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Iain M. Banks – Inversions

Title: Inversions
Author: Iain M. Banks
Year: 1988

Iain M. Banks has my respect mainly for three reasons: he is usually able to construct unique and interesting settings for his novels (see The Algebraist), his plots are ingenious and thrilling (see Player of Games), and he is a master of writing entertaining and/or good dialogue (see Look to Windward). This is why I felt somewhat disappointed when I first started to read Inversions, because none of these qualities are apparent. The setting is a an average fantasy setting with few things to recommend itself, the plot is slow in the beginning and the characters are less interesting than usual. The story is told in many layers, separated into two parts, the Doctor and the Bodyguard. The first tells the story of a foreign physician currently employed at the royal court of Haspid, the other is told from the point of view of a bodyguard to one of the Haspid commanders.

Apart from being a fairly dull cocoon, this novel flowers into some sort of beautiful butterfly along the way. The multiple layers of narration, combined with the moral questions of intervention or isolationism greatly add to the overal impression. If one has read other novels related to The Culture, it is obvious what this novel is about almost from the outset. The novel might be seen a practical acting out of various attitudes towards helping those inferior to oneself. Is it right to meddle in the lives of others to help them or is intervention into other cultures just a form of descipicable cultural imperialism? I would say this question lies at the core of Inversions.

Still, only one of the aspects I mentioned in the first paragraphs pertains to this novel. The setting is not very interesting and the characters moderately so. Even though the story turns interesting after a while, it is not enough to compensate for the other problems I find in Inversions. Yes, Iain M. Banks is still a skilled author and this book is not bad, but it is very far from the glory of Look to Windward. I will not hesitate one second before reading more Iain M. Banks novels, but this one simply did not suit me very well.

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