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Book 21

  1. Stone, Irving — The Agony and the Ecstasy (439 of 763 pages)
  2. Morpurgo, Michael — The Mozart Question (68 pages)
  3. Unsworth, Barry — Stone Virgin (312 pages)
  4. Phillips, Caryl — The Nature of Blood (212 pages)
  5. Howard, Robert E. — The Conan Chronicles, Volume 1: The People of the Black Circle (549 pages)
  6. Lockwood, Richard & Steve Potz-Rayner — A Little Book of Lies (170 pages)
  7. Vickers, Hugh — Great Operatic Disasters (65 pages)
  8. Howard, Robert E. — The Conan Chronicles, Volume 2: The Hour of the Dragon (574 pages)
  9. Rennison, Nick — 100 Must-Read Classic Novels (164 pages)
  10. Augustine of Hippo (John K. Ryan, translator) — The Confessions of Saint Augustine (422 pages)
  11. Fitzgerald, F. Scott — The Great Gatsby (146 pages)
  12. Harrison, Fraser — Infinite West: Travels in South Dakota (188 pages)
  13. Banks, Iain M. — Consider Phlebas (466 pages)
  14. Banks, Iain M. — The Player of Games (307 pages)
  15. Carter, W. Hodding — Flushed: How the Plumber Saved Civilization (239 pages)
  16. Mandela, Nelson — Long Walk to Freedom (750 pages)
  17. Banks, Iain M. — Use of Weapons (411 pages)
  18. Banks, Iain M. — The State of the Art (215 pages)
  19. Banks, Iain M. — Excession (450 pages)
  20. Kazantzakis, Nikos — Zorba the Greek (345 pages)
  21. Banks, Iain M. — Inversions (407 pages)
Page count
6899
book cover: Inversions.

The same readers that tend to consider Excession one of their favourite Culture novels also tend to rank Inversions, the sixth Culture book, as their least favourite. I had the opposite reaction.

In a similar vein, Culture afficionados like to claim that these novels can be read in any order, and I completely disagree; Inversions is my Exhibit A. While it's true that each novel feeds you all the backstory you really need, and that Inversions stands alone as a perfectly enoyable fantasy-like story if you lack any background in the Culture, the reader who disregards the published order misses so much that enriches the reading experience; this is especially true of Inversions.

Truly, the references to the Culture in Inversions are extremely oblique. Blink and you'll miss them. I no doubt missed a few myself. But they are there, and this novel set in a mediaeval-like world is just as much Culture as its techno-centric predecessors. Banks tends to examine the same "big questions" from different perspectives in his Culture novels; with the pre-industrial world of Inversions Banks simply gave us another lens through which to scrutinize the Culture, another foil to his "big ideas" approach. The new perspective is refreshing and the end result is at least on a par with any other Culture novel.

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