View Full Version : Just finished - Use of Weapons

14-11-2002, 10:19:28
Having decided to continue on my Banksian Odessy, I recently picked up Use of Weapons and just finished it this week.

An interesting book. I like the contrapuntal idea of the two story threads, and again it's fascinating to learn more about Culture. The amount of interference that Special Circumstances gets up to is quite apparent here.

It also drew a parallel I thought to Consider Phlebas, where you learn so much about the struggles of the main character, get really sympathetic for him, but ultimately it's all a bit futile, he's been stitched up, lied to, manipulated and used by Culture.

What confused me though is the ending. Of course I was prepared for a Banksian Twist (tm), and the Chairmaker was certainly shocking, as was the final unveiling of the actual truth behind The White Chair.

However, what I still can't grasp is the actual revealing of character identity at the End/Beginning. Is that actually true, or was that a bluff? I can't work it out.

14-11-2002, 12:44:23
Follow the bone splinters.

14-11-2002, 15:36:05
Yeah, but there's the bit where his body gets regrown after the decapitation?

14-11-2002, 15:48:57
I believe that the revelation is true, but that we have either been given some misinformation about our hero's past or that he cracked fairly early on and the flashbacks we're given are actually more his re-imaginings of his past with himself in the role of his brother.

I think.

It's been a while since I read it and I don't remember the details anymore. Regardless, whether there's misdirection or not, I believe the revelation is true, there's no reason for it not to be. My big question is whether in the prologue/epilogue is he better or has he been 'reset' like the other times he's been rescued from near death and sent off like a good little SC agent again. My guess is that he's still SC's little wind-up toy.

14-11-2002, 16:23:38
Ah... now I remember what happened. I think I agree with Guy but it's a while since I read it.

20-11-2002, 16:56:56
Ok, I've flicked back through the book - SPOILER ALERT

It seems to me that the switch must have happened after the mission in which he gets decapitated? Am I wrong?

20-11-2002, 18:26:50
Again, it's been awhile since I read it, so I'm going on flawed memory, but:


My impression was that Zakalwe actually commited suicide upon recieving the bone chair. He succeeded in taking his life and never left his home planet. His step-brother (I keep wanting to call him Ethelbert) went a bit nuts during that battle where he was holed up in the beached battleship and, combined with guilt over the things he had done in order to win, assumed his brother's identity. Every adventure that happens subsequently is actually happening to Ethel-whatever acting as Zakalwe. That's why he was so troubled and unstable. Not because atrocities had been done to him, but because he had done atrocities and has had trouble living with that fact.

Like I said, that leads to problems such as whose childhood memories were we seeing? Were the bone splinters really in Zakalwe, or Ethel-whatever remembering himself as Zakalwe?

Just my opinion, I could very well be wrong. I'd have to re-read to really be sure.

20-11-2002, 18:32:37
This makes me want to re-read too. I think what Guy's saying is basically what I thought was going on.

21-11-2002, 09:07:55
Hmm, hadn't thought of it in that way, I see what you're saying...

10-12-2002, 12:31:45
I see why there's room for doubt but it's an unanwerasble question - i prefer to leave it a little ambiguous

10-12-2002, 12:41:44

I understood it as Guy.
I saw the whole book as a desperate struggle from the new/fake Zakalwe to gain penitence, to do 'good', even by willingly being manipulated, on behalf of SC, to wash this horrendous sin.

I don't remember many books where I was so shocked (by the chair thing). Overall, a brilliant piece of writing, but the character of Horza was even stronger. I swear I nearly cried at the end. I'm starting his last one on the culture, which just came out in France, and also read 'the business', quite disapointing.

10-12-2002, 12:53:10
I have only Inversions and Look to Windward remaining on my Culture Oddesy, although I may also attempt to re-read Excession.

10-12-2002, 13:05:18
I haven’t read a lot of them, the ones that look less interesting, like The State of the Art and Against a Dark Background.

10-12-2002, 13:18:49
I always thought The Player of Games was pretty poor compared to the rest. AaDB is good stuff. Excession was a bit rubbish.

10-12-2002, 13:20:14
The Player of Games was 'minor', if you wish, but an excellent introduction to the Culture. Excession was a big disapointment for me too.

10-12-2002, 14:50:18
Against a Dark Background isn't a culture novel, nor is Feersum Endjinn. Excession was difficult.

11-12-2002, 10:33:15
Feersum Eddjinn didnt really do it for me either

11-12-2002, 10:34:10
You're not meant to shag it

11-12-2002, 12:58:42
Those paper cuts really stung!

11-12-2002, 16:53:05
I bet you go in for that, self flaggelation

11-12-2002, 22:02:39
Excession is rubbish. Got the feeling he got a bit tired of the Culture. But _LtW_ is a great comeback.

12-12-2002, 15:49:37
I actually really enjoyed Excession, although I've not read too many of his other sci-fi novels so perhaps I'm not aware of just how good they can be. I found the Business a far more dissapointing novel - I just find it plain impossible to care about any of the characters, which is unusual for me with Banks' work.

17-12-2002, 16:59:12
That was the problem I had with Excession - I really didn't care about any of the characters coz they were all Culture Minds.

17-12-2002, 17:10:42
There where so many things wrong with excession I don't know where to start. But I have to say he did the Affront real good.

17-12-2002, 17:17:20
the Affront was the only part I enjoyed too. I have fond memories of one of the gladiatoral dinners he describes.