Use of Weapons
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Product Description

The man known as Cheradenine Zakalwe was one of Special Circumstances' foremost agents, changing the destiny of planets to suit the Culture through intrigue, dirty tricks and military action.

The woman known as Diziet Sma had plucked him from obscurity and pushed him towards his present eminence, but despite all their dealings she did not know him as well as she thought.

The drone known as Skaffen-Amtiskaw knew both of these people. It had once saved the woman's life by massacring her attackers in a particularly bloody manner. It believed the man to be a lost cause. But not even its machine could see the horrors in his past.

Ferociously intelligent, both witty and horrific, USE OF WEAPONS is a masterpiece of science fiction.

Customer Reviews:

  • My favorite Iain M. Banks novel
    Use of weapons is mind-boggling.

    I have read all of Banks's science fiction, and I like this one the best. I won't reveal any details of the plot, but I will say that it has lots of great action, hard-core sci-fi, and a very well-told story. You will not be dissapointed....more info
  • Flawed masterpiece
    Why 5 stars for something I called "flawed?" Because it overcomes its flaws. I found the disjointed timelines annoying; I thought that a few chapters could be cut; but I was dumbfounded by the ending. It was not completely unexpected, of course.
    The power of the ending makes me forgive its weaknesses. "Use of Weapons" indeed!...more info
  • Confusing but good
    If you like Ian M Banks you like this book. But it takes some work to figure out what is going on. I liked it but it was not my favorite Culture novel. ...more info
  • Unmissable!
    I read a lot of Science fiction when I was a kid, but grew tired of it and left it alone for a long time. Iain Banks is responsible for restoring my interest in the genre. I think he's the most refreshing, original, and shocking sci-fi author I have encountered . . . with Use of Weapons being his best work. At times the story is confusing, but it is always intriuging, occasionally funny, very compelling and ultimately chilling.

    I recommend it unreservedly....more info

  • boring
    The majority of the readers have given this book 5 stars which would put this book right next to books like Dune and Ender's Game. That is so far from the truth it's ridiculous.It's okay to love an author but be realistic in your reviews. There is really only 1 character in the story Cheradenine Zakalwe. Cheradenine spends the whole book running from some dreaded memory which is parceled out to you bit by tortuous bit. There is virtually no plot except to display his obvious death wish. There is a big twist at the end but you'll figure that out way before then so it comes as no surprise. Cheradenine is not a Likeable character. There is really no one to like here, there is no action and why so many people rave about this book is beyond me. Do yourself a favor read Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card. ...more info
  • simply the best
    I've read a lot of SF over the years, and sometimes think that I've read it all. Mr. Banks work, "Use of Weapons" was a book that I read in one furious mind-burning day. The current bookshelves are so full of pathetic, derivative work that I had never hoped in a million years that there would have been an author of this caliber that I could have overlooked. I immediately ordered all of his books from Amazon, and read them all. They all differ in style, and this is the most elegant and powerful of them all....more info
  • Not worth the dollar I paided for it.
    The book is garbage it was not worth the dollar I paid for my kindle copy. Another reviewer commented on how bad the ending was I wouldn't know I didn't read that far. Do not waste your money no matter how little you pay for this book it is not worth it....more info
  • One of the most darkly beautiful character studies in SF
    There are few books which evoke such a wrenching emotional response that they make me cry. Irving's The World According to Garp was one. Brook Hansen's The Chess Garden was another, and Mark Helprin's A Soldier of the Great War was a third. Use of Weapons simply destroyed me. Here is a book which not only provides a great and tragic character study, but also manages to comment on war and conflict in way unmatched since Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five. Add to this the glittering marvels of the Culture universe...and this book just does not let up. I cannot praise it highly enough--and I have to say also that Banks' Culture novels have gotten me reading SF again--a genre I had long abandoned out of disgust at the generally horrible writing and pathetic use of literary technique....more info
  • My favourite work of modern fiction
    With an ending that will blow you away, this is one of the most intelligent and moving works of modern fiction you will ever read. Beautifully structured, it is both funny and yet shot through with dark premonitions of pain and tragedy whose true nature is only revealed at the end. If you read only one book this year, make sure this is it....more info
  • Must Read
    This is in my top 5 SF books ever, period.
    Anyone who doesn't think this is Banks' best book has not understood it.
    This book takes the premise from 'Complicity' and examines it from about 3 times as many angles. Buy this book, read this book, and then, please, really THINK about this book - it expanded my mind by linking together threads about morality, mortality, kantian ethics, and authority.
    It can also be read as a simple space opera, and it's not a bad read on that level either....more info
  • Passable space opera
    I picked this up as part of the Kindle $1 sale. It was good enough to finish reading, with fun tech and more developed characters than most space opera. The main storyline is engaging, but the flashbacks used to develop the character are a mixed bag with about half of them being boring, confusing, or both....more info
  • Not Free SF Reader
    This book was really disappointing, compared to the rest of the Culture novels I have read. Disjointed, jumping all over the place, and enough to even be somewhat confusing at times, not a good thing. The book hasn't enough focus on the childhood issues that ended up being at the heart of the matter. Worst Culture novel by far. When the best character is a drone robot, perhaps a little bit of a problem.

    ...more info
  • Excellent book.
    Excellent book. On a par with the other Banks greats; but with a conclusion that will leave you reeling.

    I had to read this book twice back-to-back to make sure I hadn't missed anything....more info

  • Banks at his finest - Literature that happens to be SF
    Probably Bank's best science fiction novel and one of his best works generally. Cheradinine Zakalwe, Diziet Sma and Skaffen Amiskaw are, together, his most interesting group of characters.

    The structure of this novel makes it worthy of note on its own. Written in interwoven chapters, it is made up of two alternating narrative streams - one indicated by Arabic numerals and the other by Roman ones. One moves forward chronologically, while the other moves in the opposite direction; yet both are about the central, tragic character, Cheradinine Zakalwe.

    Despite being the third of Banks' "Culture" science fiction novels to be published, he wrote a much more complex version of this story in 1974, before any of his books saw print. He later said it was so complex it "was impossible to comprehend without thinking in six dimensions". He credits fellow Scottish author Ken McLeod with getting him to sort this baroque novel into a publishable form.

    Zakalwe is a rogue, a military genius, an assassin, a sad case and an utterly sympathetic character all at the same time. A mercenary shaped by his experiences as the perfect soldier, he's taken, refined and utilised by the supposedly benign and pacific Culture for their nastier dirty tricks operations. The moral ambiguity and ethical contradictions of this are not lost on Zakalwe himself or on his Culture handler, the "Special Circumstances" operative Diziet Sma.

    Gloriously grostesque, sharply observed, bleakly satrical and written with Baink's unique ability to make the most vile aspects of war and violence lyrically beautiful and richly ironic at the same time, this is the great Scottish master at his finest.

    A book to loan to anyone who thinks science fiction is "dumb"....more info
  • title lives up to the plot, and then some!
    The title of the book lives up to the plot of the story - war. When one combines the genious of Iain M Banks, sci-fi and war one will get a hellava good story. Zakalwe is the character who fights more than just one war, but many different wars of different planets. The uses of strategy, weapons and soldiers are all presented in an aggresive, readable and enjoyable manner. The drone, Skaffen-Amtiskaw (as in many of Banks' books) are witty and off-the-wall.

    The chapters in the book are divided between two counter-chronological timelines. Once this is understood, the readability of the book increases.

    All in all, another darn fine sci-fi by Banks....more info
  • Read it again - and still love it
    Just thought I would update the world - I first read this book in 1993 and absolutely loved it. On a recent trip to the UK I decided to pick up a copy to keep in my collection. I couldn't help but read it again. And let me tell, it only gets better with age....more info
  • Undoubtedly a work of SF genius
    Mr. Banks is surely one of the greatest SF writers writing today and this must be one of his greatest works. (I hesitate to say his greatest as I have not read them all, but to surpass this a book would have to be spectacular indeed.) The most outstanding feature of this book is its structure, carefully planned to give greatest insight into the mind and past of the protaganist and amply displaying Mr. Banks flair for immaginative and powerful writing.

    It is probably my all time favourite book and one I would heartily reccomend to everyone, albiet with a warning - if you are looking for a grand space opera perhaps it would be better to start with one of Mr. Banks' other Culture books (Excession or Feersum Endjinn spring to mind), for though 'USe of Weapons' has its share of action and adventure, the mind has to be in high-gear to fully appreciate the book....more info

  • A Contrarian View - Winning the Battle, Losing the War
    Reader reviews of "Use of Weapons" are overwhelmingly positive, even though many highlight the major flaw in the book - the ending.

    At the core of "Use of Weapons" is a mystery: What drives the protagonist Cheradenine Zakalwe? What are the "horrors in his past" hinted at by the jacket blurb?

    To resolve the mystery, Banks employs two parallel plot lines moving roughly chronologicaly in opposite directions. Banks executes this plotting device very well. In pulling the plotting off, Banks wins the battle. We are engaged and intrigued.

    Yet, for a mystery to suceed the reader must be guessing throughout at the resolution. More importantly, at the conclusion, the reader's eyes must be openned to all the hints seen along the way and should recognize how the writer has led us down the primrose path to this conclusion.

    In this Banks fails utterly. The "surprise" ending is just that: Completely unexpected and prepared for. The war is lost.

    Having said this, one possibility remains. Banks's Culture novels are said to be stand-alone works capable of being read independently. If this is not the case and the Culture novels are more closely linked then the ending of "Use of Weapons" becomes an important statement on the Culture. For with this ending we can only conclude that the Culture as rather incompetent and morally bankrupt....more info
  • A Knife Missile's Guide to Complicity
    Banks at his best is difficult to match, and here he is at almost his very peak. Initially confusing, at least a partial rereading is required to understand the full significance of the introductory poem, the epilogue and the history chapters which alternate with the main story.

    The bleak mood throughout makes this a companion piece to his non-SF novel from about the same time, Complicity - his finest work.

    The Player of Games may be an easier introduction to the Culture universe, and Excession more honest, but The Use of Weapons continues to chill for months and years....more info

  • Savior of Civilization
    "Use of Weapons" by Iain M. Banks, ? 1990

    This was a slightly confusing book. The people stayed the same, but the times changed and I did not really understand the sequence of events. At times it was obvious that it was the beginning, other times the end, but a lot of the inbetween was confusing as to which happened before which.
    Zakalwe was a hired gun for a culture that was beyond his understanding. He was a trained assassin. He was not always on the winning side and he was hurt a lot. Once he died, but they brought him back to this world to do some more work for them. He had questions of the worth of what he did. Was it really the right way to help the universe to develop? He was saddened by the death and destruction of so many, worthy or not, just pawns in the development of the universe, as bequeath by the ruling culture (God?). He quit but they needed him, so he was brought back in for more work. Sad, sad, sad. Was this really better then chance of who wins?...more info
  • Easily the best of the Culture Novels
    I'll keep this simple: Use of Weapons, for me, was the best of the Culture Novels. It is the most intense, thought-provoking, interesting, suspenseful, and surprising of any of them. It's the last one I read ... not purposefully, just the last one I got around to reading ... and I'm very glad I saved the best for last....more info
  • Disappointed
    I have been a hard core SiFi reader for over 40 years and I have read some novels I have been disappointed with, but this one is at the top of my list. Since I only paid a dollar to download it to my Kindle I guess I should not complain too much, but this is not a very good book. Disjointed is mild in describing the flow of the story,the ending was terrible and did not seem to be confirmed by the story itself. ...more info
  • Best of the Best
    I am a huge Iain Banks fanatic. I even order his new books from Amazon-uk and pay shipping if I just can't wait for publication in the US, which can take anywhere from 6 mos. - 2 years.
    I have read all his books, and this is his best. The story is beyond exciting and drags you along with no breath until you finish it. The ideas and characters are violent and heartbreaking at the same time. I do not wish to get into plot as I do not wish to spoil this excellent book for anyone.
    Whether you have ever read any of his books or not, READ THIS ONE....more info
  • How is a war in space like a Cold War on earth?
    Iain Banks's _Use of Weapons_ is (intentionally or not) a hallucinogenic science-fictional retelling of John le Carre's _The Spy Who Came in From the Cold_.

    Le Carre's book is a lesson in the horror and manipulation of the espionage business, while Banks details the cruelety and violence of space adventure. Le Carre's image of the spy business was a reaction to Ian Fleming's James Bond novels; Banks's space opera is a grisly objection to the pulp-sf of "Star Wars" and 1930's magazines. Both are revealed slowly as a mass of information is sorted out and revealed; both have shocking and unexpected endings....more info

  • YES! This is the greatest SF book ever written!
    This is the ultimate rock and roll space opera to end all space operas. This book is NOT meant to enlighten you, uplift you or in any other way massage your intellectual ego into fawning over how wonderful that nice Mr. Banks must be.

    It's meant to take you on a searing 300mph ride through the darkest parts of your mind leaving you blistered and burned up.

    You have to dead on the inside not to get a kick out of this one. After I read it I was so blown away that for 3 days, I could not speak with anyone about it.

    I have read much SF in my time (Asimov, Bradbury, Dick, Herbert, etc.) and can only say that nothing compares to this piece of work.

    If you hate rollercoasters stay off this one....more info