The Pequod Review:
Iain Banks's Use of Weapons is an extremely well-crafted science fiction novel, involving a utopian civilization and its “well-armed liberal niceness” that intrudes on other less-enlightened civilizations. Banks structures the book ingeniously, as the chapters alternate between the present (as the well-meaning but guilt-ridden Cheradenine Zakalwe is hired to travel across the galaxy performing various activities on behalf of his government) and the past (as episodes from Zakalwe’s personal history are brought together to reveal how he became the person he is now).
The two sections converge into a superb story with real tension, culminating in an astonishing ending — one that a review should not reveal. This is first-rate science fiction, with unexpected depth as it explores the nature of morality, the effectiveness (and unintended consequences) of political intervention, and even the process of decision-making in the face of uncertainty. And Banks does it all with strong characters and a lot of humor. Highly recommended.