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Long winded reviews

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Kiln People
Beth Meacham, David Brin

Use of Weapons

Use of Weapons - Iain M. Banks My second Culture book. Iain M. Banks is probably the most popular author of space opera still working today, and I love [b:Consider Phlebas|8935689|Consider Phlebas (Culture, #1)|Iain M. Banks|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51TrnvvDCLL._SL75_.jpg|14366], I found it gripping from beginning to end. Use of Weapons is often named—in forums and such—as the best book in this series (nine volumes published so far). With so many odds stacked in its favor what could go wrong? A portentous rhetorical question if ever there was one!

This is an interesting story about the life of the central character - Cheradenine Zakalwe (cool name), his trials and tribulations and his deep dark secrets. Some parts of it are quite humorous, especially anything scene involving a snarky drone (a robot to you Culture n00bs), my favorite jovial part is a scene about an "Injured Party" (that is so fudged up!). Most of the book is darker than the ace of spades though. What raises Banks above most sf authors is his literate prose style, many evocative passages here for the discerning readers. His character development skill is also second to none, even though the major characters are not necessarily likable, they are still fascinating and believable.

Unfortunately I find this book too clever by half, almost literally by half! The problem for me is the book's unusual structure, two alternating time lines, one moving conventionally forward and a flashback timeline that move backward (in chapter sequence that is, not people walking backward and spooning soup from their mouths into bowls). If you are going to read this book it is worth noting that the forward moving "present day" chapter numbers are shown in words (one, two etc.), the strangely backward flashback chapter numbers are in reverse order roman numerals (XIII, XII etc.). Forewarned is forearmed and I don't see how knowing this could possibly spoil the book for you. For me the book tend to grind to halt on the "flashback" chapters as their relation to previously read chapters only become apparent if you make the mental effort to rearrange the sequence in your head. For me it is too much exertion and plays hell with the sense of continuity. The most "relaxing" way to read this book is to not try to understand how each "roman numeral" chapters connect to the previous chapters you have read, just read them as you would read independent short stories, bearing in mind that the connection will become clear by the end of the book.

For me (I really want to stress the for me part) this book needs to be read twice for full appreciation, unfortunately while I quite like the book I am not so enamored of it that I would actually do that. I can almost rate this book at four stars, but I think 3.8 stars sounds about right. Given the prevailing consensus of opinion there is a very good chance that you will like it more than I do though, I can be a bit of a philistine sometime!