Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I Don't Get it

Just finished reading Use of Weapons. I have the feeling that I must have missed something. OK, I understand that the twist at the end is that Zakalwe turns out not to be the real Zakalwe, but the horrible 'Chairmaker', Elethiomel. Fine. It's one of those books, however, that leaves me thinking 'what was the point of all of that'? It just seems like an account of an interesting series of events with an unusual time-frame/narrative sequence. It demands quite a lot of the reader in that s/he has to work out how each chapter 'fits' in relation to the whole and the reverse narrative half of the book allows us to come to understand the background experiences of Zakalwe in a layer by layer fashion. I get the feeling that there's more to it, though, than an interesting structure and a twist at the end. Look to Windward, for example is clearly about something - if you know what I mean. You can identify underlying themes in the story - guilt, loss, loneliness, doom. The book has something to say in addition to, and beyond, the immediate events of the plot. I didn't pick up on anything like that in Use of Weapons - is it really just an adventure story? This happened, then this happened, then this happened, twist, the end.

Most of the sub-adventures in the story seem to come to nothing and fizzle out. In fact they seem quite pointless - that war between the Hegemonarchy and the Empire that Zakalwe gets involved with, for example.

I'm a little confused about the book's epilogue too. Banks seems to imply that Zakalwe and his helper have returned to the planet on which the aforementioned war occurred. They place a nuclear device in a park and wait for the occupying army to arrive. Is there some key to the text here that I've missed? Why does the book begin and end at this point, roughly? What does the poem at the end signify?

The Culture doesn't come out of it very well - there's a pretty impressive death toll of poor bloody infantry in the book as Special Circumstances engages in a complicated process of war-mongering, war-fighting by proxy and betrayals. In the end they seem to order Zakalwe to set off a nuclear bomb (at least it's implied that SC are Zakalwe's 'masters' here). Lovely.

Perhaps the book's 'about' foreign intervention and real politik.

Perhaps I'm barking up the wrong tree in looking for somekind of 'deeper meaning'.

Can anyone help me out?

I really liked the description of Zakalwe's exploration of the Orbital, though. The daisy-chain making, insect bothering drone with the dry wit and casual attitude to violence is pretty good too.


<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?