BooksOfTheMoon

Use of Weapons

By Iain M. Banks

Rating: 4 stars

Cheradenine Zakalwe is an occasional agent for Special Circumstances, the closest thing that the Culture has to a secret intelligence agency. His handler is trying to find him for another job, while the drone Skaffen-Amtiskaw thinks he’s burned out. This book tells his story, his history and his terrible secret.

I read this book nearly 20 years ago, it being the first Culture novel I ever read (at too young an age to grok it). I then mostly forgot about it and came back to it now because I’ve heard so many people talking about how good it was and after getting over remembered nastiness. And goodness, it was good, wasn’t it?

The structure, telling the story in the current, interleaved with chapters going backwards in time through Zakalwe’s life is still novel and works very well, setting up two big reveals in as many chapters at the climax of the book. I’d completely forgotten how funny the book is as well. It’s so Banks-ian and a pleasure to read. Coming back to this book after more than half a lifetime is probably the closest that I’ll get now to a ‘new’ Iain M. Banks book and I enjoyed it immensely.

Yes, the reveal is horrific, but nowhere near as bad as I remembered/imagined (or maybe I’ve just got more jaded in my old age). The humour throughout the book both lessens and heightens that horror but it’s never anything less than a joy to read.

Still not my favourite Culture novel (The Player of Games or Look to Windward probably still retain that title) but it’s definitely a damn fine one.

Book details

ISBN: 9781857231359
Publisher: Orbit
Year of publication: 1990

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