Inversions, Paperback Book
4.5 out of 5 (3 ratings)


IIn 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 combating them are more traditional.Spiralling round a central core of secrecy, deceit, love and betrayal, INVERSIONS is a spectacular work of science fiction, brilliantly told and wildly imaginative, from an author who has set genre fiction alight.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Science fiction
  • ISBN: 9781857237634

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Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.

Review by

Two neighbouring countries are each inhabited by an outsider with influence over its ruler, mistrusted by the nobility and given to odd ideas. To the initiated, it is an obvious guess (and one soon rewarded) that these outsiders are embedded Culture agents; but their stories are related by an ignorant local, leaving it to the reader to read between the lines. Whilst there are some vibrant characters (UrLeyn's son Lattens is a joy, as is conflicted Oelph) and entertaining politics, these could belong in any fantasy setting and play second fiddle to the delight of recognising and second-guessing what is really going on. The actual stories of the Dukes' attempts to reveal the good Doctor and the question of whether there is a traitor in UrLeyn's entourage are finely drawn but - I felt - less absorbing than other Culture novels; not least because the relayed narrative device distances us from the protagonists and thus the threat. As ever though, Banks teases us with plenty to think about in the layers within layers of his story.Given the POV, this is arguably the Culture novel with the least Culture in it, but I found it satisfying in its own right and the late-encountered line that 'she was indisposed due to special circumstances' may be a favourite Banksian witticism.

Review by

If you hadn't read any of the other Culture novels, you wouldn't understand what was happening in "Inversions" at all, as it seems to be a fantasy novel about the bodyguard of the Protector of a land that seems to be at a similar level to 16th/17th century Europe, and the female doctor who attends the King of a nearby country. The doctor's story is told by her assistant in the form of reports to his master who is getting him to spy on her, while the bodyguard's tale . . .But when you know the ways of the Culture, it is clear that the unwitting narrators of the tales are actually describing a Special Circumstances mission, and that agents have been sent down to influence the behaviour of two of the more moderate and forward thinking rulers, and prevent them from coming to harm while they carry out their reforms. So you have a good idea what the 'dark bird' fleetingly seen by a distraught witness to the Duke of Walen's murder really is, and you don't believe for a minute that DeWar and Perrund die in the avalanche that so conveniently prevents their bodies from being recovered.Loved it. It's a million times better than "Excession".

Review by

at first glance this looks like a fairly minor book in the Culture series. it's so accessible, it seems at first a bit below his pay grade. it's not, of course. it's a book about the Culture, written from outside the Culture, by people who have never heard of the Culture. reads like some version of a medieval fantasy, about two opposing cultures on opposite sides of the same world. but that world is enveloped in a little personal experiment born out of that invisible far-future Culture, which contributes its worldview not via the local narrators but rather via the portraits they paint of the two Agents who once had the argument. said argument being itself expressed as an small story on page 104 offhandedly told to a child as a fairy tale about two people in a land of impossible magic who quarrel one day about whether one should set out to change a world or to leave it alone. and gradually we see the result of the argument in the world. so the whole thing, while appearing fairly straightforward, consists of a whole series of inversions: the genre shifting between fantasy (visible) and sf (invisible) depending on the point of view, the connections between everything shifting as we sift through the accounts of a series of unreliable narrators, the importance of the gameplay hidden within differing Larger and Smaller Intentions, and the whole argument buried - yet definitively answered - about the method and the morality of acting, or not acting, as an instrument of change.

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