Sharrow was once the leader of a personality-attuned combat team in one of the sporadic little commercial wars in the civilisation based around the planet Golter. Now she is hunted by the Huhsz, a religious cult which believes that she is the last obstacle before the faith's apotheosis. Her only hope of escape is to find the last of the apocalyptically powerful Lazy Guns before the Huhsz find her. Her journey through the exotic Golterian system is a destructive and savage odyssey into her past, and that of her family and of the system itself.
©1993 Iain M. Banks (P)2012 Hachette Digital
"Imaginatively brilliant." (Daily Mail)
"Banks ain't kidding. He warned you up front that this is a dark novel." (Norman Spinrad)
"Few of us have been exposed to a talent so manifest and of such extraordinary breadth." (The New York Review of Science Fiction)
"There is now no British SF wirter to whose work I look forward to with greater keenness." (The Times)
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"The 'A-Team' set between planets and stars"
I really like Iain M. Banks' Culture Novels. So maybe I am a bit prejudiced towards 'Against a Dark Background.' It is Sci-Fi, but not set in the Culture universe. To a certain extent I also felt if I missed out on his Philosophical Sci-Fi.
The story revolves around a woman known as Sharrow who is on the run from a religious fanatic group called the Huhsz since her birth. She herself has turned out a dodgy figure who must free her half sister from a maximum jail. To do so, she assembles a team of old buddies and they intend to 'kick but'! The only problem is that their attempts plays of 'against a dark background.'
Peter Kenny's reading is synonymous with Iain M. Banks' novels and he does a superb job of reading the book. His voice is a vehicle that sets the tone for Banks' apocalyptic backgrounds.
Definitely a "YES" for a Banks fan, but I do think there are better books written by Banks. Maybe you could use your credit on 'Player of Games,' 'Surface Detail' or 'Matter.' All these books engage the mind and is very enjoyable.
"Slow and boring"
I usually like Ian Banks, his stories take a bit of getting into, but in the end they usually turn out ok. this book had the usual slow start and didn't get slightly interesting till the third part. However this soon fizzled out to a complete anti-climax.
"Dark & difficult"
Although I love Iain banks and love all his culture books. this story floored me. from the start I found it very difficult to follow what was going on and only until half way did I really get to grips with what was happening. He is undoubtedly an excellent of science fiction writer but this book was pretty challenging. This is partly to do with listening to the book rather than reading it. Nevertheless the ending pretty unsatisfying. I will certainly re-read/listen to the book and hope the end improves ...
"It's probably just me but..."
I have listened to most of his books and thought they were all brilliant. He's a fantastic writer and I look forward to listening to his books. I listened to about 2 hours of this and realised I had no idea what was going on so I started again. I have just finished the first of the three parts and again I have no idea what is going on. Sometimes a book unravels so you are put in the picture and everything comes together in the end. That may well happen in this book but I have no idea what has happened so far as the book is very disjointed. It's well read but maybe it demands more of my attention than my usual books. I will go back to it but I've just removed it and downloaded The Hydrogen Sonata to see if I fair better with that one.
I may have to actually read this book as I'm having no luck listening to it.
"My least favourite..."
I completely agree with the other reviews. For some reason this just feels disjointed and I've found myself having to rewind parts because I feel like I've missed something. There's too much irrelevant backstory and I just didn't really warm to any of the characters. Desperately in need of some Culture!
Not up to his usual standard. Not part of the culture series. though it contains some of the same elements.
"Good story but cluttered"
Love Peter Kenny, Great reader. I have many Iain M Banks books in my library. Can't get enough of the Culture Series.
This doesn't stack up against his other novels. A lot of back tracking that adds little to the story.
Peter Kenny is very expressive and engaging, I could listen to him for hours...Oh hang on. I have listened to him for hours and enjoyed every one of them.
Probably not to be quite honest.
Loved the characters and the reading but found the diversions into character history distracting from the story itself.
"You want a strong, female protagonist? Here 'tis."
This is my first Iain Banks novel since he passed away and I was concerned I'd be too upset to enjoy it fully... but figured it was time. I needn't have worried; this book is so much fun all thoughts of the author's sad passing were soon pushed to the back of my mind. I guess this is how writing can bestow a kind of immortality on an author.
While this is one of Banks' science fiction novels, it isn't part of his Culture series. This is a great little space opera/heist adventure/action extravaganza with some deep thinkin' mixed in for good measure. This being Banks, said thoughts are often woven into the plot with a liberal dose of humour. In fact, I'm pretty sure some of these aspects would make Douglas Adams smile.
If you're not already a fan of Banks, I'd recommend this to fans of Firefly, Killjoys, Saga and (dare I say it?) Star Wars. This certainly isn't Banks' best work but it's a Hell of a lot of fun and I enjoyed it so much I went back and re-read it from the beginning as soon as I finished it!
P.S. - Banks wrote an epilogue to this novel which he posted online but never added to any published copy of the book. It's rather nice and brings things full circle (sort of). A quick search online should find it.
Visceral experience. Science Fiction delivering the biggest ideas and best writing again. Read this book.
"An Iain M. Banks' classic."
Very darkly humorous..
Always hard to compare a Banks' book to anything other than his other works. I suppose it feels closest to something like Consider Phlebas and Use of Weapons (his early Culture works) in tone.
I just love how he draws scene after scene - perhaps the Logjam heist was my favourite bit - twist after twist after twist...
It's over 18 hours of excellent narration from Peter Kenny - so,no, it's too long. Also it's quite episodic in structure as Sharrow and her crew follow the trail of the last Lazy Gun (and Sharrow has her back story filled in by flashbacks) - so there are lots of natural breaks.
The 'Dark Background' in question is that the solar system in this novel is stuck at the arse end of nowhere and there is no FTL technology. So the humans are just stuck - for millennia - technology has peaked and fallen back from its peak. Every possible religious, political and philosophical system has been tried and tried again (and Banks has great fun with many of them as the scene shifts chapter after chapter - the Solipsists might be my personal favourite). But still the world goes nowhere and the golden age has passed. Through all this passes Sharrow - hunted by religious extremists and looking for the legendary last Lazy Gun. It's of course a good sci-fi action adventure story, and because it's Banks the prose is top-notch and a pleasure just to listen to (no Dan Brown 'the man was sad and had a red hat' etc. here) but it's far more than that - it's a chance for Banks to play with notions of political and philosophical systems and futility - all sketched against that (very) Dark background. So it's darkly humorous and actually one of my favourite works of his. I once chatted to him about it and I think he enjoyed being able to play around so much in it. I've gone back to it more often than any of his other books apart from Excession and Inversions,,,and Peter Kenny does it justice (and more) as usual..
Very much enjoyed this book with plenty of scope twists and turns. The characters are as usual with depth and feeling which create a story you don't want to put down.
I look forward to my next reading
Well written, exciting, good characters; like his 'standard' novels. But as with all good sci fi he had to create a believable world stage, too. Great stuff.
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