separate stories taking place in different parts of the world, each one told in alternating chapters, but the narrator of one section tells us on the prologue they ...more
Ian
Jun 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although my edition lists this as Book 6 in the Culture series, I had left off reading it as even the author had described it as “A Culture novel that wasn’t.” As it turned out, I found it something of an unexpected treat. The author imagines an alien civilisation at a stage of development similar to medieval Eurasia, and the story is told via two narrators based within rival states, with the book structured in alternating chapters. There appears to be some covert interference from the Culture t ...more
Megan Baxter
Oct 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had major problems feeling connected to the last Culture novel I read, It felt like the author was holding things too close to his chest. Banks didn't seem to want to let us into his world very far, and so kept the door only open a crack. I am pleased to say that I felt no such sense of being on the outside in Inversions. This was much more welcoming, a more generous exploration of a world on the edge of being subtly interfered with.

Note: The rest of this review has been withheld due to the ch
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Kevin
May 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
It really comes to something to have read such a prolific author that could cover two unique styles of writing, or different genres , one working in a quite quirky, bizarre contemporary field and the other of being really off the cuff, space operatic sci-fi (and also at times totally thought provoking). Iain Banks really sometimes created a few gems of literature; one of his earlier novels 'The Bridge' woke me up with a start as that book was very deep and analogous to a mans coma and reliving h ...more
Laura
In this volume of Culture's series, the author gives a hint on historical fiction genre. Nice touch.

4* Consider Phlebas (Culture, #1)
4* The Player of Games (Culture, #2)
4* Use of Weapons (Culture, #3)
4* The State of the Art (Culture, #4)
4* Excession (Culture, #5)
4* Inversions (Culture, #6)
TR Look to Windward (Culture, #7)
TR Matter (Culture, #8)
TR Surface Detail (Culture #9)
TR The Hydrogen Sonata (Culture #10)
Kara Babcock
It has been too long since a visit to Iain M. Banks’ Culture universe. Inversions has really just made me want to go back and re-read the other novels now. And I may very well just do that this summer, because why not?

For those who aren’t familiar with the premise to this one: the Culture is not mentioned by name at all in Inversions. On its surface, this is a split narrative on a pre-industrial planet. Alternating chapters follow Vosill, foreign doctor to the King Quience of Haspidus, and DeWar
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Sumant
Jul 16, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, culture
Inversions although being a culture book is quite different from its predecessors because the book is setup in a medieval background, and throughout the book the culture lurks in the shadow. The story progresses through pov of two protagonist namely the doctor Vosell and the bodyguard Dewar. But the twist is that we are never given their direct pov but instead the narrator is Oelph who acts as an assistant to the doctor. The book keeps building to an exciting end, but the although the twist in t ...more
Jeremy Szal
This book confuses me.

Banks is a well-established name in the space opera genre. In the literary world, he's basically synonymous with modern galaxy-spanning stories featuring alien aliens, snarky drones, 50-kilometre spaceships with attitude, absurd tech, taking place in a far-flung, utopian universe that's only utopian because of some very un-utopian tactics used by space agents. Banks literally has the universe in his fingertips. He was established enough as a writer that he could get away w
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Ethan
Aug 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My love for the fiction of Iain M. Banks continues unabated. While this is counted among the Culture books, it's a most unusual one. In fact, a reader unfamiliar with the Culture could very well enjoy this as a standard fantasy novel, albeit an unusually witty and well-written fantasy novel. That said, I think having read at least one Culture books is a prerequisite for fully enjoying Inversions. I almost wish I had been able to read this book without knowing about the Culture connections, since ...more
Princessjay
May 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi-fantasy
I've been going through Banks' The Culture series and, despite their wide acclaim, found myself strangely unmoved. However awesome and amazing it would be to live in a post-scarcity world with Minds and drones and 400-years of life, such a setting also highlights the shallow pettiness that results from being essentially carefree from inception to "death". This may be meaningful in a philosophical sense, but doesn't make for engaging reading, at least not for me.

I've found that my enjoyment of th
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Ian
Inversions is about perspective. And individuality. And oppression. And injustice. And interference. And romantic love. And familial love. And political systems. And political games. And jealousy. And betrayal. And revenge. And fear of the unknown. And faith in the unknown. And embracing the unknowable.

Inversions is about so many worthy ideas, so many ideas that deserve serious consideration, and the book tackles each idea in ways that are both insightful and enjoyable for the reader. Yet this i
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Erik Graff
Jun 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Banks' fans
Recommended to Erik by: John Elkin
Shelves: literature
It is remarkable that this novel is counted as sf and as part of Banks' Culture books. It is also a bit of a giveaway. The setting of the book corresponds to the late medieval, albeit with the human characters on a planet in a binary system with no sense of an earthly background. The one great exception to the period is the mysterious doctor, a woman who holds quite modern ideas of medicine and is capable of certain mysterious feats which suggest her Culture origin. Other than this, however, the ...more
Juliane Kunzendorf
Luke and I talk about how much we enjoyed the book on the SFBRP #224. It feels very much like a medieval criminal story with culture background - so pretty much the perfect mix for me!

If you haven't read any of the culture series books yet, you might enjoy this book, but you will miss all references to the overall series - which I think would be a pity because this is what the book is all about.
Alan
Nov 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Gamers on thrones
Recommended to Alan by: A snappy red cover, this time
"Most men would rather not hear what their fellows have done, what people who may indeed be very like them are capable of."
—Perrund, p.283

I don't think this would have been obvious back when the book first came out (I certainly did not think about it on my first reading), but after another trip through Iain M. Banks' 1998 novel Inversions, I now see it as a highly-compressed Game of Thrones—and one which, unlike George R.R. Martin's series to date, actually has an ending. Though Inversions lacks
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Julie
My first review of 2012! I am so far behind on reviews, it's insane!

Anyway. I didn't like Inversions quite as much as Banks' other work; this one was more slow-moving and sedate, and only really turned to Banks' perfect break-neck pace towards the very end. So do be prepared for a slow pace, mainly milling around daily life at court; nothing much actually happens, and it's mainly about character exploration, about fallible narrators, about perspective, about piecing together the puzzle and wonde
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Breinholt Dorrough
What an apposite book title! Banks presents countless inversions. The biggest inversion is the perspective we usually get for a Culture book. Details changing, such as even knowing who the narrator is or whom a story is about, can totally turn reality on its head. Other inversions basically spoil the whole story, so it's tough to give a spoiler-free review of why I like the book title so much.

The more I reflect on Inversions, the more inverted everything seems. It's a book largely about perspect
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Pearl
May 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Before picking this up, i started and dropped like 4-ish books and this is the one that actually stuck. It's now ranked highly on my list of the "Culture" series books i've read so far for the clever manner in which the story was structured in relation to the general series-verse.

To fully appreciate the subtle nuances and hidden gems in it, i think it's better to have read at least some other Culture books, not because of any interlinked story but to appreciate the quiet hints dropped in it. De
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Inayah
Oct 12, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I don’t think I understood this book
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Science Fiction A...: * Book 6: Inversions 6 33 Nov 01, 2015 08:00PM  

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Iain M. Banks is a pseudonym of Iain Banks which he used to publish his Science Fiction.

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
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Other books in the series

Culture (10 books)
  • Consider Phlebas (Culture #1)
  • The Player of Games (Culture, #2)
  • Use of Weapons (Culture #3)
  • The State of the Art (Culture, #4)
  • Excession (Culture, #5)
  • Look to Windward (Culture, #7)
  • Matter (Culture, #8)
  • Surface Detail (Culture #9)
  • The Hydrogen Sonata (Culture #10)

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“Truth, I have learned, differs for everybody. Just as no two people ever see a rainbow in exactly the same place - and yet both most certainly see it, while the person seemingly standing right underneath it does not see it at all - so truth is a question of where one stands, and the direction one is looking in at the time.” 19 likes
“One believed what one was told to believe, what it made sense to believe. Unless one was a foreigner, of course, or a philosopher.” 6 likes
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