Sep 29 2008


Published by at 6:36 pm under Books

Iain M. Banks (1998)

My initial reaction when I started reading this book was negative since it is superficially a book about knights in armor, but despite a medieval like setting on a distant not yet developed planet, it turned out to be interesting story well told. Actually two stories set on two sides of a latent conflict. The two stories relate to each other but don’t directly interact. Two main characters; a bodyguard to a ‘Protector’ (President) and a doctor to a king in different countries on the same planet in a time of mostly swords, castles, sieges, horses, and sailing ships.
While there some violence described, the story is mainly about influence. Nothing is explicitly said about “The Culture” or its technology, but it is apparent that the two leading characters are agents being used by The Culture to influence the development of societies on the imaginary planet. In several instances the Cultures very advanced technology plays an implied role in developments but is not talked about or described; no computers, no minds, etc.. It is a tale in a medieval setting with a very thin overlay. Nicely done.
I wouldn’t even call this book speculative or science fiction. It is part of the culture series and implies details about how The Culture’s operatives worked. Thus, it fills in another facet of the description told from the point of view of those being manipulated, unknowingly, by The Culture. The story makes sense as part of the series, but I think it would be a little baffling without having read some of the prior books. The un-detailed uses of technology would, and should, seem like magic.
The writing is excellent. It includes a well written condemnation of war and an implied criticism of the influence the Culture is wielding. One of the two main characters ‘goes native’ at the end of the story. Interesting.

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