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A novel by the talented science fiction writer Iain M. Banks, also known as Iain Banks for his fiction.

Little can be said about the book without spoiling the story, but it can be safely said that this book has a less obvious point than most of Banks' novels. The book is, as is suggested by the title, a glance at the differing results of different methods, trying to achieve the same goal.

The book is set in the same universe as that of the Culture, but the setting is outside the Culture's sector of the galaxy. It reads quite differently from the majority of Banks' science fiction novels, but is nevertheless an engrossing read. Not a must for every Banks fan, but a worthwhile read, especially if you are willing to take the time to read it twice.

The novel's setting is within the Culture's sector of the galaxy, it just isn't as obvious as most of Iain's other sci-fi books, and has hence led to quite a lot of discussion as to wether it is or isn't a real Culture novel. Being the first Iain Banks novel that I read, it certainly isn't at all obvious where it's set, but if you look at the book after reading other Culture novels, it becomes obvious.

(Warning: there may be spoilers below)

Firstly, Iain has said in several interviews that it is a Culture novel.

This quote from the second chapter of Use of Weapons that seems to sum up the doctor pretty well:

"Many of their [the Culture's] people become physicians to great leaders, and with medicines and treatments that seem like magic to the comparatively primitive people they're dealing with, ensure that a great and good leader has a better chance of survival."

And to quote from another discussion on the same subject:

"Early on the doctor is said to be a stranger from another Culture (spelled with a capital C) and near the end she is said to decline dining with the ships captain due to "special circumstances". I love that line. The knife missile is another hint [In the torture chamber, it seems that the doctor is saved by a knife missile], but these seem to just come right out and say it."

Finally, it can also be said that the title, Inversions suggests that this is a look at the Culture from the outside (i.e. from the PoV of a civilisation they are controlling), rather than a view from inside the Culture/Special Circumstances like most of the other Culture novels.

One other pointer to the notion that Inversions is a Culture novel, and that the Doctor is an agent of Contact:


At the end of the book, when the Doctor has decided to 'return to Drezen', there is an obvious pickup by a spacecraft: flashing lights in the sky (attributed to chain fire, but much brighter and louder), harsh winds that come and go suddenly, etc. This in and of itself isn't as telling as what the Doctor told the captain of the native sea vessel when she declined to eat dinner with him that night, "citing an indisposition due to special circumstances." Special Circumstances is, of course, the name of the branch of Contact that handles first-time interaction between the Culture and technologically inferior civilizations.

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