This review was originally posted at Goodreads and imported here later with next to no spell/grammar checking.
Okay, so this is a Culture novel without the Culture. I’ve had it on my shelf a long time before I actually read it, because it just didn’t sound that appealing.
I think it’s my favourite Culture novel so far.
Yes, the setting is indeed a medieval-like land with basically no science fiction or fantasy elements. But it’s a great tale, with relatable characters, describing the clash of cultures and ideas, court intrigues, conspiracies and the hardship of the poor.
I have no idea what a reader not aware of the other Culture novels might think, but they’d probably enjoy it nevertheless and just remained baffled by a couple of the mysteries in the book. The whole Culture influence is there to see, but it’s with a couple of exceptions, it’s quite subtle.
The book tells two tales, alternating each chapter, but unlike the insanity that is Use of Weapons, the stories are straightforward and easy to follow. This is the first Banks' novel where I didn’t get utterly lost on several occasions and it just made it more enjoyable to me. There is only a handful of characters and little in the way of flashbacks or complex branching storylines. It also does away with gruesome descriptions of torture (even though these clearly happen in the world) for which I’m grateful.
Inversions sheds another light on the Culture and its inhabitants from a completely different angle. It’s occasionally funny and sad but always a gripping tale that’s for once easy to follow. Heartily recommended.