Use of Weapons (The Culture #3) ★★☆☆☆

useofweapons (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Use of Weapons
Series: The Culture #3
Author: Iain Banks
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 433
Format: Digital Edition








Zakalwe, a man outside of the Culture but brought in to be used in situations where the Culture couldn’t officially act, is a warrior and warleader of great ability. Given Culture longevity and weapons and support, Zakalwe is wielded by the Culture like a katanna. Not always on the side of Right or on the Winning side, Zakalwe fulfills the aims of the Culture without knowing what those aims are.

The real payment for working for the Culture is so that Zakalwe can visit his sister after each year/decade long mission and plead for forgiveness of the breach between them. The breach is a shadowy affair involving the death of their younger sister and how a family friend was involved. This was all long ago and not fully revealed until the very end.

There was a LOT of time skipping and flashbacks to various previous battles and fights. While the current battle and latest visit to Zakalwe’s sister are the focus, the whole story is one interlocking cube where the past locks certain things into place that the current Zakalwe can’t alter. He fulfills his mission, gets to visit his sister and then the author slams us with the fact that Zakalwe isn’t Zakalwe but the family friend from long ago who killed Zakalwe’s sister. Zakalwe killed himself and this friend, who had turned the little sister into a chair made of her bones, tries to take on Zakalwe’s identity to do penance for what he did.

What a bloody scumbag!

The End


My Thoughts:

This is my last Culture novel. I simply don’t like Banks’ style or how he writes or what he writes about. For example, this time around, with all the flashbacks in non-linear fashion and all the hidden psychological crap going on, I simply felt lost. Others might love it and revel in it, good for them. For me, it simply wasn’t enjoyable at all.

I liked the overall story and if things had been a straight up adventure story, I would have liked this a lot more. More linear, less hidden things, more focus, less dreamy, makes no sense kind of thing. The reveal about Zakalwe didn’t surprise me, as it explained so much, I was just so lost in Banks trying to be clever with his writing that it was just one more “trick” that he used. So instead of being impressed, I was annoyed.

Unfortunately, Banks riled me the wrong way from the first book of his that I read and the next 2 books, while written well and telling a decent story, have never un-riled me. I would certainly recommend these books to others if they asked about them, but I would never recommend them on my own initiative. There are just too many things about the whole universe that annoy me and make for a non-enjoyable read.

The biggest issue is that the Culture just doesn’t show humans acting like humans. Handwavium goes on in the background to explain that Humanity has “changed” but it’s so much bullshit. And then every story shows certain humans acting like humans but Banks excusing it as not really representative of the Culture. I call bullshit again. I do not find the Culture believable at all, especially with what Banks reveals about certain parts of it. That disconnect is enough for me to not be able to enjoy the stories, as the overarching framework is crooked, rotted through and not able to support the stories that Banks tries to hang on it.

Glad I tried these. But they are not for me and I won’t be reading any more by Banks. He frustrates me too much. The two stars denotes my frustration with the series and not that this was badly written or poorly executed. I simply didn’t like it.




14 thoughts on “Use of Weapons (The Culture #3) ★★☆☆☆

  1. Oh well, this is frustrating 😉 I cannot read the review for fear of spoilers (I’m currently reading The Player of Games) – but from the last paragraph I surmise you’ve become disenchanted with the whole series. I’m in the middle of Culture #2 and still not fully decided on Banks – I’ll definitely come back to your review after reading Use of Weapons though! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I’m disillusioned and done with this series.

      Good call on not reading the review, it would ruin the book for you and if you’re still on the fence, you definitely want to make up your own mind.

      Looking forward to your thoughts on the Culture when you review your book…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m reading The Algrebaist atm, a non-Culture SF novel, and I’m considering DNFing. Too bloated. I’m a fan of the culture books though, but now I’m wondering whether I would enjoy them on a reread, maybe my tastes evolved too much. I don’t remember his other books to have such bloated prose though, so it might just be this. I do think 1 and 3 are there series weakest btw.

    Other important remark: The Culture is not human at all. They consider Earth not ready yet for first contact.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Banks certainly has his devoted followers, so he’s done something right 🙂
      I’d be really interested to see what you think upon a re-read.

      And you’ve provided info before about the Culture, which is NOT revealed in the books. See, that kind of thing really pisses me off. So I chalk it up to Banks and I not seeing eye to eye on almost everything 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No, the info is in a novella published after Player Of Games.

        A reread won’t happen soon. After Algrebaist, I still have Transition left of Banks. Maybe in a year or maybe two, I hardly do rereads, and Dune is on that list first.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Banks does indeed split his readership into two groups, those who enjoy his stories and those who end up being frustrated by them, and I guess much depends on readers’ expectations (due to the hype surrounding this author) and their individual tastes. I did enjoy what I read so far (even though “Excession” fell a little below the usual standards for me), and I liked “Use of Weapons” weird timeline, but I can understand your frustration with both writer and story: if Banks is not your proverbial cup of tea, you have a whole array of other “cups” to choose from! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Well, we just have to agree to disagree on Culture 🙂 Book 3 wasn’t covered by my review, but I really enjoyed it, flashbacks and all, although I admire Banks’ vision more than his writing style.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And I bet we will agree to disagree about other books too. Shocking, no?

      I am glad you enjoy Banks. And I just can’t say more without going into “super snark” territory, so I’ll leave it at that 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Aw man, that stinks. I’ll still give Ian Banks a shot in the future just to see what the fusssss around his name and work is about someday. The nonlinear stuff is a bit perplexing though. I sort of can’t think of a story that went for nonlinear narrative and succeeded. Sounds like a tricky style to explore.

    Liked by 1 person

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