A Right Guid Read Iain Banks Special Welcome to Fife’s libraries reader reviews newsletter. All books reviewed in this newsletter are available from Fife’s libraries. To find out which libraries have these books, to make a request or share a review, visit www.fifedirect.org.uk/readingroom
Titles reviewed The Quarry
Welcome to this special edition of A Right Guid Read, a tribute to the Dunfermline born author, Iain Banks, who died earlier this month. Iain was a very talented writer who had a huge following worldwide for both his mainstream and science-fiction novels. He burst on to the literary scene almost 30 years ago with ‘The Wasp Factory’, which at the time split opinion and then went on to be listed as one of the best books of the 20th Century. If you haven’t read any of Iain’s books, why not give some of these a try.
Raw Spirit Espedair Street The Hydrogen Sonata Transition The Crow Road The Steep Approach to Garbadale Surface Detail Stonemouth The State of the Art The Wasp Factory The Bridge
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A Right Guid Read Reader Reviews The Quarry Iain’s latest and last book, The Quarry, features a father and son, Kit and Guy, who live together in a dilapidated house on the edge of a quarry. Kit is seen as odd, and Guy who is dying of cancer, is gathering his old friends about him before he dies. Kit has no idea who his mother is, and wants to find out. He also wants to know the secret behind the mysterious tape made by his father and his friends when they were at university. Described as ‘ fast paced, gripping and savagely funny’ this book is sure to be hit with Iain’s fans, and will reinforce the power and quality of his writing. Iain had written most of this book before he was diagnosed with cancer. His widow has said that he would never have used his own experiences to base a novel on as it would have suggested he had a lack of imagination.
Raw Spirit Share Iain’s journey round Scotland’s whisky distilleries while he seeks to find the perfect dram and unlock the spirit of the single malt. This tour of Scotland combines history, landscape and literature along with the whisky, of course, and visits some of the most famous Scottish distilleries, as well as the smallest and least known of them. Iain’s journey is filled with humour and is a great read for anyone interested in Scottish culture and history, as well as whisky. This title is also available in spoken word format from Fife’s libraries.
Espedair Street Ever since I first read it Espedair Street has been one of my favourite Iain Banks novels. It is his first mainstream novel, neither experimental nor genre fiction, and every time I read it still manages to amuse and move me. Espedair Street is a novel which is pretending to be a rock star autobiography; the story of (fictional) seventies band Frozen Gold as told by bass player and song writer Danny Weir who looks at his life, past and present. This is Iain Banks at his brilliant best!
A Right Guid Read Reader Reviews Hydrogen Sonata One of the series of Culture novels, this book published twenty five years after the first Culture novel, is as funny and as imaginative as the rest of the series. Different worlds and civilisations are brought to life with such skill, that you are immediately drawn into the action and are compelled to keep reading. Pick this one up and you’ll find it difficult to put it down. This title is also available in spoken word format from Fife’s libraries.
Transition When Transition was published there was a lot of talk about why this wasn’t an Iain M Banks given it is unashamedly sci-fi with people able to travel between parallel worlds. He had however set a precedent in Walking on Glass and The Bridge. At times ‘Transition’ reads like a Ken MacLeod novel not least because Banks has created a detailed world which would probably bear revisiting. But, although many of its concepts seem barely touched upon, the story itself feels properly resolved even if there is something of an open ending. ‘Transition’ is one of those books that challenges you to keep up on its terms given that there is a minimum of exposition in each thread (not unlike some of the early Ken MacLeod books). But it is successful in that goal as each tale is involving making this something of a page turner. This title is also available in spoken word format from Fife’s libraries.
The Crow Road Iain Banks is a very special writer. You need to be ready for him because his stories require a lot of focus and patience-this is what makes him great! Almost always, there is a payoff that makes all the wonder i ng of wher e he' s is g oing wor t hwhi le. The Crow Road is probably one of his most accessible novels. It centres around Prentice McHoan and his family in a Scottish village. The story moves along with alternating viewpoints as well as moving back and forth from flashbacks to present day. Banks slowly peels back layers of the story, and as a reader, I love sitting back and letting it all unfold.
A Right Guid Read Reader Reviews The Steep Approach to Garbadale As ever it’s a good read, the characters are interesting enough, and the story rattles along nicely between the past and the present. The back story details lead character Alban’s lustful obsession with his cousin Sophie whilst in the present he is attempting to persuade his relatives not to sell the family company to an American predator. It is very similar to Crow Road -remote Scottish country seat , dark family secrets , misplaced obsession with a member of the opposite sex . This is one of Banks’s novels whose journey to the end of the novel is better than the end itself. There is a dark secret revealed at the end of the book is very close to the end, making it seemed slightly rushed but I wouldn’t let it stop anyone from reading it. This title is also available in spoken word format from Fife’s libraries.
Surface Detail Banks seemed to revel in creating complicated stories, and there is no better example of this than in Surface Detail. It is written from 6 different viewpoints, and you’ll need your wits about you to keep track of it all. On one level it’s a tale of revenge as Lededje Y’breq travels across the galaxy to avenge her murder at the hands of Jolier Veppers. Lededje’s quest is intertwined in a pan galactic struggle between societies whose views on virtual reality hells differ hugely. Sitting somewhere on, or perhaps near, the sidelines is the Culture. Banks’s imagination runs riot throughout the book particularly when it comes to imagining the tortures of the various hells. The book is packed with memorable characters from the loathsome Veppers to Demeisen the avatar of the Culture warship Falling Outside the Normal Moral Constraints and all in all it sails along at a cracking pace. This title is available in Spoken Word from Fife’s libraries.
Stonemouth Stewart Gilmour is returning to Stonemouth after a gap of 5 years after being run out of town for an, initially at least, unspecified mistake. Given that Stonemouth is effectively run by two families (in the Mafia sense of the word), as well as renewing old acquaintances, Stewart’s return risks never leaving Stonemouth in one piece. ‘Stonemouth’ is hugely enjoyable with a believable and largely sympathetic set of characters. It doesn’t break any new ground for Banks though as a buried ‘secret’, families and even a bridge have all featured in previous books. But still well worth a read. This title is also available in spoken word format from Fife’s libraries.
A Right Guid Read Reader Reviews The State of the Art
A short story collection. Mostly but not all science fiction. All cynical, some more on the farcical side and some more on the gruesome side. My favourite is "Some Notes on the Culture" where Banks gives his philosophy on how the Culture could have come to exist and what qualifies them as a utopia. They are fine stories that often delight with the author's trademark humour and unconventionality.
The Wasp Factory The novel which started it all in 1984 but at the time had mixed reviews. It did however go on to the rated as one of the top 100 books of the 20th Century. The Wasp Factory featured on recommended reading lists for many years, and justifiably so. This novel tells the story of Frank, a 16 year old who lives with his father outside a remote Scottish village. Frank has led a very disturbed childhood, and this leads to some rather dark and potentially disturbing moments in the book. However there are also a number of black comic moments which keep the reader hooked. If ever a book should be on a list of books you should read, this has to be included. This title is also available in spoken word format from Fife’s libraries.
The Bridge Somebody’s been in a bad car crash. But before we get into that we’re whisked away to the story of an amnesiac adjusting to life on a giant bridge (which seems to have no end on either side and houses an entire, self-sufficient society). He dreams of a barbarian hero and a progressive yuppie pining for the elusive love of his life in 70s/80s Scotland. It's quickly clear that all of the protagonists are supposed to be the same man (from the car crash), though I’m not sure how their individual stories (with the exception of the one that isn’t supposed to be a coma-induced fantasy) are supposed to mean anything outside of being interesting and entertaining. Still, for those who don’t need everything to tie together, it’s a great ride. Here Banks’ effortlessly stretches his imagination muscles before he’s published a single science-fiction novel. And Culture fans get teased with mention of knife missiles and something that resembles a drone.