Against a Dark Background

By Iain M. Banks

Rating: 2 stars

Sharrow is being hunted by a religious order who are convinced that she must be killed in order to bring about the coming of their messiah. Her only hope is to find the last of the apocalyptically powerful Lazy Guns.

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 of urgency about the chase at all; the sub-quests that she and her team embarked on seemed somewhat artificial; a set of twins who constantly shadow and manipulate her are annoying rather than mysterious; and you can figure out who the Big Bad is without much trouble.

I think this is the weakest Banks book I’ve read to date. His Culture novels, and indeed, his other SF books, take the same dizzying scales and ideas but the writing is so much better. There’s a great book in here trying to get out, it’s a shame his editor didn’t push for another draft.

Book details

ISBN: 9781857230314
Publisher: Orbit
Year of publication: 1993

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