Inversions by Iain M. Banks
There seem to be two lines of thinking about this book: one that this is not really a Culture book because of the absence of 'sci-fi' elements, while others say it's the best goddamned culture book because it's beauty is its subtlety.
I have read lots of reviews on GoodReads about this and think it's a great novel, but not my favourite Culture novel.
Description from the publisher:
On a backward world with six moons, an alert spy reports on the doings of one Dr. Vosill, who has mysteriously become the personal physician to the king, despite being a foreigner and, even more unthinkably, a woman. Vosill has more enemies than she first realizes. But then she also has more remedies to hand than those who wish her ill can ever guess.
Elsewhere, in another palace across the mountains, a man named DeWar serves as chief bodyguard to the Protector General of Tassasen, a profession he describes as the business of “assassinating assassins.” DeWar, too, has his enemies, but his foes strike more swiftly, and his means of combating them are more direct.
None trust the doctor, while the bodyguard trusts no one, but what is the hidden commonality linking their disparate histories? Spiraling around a central core of mystery, deceit, love, and betrayal...”
There are lots of common themes in the two stories, and similarities between the two main characters. There are even love stories but they don't take the focus off of the deceit and betrayals in these different kingdoms.
“Truth, I have learned, differs for everybody. Just as no two people ever see a rainbow in exactly the same place – and yet both most certainly see it, while the person seemingly standing right underneath it does not see it at all – so truth is a question of where one stands, and the direction one is looking in at the time.”
After reading other reviews, it makes sense that the two main characters might actually be Culture agents tasked with keeping the two leaders alive, the King, and the Protector (hints in the Epilogue). The Culture does sometimes carefully intervene in worlds if they think it's in the best interest of the Culture.
I enjoyed this novel and couldn't put it down once I got near the end. It's a great ending that pulls all the elements together. I'll be thinking about this for a while to unravel the subtle story lines that Banks has put together here. This is certainly the most unique Culture I've read thus far. It has all the things I love in an Iain M. Banks story – dark humour, interesting dialogue, and compelling conflicts. This is a solid 5 star story, but don't come into it expecting it to be like the other Culture novels.
“You can draw the blinds in a brothel, but people still know what you’re doing.”
Book #70 in my #ReadingChallenge2021
#Culture #IainMBanks #SciFi #ScienceFiction #Medieval