Buying Bank's Use of Weapons was a long shot - a friend had recommended the danish translation of Player of Games, but the (American) bookstore where I mail order most of my books didn't have PoG stocked, so I decided to try another Banks book (I have been wanting to read something by him, for quite some time, but just haven't gotten around to it).
Use of Weapons is about a mercenary who usually goes by the name Cheradenine Zakalwe - he is a couple of hundred years old and has seen a lot of battle. He has been in a lot of wars, sometimes on the winning side, sometimes on the losing side, but always on what he thinks is the good side, because Zakalwe is not an ordinary mercenary, he works for the Culture, in their Special Circumstances division. It all sounds like the basis for a good space adventure and that is also what the back page of the book tries to sell it as, but Use of Weapons is a lot more than that.
I guess that it's possible to read this book as a space adventure, but I can't imagine how anybody can ignore the depth of this book. In my opinion this book is a lot more than just an adventure, it's about a man who has experienced too much and has seen too much, has fought too many battles and who has too much past he is trying to ignore and erase.
Use of Weapons touched me like no book has touched me for a long time - Zakalwe's battles became mine and his past became mine. The ending was strong and moved me a lot - It forced me to have to rethink the way that I think about my past (NO! It's not the same as in the book, I am not that sick). Banks spins a tale that is both funny and dark. Read it!
Written by TC, 01 June 1999.