I just finish Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks. This book is written in a peculiar way that makes it a non-straightforward read, and I'm wondering how different an impression a second read would leave. (Stop reading this question now if you hate spoilers.)

The numbers of the chapters indicate which stream they belong to: one stream is numbered forward in words (One, Two ...), while the other is numbered in reverse with Roman numerals (XIII, XII ...).

In the translation I read, there is preface by Gérard Klein where he end by telling he recommend reading it once like any other book, but then rereading it in an alternate order. He recommended to do the second reading starting with the chapters with Roman numerals in order (from I to XIII) and then read the chapters numbered in words from "One" to the end. he also pretend that you will discover thing by reading in this order.

I was skeptical, but after reading the end, I understand that a Rereading could be interesting.

So I'm wondering: Is a rereading, in an alternate order or not, worth the hassle?

  • 3
    After I'd read it the first time, I re-read it almost immediately, and a lot of things became clearer. I read it in the book order both times, so I don't know whether a chronological read is worth it.
    – user56
    Apr 12, 2011 at 17:40
  • @gilles Where there is spoilers in the question? I though I was precocious enough to avoid them and, as I said, most of the information I put here was in the preface of the book I read. I was aware of this while I read the book and nothing was spoiled. Meanwhile, this question is meaningless if you don't have read the book at least once.
    – DavRob60
    Apr 12, 2011 at 17:55
  • @DavRob60: The chapter numbering isn't a spoiler, but the “chronological order” is . I try to cater to spoiler-phobes (and this is definitely a book that can be “spoiled”), and the purpose of my edit is to draw their attention away from the third paragraph (if you're spoilerphobe, don't read after the “hidden” paragraph). But feel free to revert if you dislike it.
    – user56
    Apr 12, 2011 at 18:05
  • @Gilles I edited it again to avoid the more spoiler as I could.
    – DavRob60
    Apr 12, 2011 at 18:13
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    @DavRob60: There were a lot of things I didn't understand the first time round (I only figured out the trick midway through the book). So I decided to re-read just to figure out what was going on, not to get a different artistic impression.
    – user56
    Apr 13, 2011 at 18:16

1 Answer 1


Much of the way the plot is constructed uses the contrasts created by the non-traditional structure to generate tension (particularly toward the end). This is lost if you break that linkage and instead read it chronologically.

I don't think you'd get as much from re-reading it "in order" as you would from re-reading it linearly (as written). Certainly, I'm not intending to bother.

  • 3
    Definitely agree that it's worth a re-read once you know the ending, and that doing it in chronological order would not help. Apr 14, 2011 at 9:54

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