Inversions By Iain M. Banks

This is the 8th science-fiction novel from Scottish writer Iain M. Banks. It is also the seventh novel I have read from him in a few short days, including Feersum Endjinn, The Algebraist, Consider Phlebas, The Player of Games, Against A Dark Background and Excession.

I have enjoyed reading most of them, though I regard Excession and The Algebraist as his best. Inversions was published in 1998.

This is a spoiler free review of the science-fiction novel Inversions by Iain M. Banks.

At first glance, this does not appear to be a Culture novel. The setting is almost medieval and there is no mention of technology or magic, as technology would appear to 14th century people. I count only two instances where things happened that could not be explained.

When Vossil was about to be tortured and 3 men died almost instantaneously and when she disappeared from her ship heading back do Dezen. On the boat, on the way back, the Doctor was invited to a dinner with the captain, but she sent a note:

…but had sent a note declining the invitation citing an indisposition due to special circumstances.

Special Circumstances alludes to the military intelligence section of Contact, the part of the Culture that deals with establishing diplomatic relations with other cultures.

On top of that, they could no longer find any trace of her and the medical technology of the time of Drezen did not match the knowledge that she possessed. In fact, they could not find any trace of her or her relatives in Drezen at all. My guess is that she was displaced from orbit.

I also read online that there was an insert removed from later paperback editions, giving further clues to the Culture. Basically, this novel is supposed to tell the tale of two humans from the Culture, one a Special Circumstances agent, one that came here in an official capacity and another who chose exile, but who might have returned to the Culture with his lady after having lived in the Half-Hidden Kingdoms for a while. Or he might have just been killed by an avalanche.

Also, this story in interlaced a number of times. The narrator says that he is retelling the story of his grandfather, and that he is including the tale of the bodyguard, DeWar, which is told by another person and he believes that it is related to the tale that he is telling.

Inversions is a tale told by two people from two places about two different kingdoms. We hear from the other kingdoms by whispers.

The Doctor Vosill is in charge for the health of the King Quience of in Hapside. She takes care of all of his ails and influences him with her strange opinions and knowledge. She is the best doctor the land has ever seen, but this trust and skill is seen as a threat to the court and plots are created for her downfall.

DeWar is the bodyguard of The Protector, General UrLeyn and is the target for multiple assassination attempts. DeWar does his best to stop the assassinations, but in the end, will he be able to stop a plot that started at the palace itself?

DeWar demonstrates uncanny abilities in dealing with threats. He is disliked by most of the court, but endured for his devotion to his master. Whereas Vosill subtly influences her king, DeWar looks out for threats and political intrigue to protect his liege.

DeWar tells his story through a tale that he tells young Lattens, the General’s son. This tale gives clues to the true nature of his presence and the presence of Vosill.

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