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Title: Use of Weapons
Series: The Culture #3
Author: Iain Banks
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Format: Digital Edition
THIS BOOK IS PREDICATED ON THE READER NOT KNOWING CERTAIN FACTS, READ FURTHER AT YOUR OWN RISK DUE TO SPOILERIFIC’NESS.
FINAL PARAGRAPH IS A SPOILER FREE SUM UP OF MY THOUGHTS.
Zakalwe, a man outside of the Culture but brought in to be used in situations where the Culture couldn’t officially act, is a warrior and warleader of great ability. Given Culture longevity and weapons and support, Zakalwe is wielded by the Culture like a katanna. Not always on the side of Right or on the Winning side, Zakalwe fulfills the aims of the Culture without knowing what those aims are.
The real payment for working for the Culture is so that Zakalwe can visit his sister after each year/decade long mission and plead for forgiveness of the breach between them. The breach is a shadowy affair involving the death of their younger sister and how a family friend was involved. This was all long ago and not fully revealed until the very end.
There was a LOT of time skipping and flashbacks to various previous battles and fights. While the current battle and latest visit to Zakalwe’s sister are the focus, the whole story is one interlocking cube where the past locks certain things into place that the current Zakalwe can’t alter. He fulfills his mission, gets to visit his sister and then the author slams us with the fact that Zakalwe isn’t Zakalwe but the family friend from long ago who killed Zakalwe’s sister. Zakalwe killed himself and this friend, who had turned the little sister into a chair made of her bones, tries to take on Zakalwe’s identity to do penance for what he did.
What a bloody scumbag!
This is my last Culture novel. I simply don’t like Banks’ style or how he writes or what he writes about. For example, this time around, with all the flashbacks in non-linear fashion and all the hidden psychological crap going on, I simply felt lost. Others might love it and revel in it, good for them. For me, it simply wasn’t enjoyable at all.
I liked the overall story and if things had been a straight up adventure story, I would have liked this a lot more. More linear, less hidden things, more focus, less dreamy, makes no sense kind of thing. The reveal about Zakalwe didn’t surprise me, as it explained so much, I was just so lost in Banks trying to be clever with his writing that it was just one more “trick” that he used. So instead of being impressed, I was annoyed.
Unfortunately, Banks riled me the wrong way from the first book of his that I read and the next 2 books, while written well and telling a decent story, have never un-riled me. I would certainly recommend these books to others if they asked about them, but I would never recommend them on my own initiative. There are just too many things about the whole universe that annoy me and make for a non-enjoyable read.
The biggest issue is that the Culture just doesn’t show humans acting like humans. Handwavium goes on in the background to explain that Humanity has “changed” but it’s so much bullshit. And then every story shows certain humans acting like humans but Banks excusing it as not really representative of the Culture. I call bullshit again. I do not find the Culture believable at all, especially with what Banks reveals about certain parts of it. That disconnect is enough for me to not be able to enjoy the stories, as the overarching framework is crooked, rotted through and not able to support the stories that Banks tries to hang on it.
Glad I tried these. But they are not for me and I won’t be reading any more by Banks. He frustrates me too much. The two stars denotes my frustration with the series and not that this was badly written or poorly executed. I simply didn’t like it.