Reviews of Use of Weapons (1990)
Review by clong (2005-01-20)
After being very disappointed with Against a Dark Background, I was somewhat sceptical about Use of Weapons. I am happy to report that I found it to be a far superior book.
The characters are interesting and complex, especially the protagonist Zakalwe, a special agent for the Culture who is sent to various planets to engineer desired political outcomes through military action, political intrigue, dirty tricks, or whatever may be necessary. The book follows three deftly interwoven storylines: one from Zakalwe's youth, one that follows recollections of his recruitment and early missions for the Culture, and one from the book's present. Use of Weapons certainly raises important ethical questions, including questions about whether ends can justify means (set in a very Machiavellian universe where evil people can do good things and good societies can do evil things). And, the writing is quite good. Don't expect a happy ending.
Review by doom70 (2004-10-08)
I've become a big and of Banks SF writing. He seems to be able to nicely mis crazy, neat, creative ideas and real, gritty, lifelike characters. His stuff isn't boring, or predictable. Use of Weapoons was the first of his novels I read and I've been hooked ever since. This is a dark novel about a soldier who battles on endlessly in service of the Culture. It tells the story in two chonicalogical directions at once, the chapters intersplices with one moving forward, and another moving into the past. Gret stuff!