Inversions

Iain M. Banks' scifi novels are all* set far in the future when the dominant human society is the Culture, a post-scarcity near-utopia. As a utopia, the Culture is somewhat boring, because nothing dramatic really ever happens there. So most of his novels are set in the ranks of Contact (and its secretive sibling "Special Circumstances") the branch of the Culture that interfaces with other species and isolated planets where humans live under less enlightened governments.

Inversions is set on such a human planet where they no longer have knowledge of the stars and things are just making the first tentative steps out of a feudal system, and is told from the perspective of natives who have no notion that Contact might be working among them. In fact, other than a few touches that might be puzzling to someone who hadn't read any of Banks' other books, this might as well be a stand-alone fantasy or ahistorical novel. In any case, it's a pair of lightly intertwined stories -- one of a bodyguard to a ruler in one nation and the other of a doctor to a king in another.

Both stories cover a lot of ground -- there's court intrigue and the clash of nations and romance and unrequited love and torture and despair and, perhaps, redemption. Heady stuff. A great read.

FuzzyCo grade: A

* or mostly, at least. I haven't read them all, so I'm not sure.