[EPUB] ✵ Inversions By Iain M. Banks – Bassgrotto.co.uk

Inversions In The Winter Palace, The King S New Physician Has Enemies Than She At First Realizes, But She Also Has Remedies To Hand Than Those Who Wish Her Ill Can Know About In Another Palace Across The Mountains, The Chief Bodyguard Of The Regicidal Protector General Also Has His Enemies

10 thoughts on “Inversions

  1. says:

    I must preface my review with my surprise I just took a look at the responses to this book from my goodreads friends and the star ratings are only fair to middling It makes me wonder if my love for this book is, perhaps, a little misguided Either that or I am a discerning reader than everyone else Yeah that s probably it So here s my review Iain M Banks books are packed with big, way out there moments Grandmas explode, people wake up in rooms full of shit, ships run intentionally aground, hermaphrodites apply to mechanized killing temples to help them make decisions His work is big and brash and in your face, and extended subtlety is not something Banks often employs But he can.Inversions his non Culture Culture novel is all subtlety It is a delicate double tale unlike any other he s told Two journals, two narratives run parallel in an unnamed world experiencing a sort of Renaissance A doctor cares for her King A bodyguard protects his country s Protector They are two stories that intertwine in only the subtlest ways, providing meditations on the meaning of perspective and how the smallest differences in perspective can alter everything The Culture elements that exist in Inversions enrich an already rich story, suggesting a whole universe beyond the confines of the world only recently discovered to be round instead of flat and its people, but this time the story doesn t focus on the Culture Culture s Contact is at the heart of the novel It s two main characters are part of the Contact organization, but we don t hear the tale from their perspective, and so Contact remains a subtle thread in a greater tapestry or a lesser one, depending on one s perspective.Inversions is about love hate, revenge forgiveness, selfishness selflessness, men women, illness health, healing wounding, peace violence, and countless other inversions, but none of these pairings are black and white None are simple There is no easy judgment between these potential opposites, no good or bad, they simply are, and what one might want to know about them is likely not put into words within the confines of the story Banks makes us work by making us fill in the blanks This is the primary tool of his subtlety But perhaps it is this silence, the silence of the things that are missing, the subtle hints Banks gives us, that say everything that needs to be said.This book is beautiful I ve described many Banks books in many ways, but beautiful is a new descriptor for me I want to share the beauty of this book with everyone, but as I learned before writing this review, I may be the only one who sees the beauty of Inversions That makes me than a little sad.

  2. says:

    After finishing this, Inversions is now tied with The Player of Games as my favorite in the Culture series.It s definitely the most subtle of the Culture novels so far so subtle in fact, that I fear a lot of readers aren t grasping the scope of what it is about I would suggest only reading this one after having read a few other culture novels prior and in close succession it is very, very subtle but absolutely brilliant.Told from the perspective of two very different characters, one a personal account, one a dramatization of events prior, it is a story about the brutalities of man, war, and sovereignty, but ultimately about a difference of opinion on intervention policy, and a difference of opinion on how that intervention should be executed.It s very, very good Very good.

  3. says:

    Rather than focus on a grand scale space opera, I think Banks wanted to dump us into a backwater gravity well and let us have a sense of what it would be like to tour as a doctor, perhaps Culture trained, among the crude creatures of a Medieval period.Mind you, I didn t quite pick up any definitive proof of actual Culture interference, mind you, because our PoV is actually from the apprentice to the good doctor who hailed from foreign parts, but I think the guess is a very good one, anyway So what of the story Actually, this one shares in the great reversals of our understanding, just like the other Culture novels We go along with interesting tales only to have a reveal that shatters our understanding of what we read That stuff is fantastic, by the way In this case, meet a doctor who befriends the King and practically ALL of the court and the nobles mistrust and plot against her If feels like one hell of a romance, honestly I got into all the characters and loved the banter, rooted for the good guys and hoped all the others would get their just deserts It s a simple tale on the surface, yet there s always past horrors to work through and there happens to be a certain Captain of the Guard from where the good doctor came from who is out to bring her back or to justice, traveling all the way across the country What exactly is going on Well that is a great deal of this book s charm, from the opening scene with a torturer to the end where everything gets inverted Do you fancy a bit of standing on your head I m very impressed by the tale even if there isn t that much SF or Fantasy to hang your hat on It reads mostly like a Medieval tale With some rather interesting outcomes, I might add It s well worth the read.

  4. says:

    Spoilers Banks Culture series so far has been, what I will refer to as, hard sci fi Gargantuan megaships which house billions of people, immensely advanced Artificial Intelligences independently managing entire worlds, tiny drones with the ability to kill several people in a matter of seconds, Orbitals 3million kilometres in diameter, ships capable of travelling at hundreds of thousands of times the speed of light, tiny weapons with enormous destructive capabilities which can shrink down to a false tooth or brooch when not in use, galactic warfare, assassins, and an array of bizarre and wonderful alien species His imagination in the series is seemingly limitless, almost boasting of what science fiction is capable of, in all its pomp and excess Inversions is the exact opposite As Banks has described, it was his attempt to write a Culture novel that wasn t , and as such all of the common motifs that I have grown to love in the series are completely absent Described as science fiction as fantasy, the book takes place on a world which closely resembles medieval Europe, with castles, palaces, kings, emperors, military generals, balls and banquets Indeed, the entire locale could be medieval Earth, if not for the binary system in which the planet is located and the descriptions of the two moons in the sky Where the book is similar to other Culture novels however, is the fantastic twist at the end which if you know of beforehand, I imagine would ruin the book somewhat The book takes the form of two alternating narratives, one told in first person concerning a woman named Vosill, physician to the King of a nation named Haspidus The narrator is a man named Oelph, appearing to be the doctor s assistant, but giving every indication that he is actually a spy for some unknown character referred to as Master Haspidus is a typical medieval style society in which the country has a King, lands are ruled over by lords and nobles, a caste system is in place, women expected to be nothing than wives and mothers, and the poor are looked upon with disdain and even disgust by the ruling classes, used to perform menial labour, farming etc and nothing Some of these ingrained prejudices are presented through Oelph, as he is insulting to the poor, acquiescent in regards to the nobility, and at times highly judgmental whenever the doctor does something considered unwomanly On the other hand, it is revealed that the King whom the doctor serves has a very progressive attitude for the time, as he enacts reforms which take power away from the country lords and hands it over to the people, allowing them to own their own land, create city councils, and have greater independence from the tyranny of the nobility Additionally of course, there is the fact that the King has employed a female doctor, who he places a huge amount of trust in and openly treats as an equal, asking her opinion on matters of politics, cartography, and obviously medicine, which supposed experts in these matters snuff with overt scorn, believing that women have no place to have any opinion at all Because she is held in such high regard by the King, Vosill has many enemies in the Court, and as Oelph narrates the events of the story, a conspiracy is in which dukes, high ranking officials, and other characters plot to dispose of her Whenever one of these figures comes close to carrying out such actions however, they are conspicuously murdered, and it becomes obvious that Vosill is in fact an agent of Special Circumstances, working on behalf of the Culture It is possible to deduce that considering the King s progressive direction, that the Culture has placed Vosill in Haspidus in order to keep the King alive as he brings about radical changes and drives the state towards a equal society something which would be greatly hindered if the existing nobility which surround the King were allowed to instill their influence or, much probably, dispose of the King as he begins to change the status quo which they hold so sacred.The fact that the characters who seek to do Vosill harm are all killed leads one to the assumption that, although never actually appearing in the course of the novel, Vosill is accompanied on her mission by some sort of Culture device which is able to provide aid and protection as required Our attention is frequently drawn to a battered old dagger which the doctor carries everywhere The hilt of the dagger is embedded with a number of small jewels, as well as many empty spaces where jewels once were Since it is never explicitly stated what this dagger is, we must draw our own conclusions, but it seems fairly obvious that it is some sort of drone or knife missile, able to quickly despatch of any threats on command, and that the jewels could be bugging devices that the doctor uses to spy upon the various conspiracists Indeed there are a couple of sections which are written as a transcript, which hints that some sort of recording device has been used to uncover the plots being made by Vosill s enemies The other story tells of DeWar, chief bodyguard to Urleyn, the Protector of Tasassen, a ruler who gained control of the land after the downfall of the pervious Empire DeWar is in every sense a loyal servant to Urleyn, and it is frequently mentioned that he never lets his guard down, remaining alert and suspicious at all times, in close proximity to Urleyn in order to step in whenever any threat presents itself DeWar is obsessive to the extent that he cannot eve play simple board games without his duty being reflected in his gaming style It would initially seem that the Protector is the progressive of the book s two rulers, disposing of titles such as King, Emperor etc in favour of positive and or neutral titles, such as Protector, as well as being responsible for the downfall of the previous Empire It becomes apparent however, that Uleyn is not the entirely benevolent leader he appears to be, still retaining various militaristic and oppressive stances Notably, as a direct contrast to the King of Haspidus, when the leaders of a nearby land named Ladenscion desire greater autonomy from Protectorate control, Urleyn responds by denying their requests and threatening war The barons of Ladenscion initially supported Urleyn s revolution, apparently wishing for freedom from the previous monarch, and now wish for complete independence A large number of DeWar s chapters see new problems and threats to the Protector as they present themselves An assassin almost manages to kill Urleyn, but is closely prevented from doing to by DeWar the Protector s son Lattens is stricken with a mysterious and debilitating illness, the war in Ladenscion escalates, forcing Urleyn to leave the capital and lead the attacks against the enemy And overshadowing all this is DeWar s suspicions that there are spies within the court, betraying the Protector s plans to Ladenscion and helping them win the war.Another character who makes frequent appearances throughout the book is the Protector s confidant, an ex Concubine named Perrund Her relationship with Urleyn and her deep friendship with DeWar signify that Perrund an important figure in the narrative, not least because she once saved Urleyn from assassination and was crippled as a result There is also another contrast here between Urleyn and the King, in that while King Quience has a degree of respect for women, Urleyn is depicted as a womaniser, frequently visiting the palace brothel, and with a sun but no mention of a wife These subtle hints at Urleyn s character served to generate a growing dislike for him, a man who had such potential for greatness at the onset of the book, but frequently displays unfavourable opinions and actions It isn t long after the Protector leaves to take control of the war that he is forced to return home as his son s condition worsens Urleyn completely fails in his leadership as he locks himself away and refuses to speak to any of his advisors and generals, who begin to question and mock his position In the final chapters, the suspicions that DeWar has had through the book come to fruition, as he works out that Lattens is being poisoned, and the great twist, that Perrund is responsible, and has also killed Urleyn In a tense confrontation, the negative attributes of the Protector s character and leadership come together as Perrund explains how he and his squadron once raped her and her family, killing her parents but allowing Perrund to escape Banks very cleverly presents a complete evolution of both Perrund s and Urleyn s characters, as the Protector appears at the beginning as an idealistic harbinger, who then shows signs of being prejudiced and somewhat despotic, now revealed to be a rapist and murder wearing a guise of altruism There is a point in Vosill s story in which the King learns about the Protectorate s war with Ladenscion which dispelled some of my suspicions that the two narratives may actually have happened at different times Although the King clearly does not support the Protectorate, he states that he must make every effort in seeming to whilst taking the opportunity to move against Urleyn as it presents itself I thought nothing of these comments when reading them I will admit, thinking that it was just simple political banter But as Perrund reveals her history, we learn that she is in fact the opportunity the King is referring to, having escaped to Haspidus after Urleyn killed her family, and acting on the orders of the King to kill Urleyn, but not before bringing about his utter ruin I am beginning to thoroughly enjoy the enormous twists that Banks employs in most of his novels It isn t quite on par with Use of Weapons, but it was certainly a good one As Banks stated, this is his Culture novel that wasn t really a Culture novel, and I admit that I was in fact expecting at least some explicit clarification toward the end, with a drone or a hips appearing, or one of the characters explaining who they are and who they work for None of this happens, and after a little mulling over, I have decided that I actually prefer this ambiguity and subtlety The fact that Inversions is so completely different from the other Culture novels, and in fact, that each Culture novel is so unique, establishes Banks as a brilliant writer Rather than just give it all away at the end, he decided to use a tale that DeWar tells concerning two children who lived in a country far away, and who disagreed on whether an advanced society should handle primitive cultures, the girl believing in intervention, and the boy believing they should be left to their own devices It is clear the children are Vosill and DeWar, and that Vosill joined Special Circumstances to continue with her philosophy of instigating change within primitive cultures, whereas it can be guessed that DeWar is a kind of exile from the Culture working by his own means Inversions is a beautifully written novel, expertly constructed and never giving away than it needs to to keep the reader guessing, using subtle hints and references to maintain that this is in fact a Culture novel, whilst exploring a world with a totally different aesthetic Since the previous book I read was Excession, Inversions was a welcome relief from the intense concentration required by that book, whilst still being incredibly thought provoking, tackling certain issues of equality and prejudice with wit and humour One of the most memorable scenes involves a ball in which Vosill and Oelph are invited, to mingle with the upper echelons of society, where one noble lady suggests that when the King grows bored of Vosill she may hire her as a wet nurse or something similar , and Oelph reacts be saying that this would be demeaning to the doctor s talents The lady is gravely offended that her opinion has been questioned, and when she discovers that Oelph was an orphan, she is further mortified The entire scene explores the notion that the privileged classes believe themselves deserving of respect, better than the poor, no matter how useless they may be by comparison The lady, I gathered, is the wife to some lord, has no education, no career, and nothing better to do than attend society balls, but still believes herself better than the doctor, despite the doctor being a highly educated and intelligent medical professional Amusing as this scene is, it is still a distressingly accurate portrayal of society even in the 21st century Overall, Banks succeeds in creating a non Culture Culture novel that is every bit as exciting, intriguing and memorable as the others, and may well stand out even further for being so unique.

  5. says:

    Banks is in fine form, weaving a wonderfully somber tale full of personal discovery, tormented relationships and intrigue Rather than a Culture sci fi story as I was expecting, this has the feel of historical fiction, with a setting akin to war torn medieval Europe There are only subtle hints of the Culture and really no sci fi to speak of The themes are some that recur frequently in the Culture series, focusing particularly on the human and emotional costs of war, self discovery, and especially the dilemma of interference vs non interference That is, the question whether advanced societies have a responsibility to aid and guide those who are less developed, or instead leave them to develop naturally That s a hot topic in the Culture, and while generally they choose not to interfere, at least overtly, there are frequently exceptions Matter, a later Culture novel, shares these themes as well as a similar setting, yet ties directly into the Culture, and I think was a enjoyable read because of that Still, another fine tale, well told by Mr Banks.

  6. says:

    My favorite book by Iain M Banks, who is one of my absolute favorite authors It s in his Culture series of novels, but that s only shown by a couple of minor details It s fully a stand alone novel sci fi with a fantasy feel to it I stayed up late late late last night finishing this it was a GREAT book I was really impressed by the way all the little clues fit together without giving it all away too soon

  7. says:

    I have to say, first off, that every single review I saw of this book online even ones as short as a single line gives away something you are not supposed to know until the very end, if you figure it out at all These details that they spoil are not exactly essential to the plot, but one was spoiled for me and I think the novel lost some of its tautness as a result and the one that was not spoiled I was very glad wasn t spoiled because it was a minor mystery I spent the first half of the novel picking at so again, I suspect the novel would have lost some of its appeal had I known the answer to the riddle All of which is a very roundabout way of saying that if you want to come to the book unspoiled, avoid all online information about it like the plague.I say right now that I will endeavor to do better than that, and give a truly spoiler free review.The difficulty is that without those two bits of information that so many others cavalierly spoiled, there s very little way to talk about the book Even saying that it is a Culture novel gives you a clue to what one of the pieces of information is, but I felt that was something I could include because Banks himself gave that away Without spoiling any, I will be forced to speak circuitously, which I must beg your forgiveness for Inversions is set on a planet with a roughly Medieval level of government and medicine, and which is just beginning to experiment with gunpowder but still relies mainly on crossbows and swords It is narrated by one of the characters, but the narrator does not tell which character he or she is, though that conceit is broken down by about the halfway point This mysterious narrator relates two parallel tales, one of the King s physician named Vosill in a country called Haspidus, and one of the General Protector s bodyguard called DeWar in a country called Tassasen, across the mountains from Haspidus The countries are not at war with one another, but they are uneasy about each other because the world has just suffered a planet wide disaster which has upset all of the old systems of government.That, then, is the set up The chapters alternate between the Doctor s story, which the narrator relates through her assistant Oelph, who is reporting clandestinely to another Master and the Bodyguard s story, which the narrator relates through a third person omniscient voice that is kept relatively confined to DeWar s perspective, but not entirely As I mentioned above, it becomes clear who the narrator is in these stories about halfway through, but Banks handles that gracefully, not with a big reveal, but by slowly letting the mask the he or she is wearing at first slip away, almost as if unconsciously.There is little for me to say about the two stories being told very little happens This novel, much than other Banks novels I have read, is a character study, a portrait of two individuals in positions of power at a time of momentous change on this world There is intriguing against both the Doctor and the Bodyguard, for they are foreigners to their lands and not trusted as a result there is a touch of romance, mostly unrequited there are surprising philosophical passages that take on greater weight as events unfold There is a startlingly vivid hunt scene, and a botched assassination attempt, but otherwise the only action comes in a mock war complete with catapult that DeWar has with the General Protector s son There is ugliness, because Banks never shies from that, and there is quite a bit of witty repartee between the Doctor and her King and between the Bodyguard and the General Protector s favorite concubine There is also a tale of a land called Lavishia, and two cousins that lived there, that is the only real clue to the bit of information that was spoiled for me.Ultimately, the stories end, but as with the other Culture novel I have read, the ending is pretty damned emotionally unsatisfactory But that, too, is a stylistic choice on Banks part, and one that I respect They end unsatisfactorily because, unless all of humanity is obliterated, no story ever has a real ending There will always be loose ends, people who disappear leaving only questions behind them, events that are understood imperfectly, and whose full effects still haven t been seen It is actually a happier ending than that other Culture novel, I think at least, the people within the story seem happy with it The philosophical questions raised are never answered, because how could they be They have no right answers I m looking at you again, Prime Directive Instead, we are left to muddle through day by day, doing the best we can, trying to hold onto the best parts of ourselves and make good decisions with imperfect information, just as all the people in Haspidus, in Tassasen, and even in Lavishia in this story do.And that s where Inversions left me, a tad frustrated but again, I think that was deliberate , a tad philosophical, and fairly impressed I do believe I succeeded in writing a spoiler free review, but I m not sure I managed to say anything at all, lol I would definitely recommend this book, but you must accept that nothing happens, there is no real ending, and there isn t even a message to it all That said, Inversions is still one of the strongest books I ve read in a while.

  8. says:

    Inversions, like so many of Banks books, is slippery Every time I think I have a hold on it, it slithers out of my grasp It s this element that keeps drawing me back in to the Culture series, as strange and frustrating as it often is I keep trying different techniques to pin these books down, thinking at some point I will find the right angle from which to sneak up on them I hope I never find it.The plot of Inversions is fairly straightforward the book is really two interweaved novellas, called The Doctor and The Bodyguard, which both take place on the same medieval planet The Doctor follows Dr Vosill, personal physician to King Quience of Haspidus, who raises suspicions at court because she is a woman, and a foreigner, and because her treatments are strangely effective The Bodyguard follows DeWar, chief of security to General Urleyn, the leader of the Tassasen Protectorate, halfway around the world from Haspidus Like Vosill, DeWar is a foreigner and therefore inherently suspicious, but his devotion to the General has placed him above reproach The world itself is in turmoil meteor strikes a generation ago had killed thousands, altered the climate, and destroyed a global empire, leaving fractured states like Haspidus and Tassasen to battle for dominance As Vosill and DeWar tend to their charges, the leaders prepare for war Inversions, therefore, reads like a fantasy light on magic, but heavy on court intrigue and battle plans It s not immediately clear how the book fits into the Culture series, which is about an intergalactic utopia filled with decadent aliens, hyperintelligent spaceships, and smartass drones Nor is it obvious what the two novellas have to do with each other, despite the assurance in the introduction that they belong together These mysteries resolve in the bedtime stories DeWar tells the young prince, Lattens, about a faraway land called Lavishia In this land there lived two friends, a boy and a girl who were cousins and who had grown up together They thought they were adults but really they were still just children They were the best of friends but they disagreed on many things One of the most important things they disagreed about was what to do when Lavishia chanced upon one of these tribes of poor people Was it better to leave them alone or was it better to try and make life better for them Even if you decided it was the right thing to do to make life better for them, which way did you do this Did you say, Come and join us and be like us Did you say, Give up all your own ways of doing things, the gods that you worship, the beliefs you hold most dear, the traditions that make you who you are Or do you say, We have decided you should stay roughly as you are and we will treat you like children and give you toys that might make your life better Indeed, who even decided what was better This, then, pretty clearly lays out the premise of the book, and invokes a common theme in the series the Culture s ambivalence toward colonialism which I talked about in my review of the first book, Consider Phlebas, too Vosill seems to be championing an interventionist approach, while DeWar adheres to Star Trek s prime directive.Where the book gets slippery, though, is in the outcomes who was right, in the end, if either of them were Inversions has a lot of tricks up its sleeve, several rogue variables that knock everything out of alignment In the end, is this world better for having been visited by Vosill and DeWar Are they better off for having done so I know better by now than to expect straightforward answers from Banks His characters just settle in my mind, asking their questions, smiling inscrutably at every answer I propose.

  9. says:

    This is my favourite Culture novelprobably because it has the least amount of the Culture in it The smarmy robots, superintelligent AI Minds, and laissez faire posthumans are all cool and everything, but after you ve hung out with them for a few volumes they get kinda same y Also, they never pick up the tab at bars Something about money being barbaric I think.With Inversions we get, um, an inversion I guess, of what Banks seems to normally do with his Culture stories Huh Neat how that worked out, isn t it Anyway, we find ourselves on one of those non Culture backwards planets that of course the Culture wants to influence for their own good, of course and we are thus presented with two different focuses or I guess foci in point of view One follows the exploits of a mysterious female doctor acting as aide and close confidante to the king of one of the major nations of the planet the other follows the story of the bodyguard of the de facto Cromwellian despot of another as he in turn follows a philosophically different approach in his influence of events Both of them are, of course, really Culture agents ultimately trying to prove to the other one that their philosophy is the correct one, though of course none of this is particularly obvious unless you ve a read other Culture novels and b read between the lines for some of the less explicable events of the story.I found both main characters to be compelling and, most of all, interesting in a way that Banks isn t always able to pull off In addition the narrator of the doctor s story line, her smitten young apprentice, is quite an interesting figure in himself who displays the paradoxical elements of devoted factotum and scheming spy in equal measure I guess I like it when Banks is understated It doesn t happen a lot, but when it does it can be very compelling.

  10. says:

    I loved this so much It s my last virgin read of A Culture book except for the short story collection, and I m glad it was the last because I found it be the best kind of fairy tale It actually has no direct mention of the Culture and takes place on your typical medieval fantasy world where women are secondary citizens There are 2 separate stories taking place in different parts of the world, each one told in alternating chapters, but the narrator of one section tells us on the prologue they are connected although even he isn t sure how, just that the person relating the second says they are.But there are amusing little hints like this one that tell us the Culture is involved in both had been invited to dine with the vessel s captain that evening, but had sent a note declining the invitation, citing an indisposition due to special circumstances Heehee Well we already knew Special Circumstances were involved since this inside joke comes at the end We have the nice vantage point of having an increasing omniprecient perspective of what is going on since this book is listed as a Culture novel and it s fun figuring out the specifics And perception and understanding of the past and present are major motifs here, what is reality And as always with Banks there are twists and turns along the way.If this intended to be your first Culture book what you ll only read is a medei al fantasy So again, perspective I recommend reading other Culture books first.0I m so glad I bought this so I can reread and be enchanted again I even want to do it now to find any other Culture references I might have missed.

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