As you can see by the rating, Use of Weapons wasn’t my favourite Banks book. I expected an interstellar adventure or a high thrills space action with fascinating characters, as with his other books, and I thought it was given that I’d get the aforementioned awesome story from the blurb. The reviews online were positive.
What worked well?
There were more than a few conversations of interest between Zakalwe, Sma, and the machine Skaffen-Amtiskaw: jibes about human and machine intelligence and the singularly humorous design of the machines in Banks’ novels. Some stories about Zakalwe’s past caught my attention more than others, and what I remember most vividly are the horrors.
The prose made me dizzy. (Speaking of dizzy, one of the characters is actually called Diziet Sma!) The aim of the story, I believe, was to show there is a special agent called Cheradenine Zakalwe who has lived an impressively long life even his Culture employers don’t know all the details about and this is why some characters and environments are designed to be fleeting, unnecessary to remember even, for the reader. As you can imagine, when the reader doesn’t need to remember all the events they feel inconsequential to the story. There was a revealing conclusion that was eye opening, though I did not feel there were enough hints earlier in the story for the reveal to make sense.
Most of the story I didn’t enjoy, and I wanted to get to the end as soon as possible, which was unfortunate. In future I may be more careful which Banks books I choose to read. Some can be overwhelmingly fantastic, while others, as in this case, can disappoint.