Reviews of Against a Dark Background (1993)
Review by clong (2004-03-02)
I had moderately high expectations for Against a Dark Background (at least in part because of glowing praise for Banks here on iblist.com). I would have to say that this book was a pretty big disappointment. Sharrow is one of the least sympathetic protagonists I can remember; in fact of all the characters only the android is mildly interesting. The plot meanders with little rhyme or reason; people do stupid things with little reason but to move the plot from one dead-end to a new tableaux. The final confrontations of the last 100 pages or so are reasonably entertaining, but hardly sufficient payoff to compensate for the rest of the novel. All in all, I'd say skip this one.
Review by lucasw (2003-03-13)
There's only two interesting things in this book, the nature of the Lazy Gun, and the isolation of the Golter system. The former is revealed in the first third, and the latter on page 450 of 500. And then neither is explored again.
Banks also has a habit here of having characters react to things that he hasn't described yet, or never describes at all. This would be okay if I was more interested in the characters or their doings, but like it is I'm halfway skimming the text and therefore miss even more.
Things picked up at the end, with all the fighting and action, and it was then enjoyable. The final scene was sufficiently bloody and violent as well (not quite like the destruction/rebirth of WJW endings, but good).