Iain M. Banks
On a planet with two suns, where the humanoid natives are just developing muskets, we learn about the time when the good Doctor Vosill was personal physician to the King Quience. We are told her story through the reports of her apprentice Oelph, who is also tasked with spying on her, and whose attempts to flatter the powers that be quickly establish him as not the most reliable of narrators. A mysterious foreigner, the Doctor holds curiously enlightened views and she is far more competent than the common quacks of this time and place.
Alternating with the Doctor's story, and forming a kind of counterpoint to it, is that of DeWar, supreme bodyguard to the progressive ruler of a distant realm on the same world. Both the Doctor and DeWar are drawn into the machinations at their respective courts, with all the attached political maneuvering, chicanery, and assassinations.
Alas, it is impossible to discuss Inversions in any detail without spoiling large parts of it. And to discuss there would be a lot, judging from many readers' puzzled reactions. It is a somewhat subtle story, since none of the narrators have a full understanding of events, requiring the reader to put things together for themselves. How well you fare with this will probably decide if you appreciate the novel or not.
The first question asked about any SF novel that bears the Banks name is whether it is set in the author's Culture universe. Inversions isn't—and yet it is. Anybody intending to read this book should read some of the early Culture novels first, principally Use of Weapons, otherwise they will be as befuddled by some events as poor Oelph.
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