Stoned, the crows

14 04 2018

The Crow Road by Iain Banks

 

‘It was the day my grandmother exploded. I sat in the crematorium, listening to my Uncle Hamish quietly snoring in harmony to Bach’s Mass in B Minor, and I reflected that it always seemed to be death that drew me back to Gallanach.’
Prentice McHoan has returned to the bosom of his complex but enduring Scottish family. Full of questions about the McHoan past, present and future, he is also deeply preoccupied: mainly with death, sex, drink, God and illegal substances…
 
With some trepidation I recently re-read this early Iain Banks novel, now over 25 years old, having not done so since shortly after its publication, having loved it back then. I should not have been so worried, it remains a cracking yarn and definitely one of Banks’ best. Banks ploughed a distinctive furrow in contemporary fiction at the end of the last century and The Crow Road is an outstanding example of his work. Although some of the IT references may now seem a little quaint in the attempt to sound terribly cutting edge, nothing can distract from a great plot, well-drawn characters and a thoroughly compelling narrative.

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The quarry man

1 11 2015

The Quarry by Iain Banks

 

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Kit doesn’t know who his mother is. What he does know, however, is that his father, Guy, is dying of cancer. Feeling his death is imminent, Guy gathers around him his oldest friends – or at least the friends with the most to lose by his death. Paul – the rising star in the Labour party who dreads the day a tape they all made at university might come to light; Alison and Robbie, corporate bunnies whose relationship is daily more fractious; Pris and Haze, once an item, now estranged, and finally Hol – friend, mentor, former lover and the only one who seemed to care.

But what will happen to Kit when Guy is gone? And why isn’t Kit’s mother in the picture? As the friends reunite for Guy’s last days, old jealousies, affairs and lies come to light as Kit watches on.

Actually read this a while ago. It is a classic Iain Banks and so sad that it was to be his last. It has all the hallmarks of his previous work and this, of course, makes it a compelling read. Great stuff.

stars-4-0._V5268001_





Stoned

16 03 2013

Stonemouth by Iain Banks

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Stewart Gilmour is back in Stonemouth. After five years in exile his presence is required at the funeral of patriarch Joe Murston, and even though the last time Stu saw the Murstons he was running for his life, staying away might be even more dangerous than turning up.

An estuary town north of Aberdeen, Stonemouth, with its five mile beach, can be beautiful on a sunny day. On a bleak one it can seem to offer little more than seafog, gangsters, cheap drugs and a suspension bridge irresistible to suicides. And although there’s supposed to be a temporary truce between Stewart and the town’s biggest crime family, it’s soon clear that only Stewart is taking this promise of peace seriously. Before long a quick drop into the cold grey Stoun begins to look like the soft option, and as he steps back into the minefield of his past to confront his guilt and all that it has lost him, Stu uncovers ever darker stories, and his homecoming takes a more lethal turn than even he had anticipated.

Tough, funny, fast-paced and touching, Stonemouth cracks open adolescence, love, brotherhood and vengeance in a rite of passage novel like no other.

It’s something of a near return to form for Banks after a few recent false starts and sees him mining a similar vein to the one which delivered Crow Road. So, distinctively Banks, pretty entertaining on the whole but not entirely satisfying.

stars-3-5





In Transition

15 09 2010
Transition (novel)

Image via Wikipedia

Transition by Iain Banks

Imagine a world that is one of infinite parallel worlds, that hangs suspended between triumph and catastrophe, the dismantling of the Wall and the fall of the Twin Towers, in the shadow of suicide terrorism and global financial collapse. Presiding over this world is the Concern, an all-powerful organisation whose operatives possess extraordinary powers. There is Temudjin Oh, an unkillable assassin who journeys between the high passes of Nepal, a version of Victorian London and a wintry Venice; Adrian Cubbish, restlessly greedy City trader; and the Philosopher, a state-sponsored torturer who moves between the time zones with sinister ease. Transition is a high-definition, hyper-real apocalyptic fable for terrible times.

Transition hardback review at Amazon also includes interesting discussion about the fact that the book was released as an Iain M Banks one in the US but without the M in the UK. Whilst it does have an element of science fiction about it, the novel has more in common with the author’s earlier fiction. The multiple character perspectives are reminiscent (I think, but it’s been a long time) of Walking on Glass from some years ago.

Unfortunately, this does mean the reader has to work pretty hard to keep on top of the different plot lines (ok, not exactly infinite parallel plots but still a few) and feels like a bit of an ordeal at times – ultimately worth it though.








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