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Thursday, November 18, 2021

Reread: Use of Weapons

 Use of Weapons was one of the first Iain M Banks books I read oh so long ago, and I decided to read it again recently out of curiosity as to whether it held up. The book runs in two narratives, one moving forward in time, and one moving backwards, revealing the post-singularity society of the Culture as well as the character of Cheradine Zakalwe, who works as an operative for Special Circumstances, the dirty tricks arm of the contact section of the Culture.

The world building is excellent, with reveal after reveal of the culture and the way it operates interspersed with the memory of Zakalwe mixed in. The surprise ending (which I won't spoil) doesn't surprise the second or third time reading the book, and upon reflection, is the weakest portion of the book, since it doesn't actually explain the nature of the identity.

The next weakest portion of the book is the plot, where Zakalwe's generalship surprises the planning and machine minds behind the entire purpose of pulling Zakalwe out of retirement. One would think that having had repeated encounters and use of Zakalwe, the machines/Special Circumstances agents wouldn't be surprised again.

The Utopia that is the Culture is one of the few Utopias in fiction that's believable: a post-singularity society run by machines where the organic peoples are essentially pets does seem like it could be more moral than ones built by humans themselves. I enjoyed the re-read.

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