British writer Iain Banks, known for such edgy, thoughtful novels as "The Wasp Factory" and "A Song of Stone," writes science fiction as Iain M. Banks ("Excession," "Against a Dark Background")."Inversions," while set on a planet with two sons and six moons, is more of a medieval parable than sci-fi, despite the mysterious properties surrounding Dr. Vosill, physician to the king, and a female and foreigner in a realm which despises both. Politically wise and humane as well as amazingly skillful … more
First published in the U.K. in 1998, Banks's latest novel steps back from the usual grand scale and ultra high-tech of his well-known "Culture" SF series (Excession, etc.) to the intrigue-ridden courts of a politically fragmented world. In Haspidus, a woman named Vosill, a foreigner from the distant archipelago nation of Drezen, serves as personal physician to King Quience, in spite of social mores that treat women as little more than property. Vosill's servant--actually a spy reporting to one of Quience's trusted right-hand men--finds himself doubting his master's claims that Vosill is a danger to the king, even as he uncovers evidence that suggests that Vosill is much more than she seems. Meanwhile, across the mountains, the stern warrior DeWar serves as chief bodyguard to General UrLeyn, the Prime Protector of the Tassasen Protectorate. His close contact with UrLeyn earns him the distrust of UrLeyn's fellow generals; those loyal to UrLeyn fear DeWar himself could be the perfect spy and assassin, while others worry he will discover their own secret plots. As conspiracies unfold and loyalties shift dangerously in both lands, the story of Vosill and DeWar and their unspoken connection unfolds with masterful subtlety. Banks's new novel should further expand his reputation for creating challenging, intelligent stories full of notable characters trapped in complex situations that have no easy solutions. (Feb.) Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.