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Thursday, 11 September 2014

Review: The Quarry

The Quarry
The Quarry by Iain Banks

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Although Banks is one of my favourite writers, I haven't really read anything he's released since The Business for whatever reason. I picked this up on a whim yesterday, and for the first time in a good long while found myself staying up until silly o'clock in the morning to get it read in one sitting.

This is one of Bank's most character-driven works, and one of his most straight-forward with regard to plot. He's always been an author with the ability to blend reality with a little bit of weirdness, and he's always excelled at crafting two or three seemingly disparate plots that converge in interesting ways, yet *The Quarry is incredibly direct. Older (younger?) Banks may well have spent more time showing us Kit's time spent in HeroSpace, drawing parallels between that world and the reality of the house by the quarry. Instead we see only glimpses, teasing snapshots of a world in which Kit feels comfortable and knows the rules.

I got to the end of the book with the thought that not a whole lot had happened; even the main conflict of the novel, the search for an old video tape, is resolved without much fussing around. And yet, although not much 'happens', the novel is rich with excellently-drawn characters and laced with the kind of sharp invective and dry humour that Banks has always been capable of.

It's hard not to heap praise on this book, and really I have very little that's critical to say about it. Perhaps there's too much of Banks' own personal politics in here, but a) I don't actually know anything about his own personal politics to say if that's the case, and b) any of the politics that shows up is well tempered by alternative arguments. Perhaps Kit, despite telling us early on in the novel that he struggles with social interactions, really doesn't struggle all that much; yet Banks does a great job of showing us the thought processes behind much of that 'awkward' interaction without stifling his narrative with a character who can't function around other characters.

This is, in my opinion, one of the greatest novels Banks has written, and while Banks probably didn't know it was to be his final work when he was writing it, it serves as a wonderful swan song to cap off a fantastic career. I can't recommend it enough.

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