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Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Quarry by Iain Banks

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The QuarryThe Quarry by Iain Banks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Unlike most of Iain Banks' work I didn't find The Quarry an easy book to read. This was partly down to the subject matter (a group of friends gather to see a terminally ill cancer victim for the last time) and the fact that Banks died of his own cancer shortly after the book was finished. The knowledge that this was his last book kind of overshadowed the time I spent reading it.

Whilst the bulk of the book was written before Banks was diagnosed with his own illness (he died only a few months after discovering he was ill) it is hard to believe that it had no impact on the writing. Some of the quotes from Guy, the cancer victim, ring too true, and whilst full of invective and bile in line with Guy's acerbic character, they still vividly illustrate pain the pain and anger that the disease must bring.

The book, like all of Banks' work is full of interesting and well-drawn characters and contains his usual mix of dark humour, social commentary, sex and mystery. The plot, such as it is, revolves around a mysterious videotape that the group of friends made during their college years and has now gone missing. Finding the tape becomes a kind of quest for the group as they try to deal with their shared history and the impending death of their friend guy.

The main protagonist, Guy's son Kit, is a likeable though slight odd character. Somewhere towards the extreme end of the Asperger's spectrum, he has trouble dealing with other people, preferring to spend his time playing an MMORPG (massively multiplayer role-playing game) called HeroSpace. The other characters in the book are a mix, but none are particularly likeable, which makes the book a little hard to love.

It also lacks the punch of many other Banks books. The ending is a little soft, with the plot and characters meandering to the end, rather than the shock and awe Banks often brings to the end of his novels. Perhaps this was exactly the intention however. There are no neat endings in real life, and this is perhaps the most "real" of all Banks' novels.

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3 comments:

  1. i'm in a real booky mood atm, if I was to read one of Bank's books which would you reccommend

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    Replies
    1. Hi Eri :)

      It depends what type of book you are after. Banks bascially wrote two kinds - SF space opera and contemporary drama/mystery/thrillers.

      For the former the first introduction to his Culture novels is Consider Phlebas. A great book and a good place to start. My favourite is The Player of Games.

      For his contemporary stuff my favourites (both great reads) are The Crow Road ( a family drama and mystery novel that was turned into a rather good BBC series in the 90s starring new Dr Who Peter Capaldi) and Espedair Street (a fictional biography of a 70s rock supergroup - think Pink Floyd or Led Zepp). All his contemporary books are really quite different to each other.

      To be honest you can't go wrong, all his books are good and many of them are really great. I would steer clear of Canal Dreams (his least interesting), Feersum Endjinn (deliberately written in a hard-to-read phonetic style) and The Bridge (very very heavy on the metaphores).

      Let me know if you take the plunge and what you think!

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