« May 2015
July 2015 »
Against a Dark Background

I just finished reading Against a Dark Background, a science fiction novel by Iain Banks that is, for a change, not set in the Culture universe.

Our hero is a wealthy brat on the run from a religious cult bent on murdering her for her family lineage. She gets back together with her neurologically synchronized troupe of war buddies of questionable morals from back when they flew combat spaceships during the Tax Wars. Together they scour the solar system hunting for the ancient artifacts that would clear her name. Hijinks ensue.

As with the Culture novels, Banks packs Against a Dark Background with creative technological and social ideas intertwined with explosive adventure and a touch of dark humor. The book includes several unique settings that showcase Banks' imaginative future vision.

Unlike the Culture novels, the characters are not particularly noble and the stakes are not particularly high. Nobody is out to save the galaxy or enlighten a race of billions. They want to make some money and save their own skin, little else. As a result, the story is certainly unpretentious, and the characters are reasonably believable if not always terribly likable.

My least favorite element of the book is that some of the nonstop action scenes get a bit incoherent; the writing gets muddy and it's not always clear what's going on. It's still more readable than Remember Phelbus, but you can tell that Banks got better at writing action sequences after this book was published.

The book is standalone, concluding in a way that is basically satisfying and does not demand a sequel or anything. (Although Banks did publish an epilogue on the pulisher's website, since the last chapter is action-oriented and could stand to wrap up the story a teensy bit better.)

Overall I recommend this book, it was a fun read that sits nicely beside the more expansive Culture novels.

The views expressed on this site are mine personally, and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.