The man known as Cheradenine Zakalwe was one of Special Circumstances' foremost agents, changing the destiny of planets to suit the Culture through intrigue, dirty tricks or military action. The woman known as Diziet Sma had plucked him from obscurity and pushed him towards his present eminence, but despite all their dealings she did not know him as well as she thought. The drone known as Skaffen-Amtiskaw knew both of these people. It had once saved the woman's life by massacring her attackers in a particularly bloody manner. It believed the man to be a burnt-out case. But not even its machine intelligence could see the horrors in his past.
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Iain M. Banks
Iain [Menzies] Banks was born in Fife in 1954, and was educated at Stirling University, where he studied English Literature, Philosophy and Psychology. Banks came to widespread and controversial public notice with the publication of his first novel, The Wasp Factory, in 1984. His first science fiction novel, Consider Phlebas, was published in 1987. He has continued to write both mainstream fiction (as Iain Banks) and science fiction (as Iain M. Banks). He is now acclaimed as one of the most powerful, innovative and exciting writers of his generation: The Guardian has called him "the standard by which the rest of SF is judged". William Gibson, the New York Times-bestselling author of Spook Country describes Banks as a "phenomenon". Iain M. Banks lives in Fife, Scotland.