In a world renowned within a galaxy full of wonders, a crime within a war.
For one man it means a desperate flight, and a search for the one - maybe two - people who could clear his name.
For his brother it means a life lived under constant threat of treachery and murder. And for their sister, it means returning to a place she'd thought abandoned forever. Only the sister is not what she once was; Djan Seriy Anaplian has become an agent of the Culture's Special Circumstances section, charged with high-level interference in civilisations throughout the greater galaxy. Concealing her new identity - and her particular set of abilities - might be a dangerous strategy.
In the world to which Anaplian returns, nothing is quite as it seems; and determining the appropriate level of interference in someone else's war is never a simple matter.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 656 pages
- Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
- Publication Date: 05/02/2009
- Category: Science fiction
- ISBN: 9781841494197
Showing 1 - 5 of 5 reviews.
Review by JonArnold
One of the bittersweet joys of a favourite author dying is the impulse to revisit them, to pay tribute by rediscovering what made them so special to you. Or even, if you’d lost touch with them a little, to fill in the holes in their work that you missed. I rediscovered the joys of Banks the winter before he died via a charity shop copy of Stonemouth and randomly picking up Transition, which had been sitting on my shelves for a couple of years. So I’ve since been on a random voyage through his back catalogue, to look for the spark plucking Use Of Weapons from a library gave me. It spoiled me a little; that it essentially ended in the middle of the story meant it deftly avoided what’s usually been Banks’ big weakness, that his books usually seem to stop rather than end.Being a Banks SF novel this is a book of bold ideas. The big one here is the Shellworld, a world comprised of different levels with different inhabitants on each level and God at its heart. The central story begins with a regicide and the plot strands revolve around the three surviving children of the king Orestin, the prince regent who gradually becomes aware of plots against him, Fermin, the heir to the throne who witnesses his father’s death who goes offworld to seek help against the regicide tyl Loesp, and Djal, who’s become a Culture Special Circumstances agent. For much of the novel it appears that this is of paramount concern to us, tyl Loesp’s regicide and its consequences driving the actions of the main characters. This being a Culture novel though things aren’t quite so simple – if nothing else we’d probably end up with a similar book to Inversions and Banks has never been interested in going over old ground. Instead the last quarter or so of the book reveals a SF Big Dumb Object (well, being a Culture novel a Big Intelligent Object) which puts everything into galactic perspective. We might wonder initially what’s so important about a relatively primitive king on a backwater planet being overthrown . Banks, with his universe scaled sense of perspective, has us asking the wrong question. As Djal muses late on (she’s given to didactic musing) she doesn’t really matter on any grand scale. And this is where what appears to be a broken backed structure, where the last quarter of the book has entirely different concerns to the first three quarters, is actually clever. The people are mere ants. What at first appears world-consumingly important is actually insignificant in the face of world changing events. In that regard it’s very much a novel of the first decade of the 21st century, echoing 9/11. Our small, petty concerns were put into perspective by the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. Banks ups the ante on that, putting events on one world into a galactic scale. The title can be seen as a question rather than a statement: how much do any of us really matter? We might not like the answer he gives us.
Review by pauliharman
banks does sensawunda like no-one else I know. A war between primitive (by galactic standards) civilisations on two different levels of an onion-like Shellworld reveals an ancient sentient artefact buried for millennia. The caretakers of the world believe it is their ancestor. The Culture representatives are somewhat skeptical. A very human story set against a backdrop of enormous scale.
Review by psiloiordinary
Another excellent Culture novel from Banks. An interesting theme of perspective echoed at various levels through the plot and characters. His usual dollop of hugely massive imagination still impresses.Ultimately he still manage to show good triumphing over evil, even if he keeps you guessing which is which until the very end.Great science fiction that makes you think.
Review by isabelx
Review by malcrf
Mmmmmmmmm not his best. Grew on me, but took a long time to do so.