BooksOfTheMoon

Transition

By Iain Banks

Rating: 3 stars

Despite being marketed in the UK as an “Iain Banks” (mainstream litfic) book, this is very much an “Iain M. Banks” (science fiction) novel: its core conceit is a shadowy conspiracy whose members can travel between alternate Earths in the multiverse. That seems pretty darn science fictional to me!

The book is pretty odd, and it never entirely worked for me. This is partly to do with the characters: it’s told from a number of different viewpoints, and none of them are really sympathetic. You’ve got the assassin, the corrupt politician and the torturer. There’s the hospital patient, I suppose, but he’s hiding from people chasing after him, and he used to be an assassin.

There’s also not much in the way of plot. There’s very interesting world-building going on but when it comes down to it, the plot is mostly about fighting for control of a bureaucracy. It doesn’t exactly set my heart racing. Mind you, there’s an awful lot of sex in the book that could help with that (that and a somewhat unnecessary section on child sexual assault, albeit off-page).

Spoiler
I don’t really understand the end either. How did Oh get his superpowers? Mrs Mulverhill doesn’t seem entirely surprised, and she’s levelling up as the book goes on too. Is it supposed to be natural? Something that the Concern was keeping from its members? Gaining those powers just in the nick of time seems a bit deus ex machina to me.

So slightly disappointing as the last new science fiction from Banks that I’ll ever read, but an interesting curio in its own right.

Book details

ISBN: 9780349139272

Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram

By Iain Banks

Rating: 4 stars

Let me say at the outset that I know nothing about whisky, and, indeed, am teetotal. However, this book, ostensibly about that liquor, is not really anything of the sort. Banks is invited to travel his native Scotland “in search of the perfect dram”. And so we set off, touring distilleries, with lengthy detours to discuss Great Wee Roads (GWRs) and his passion for cars and driving, generally; anecdotes from his past (including the infamous urban climbing at the Brighton WorldCon, which I had always thought took place in Glasgow); ramblings about the second Gulf War; and a general enthusiasm for Scotland.

This is probably the closest that Banks ever came to writing his memoires or to autobiography, and it’s a pleasure to read. I didn’t know Banks, but I met him a few times, and had the pleasure of buying him a drink at a wee con once. The book reads exactly as I remember him talking. Excited, enthusiastic and full of joie de vivre. I’m still astonished and shocked that a man so full of life died so suddenly when so (comparatively) young.

So don’t read this as a guide to whisky. Read it for a mighty enthusiasm about it, and enjoy the ride around Scotland in the company of some of Bankie’s pals, in his fun cars as you’re laughing down a GWR somewhere in the Highlands.

Book details

ISBN: 9780099460275
Publisher: Arrow
Year of publication: 2003

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