I ordered a couple of his books from amazon.uk, and after reading one last night I thought I'd do a quick round-up on his mainstream fiction. (I assume his sf is more widely read in livejournal circles.)

THE CROW ROAD awaits on my desk. The first sentence is promising: "It was the day my grandmother exploded."

WHIT is the one I read last night. Nineteen-year-old Isis Whit is the Elect of God of a small English cult. Like most, if not all, of Banks' mainstream novels, it's told in the first person, and Isis has a rather unique narrative style: complex, somewhat stilted, innocent yet erudite. It's occasionally annoying but a good portrayal of a bright but very sheltered girl.

Isis was raised entirely on the ashram, whose Luddite religion is fairly but not gratuitously weird, and has had virtually no experience with modern society until she's sent on a quest to find and reclaim her apostate cousin Morag. Isis ventures out into the world, and culture clashes come quick and fast. The plot, however, takes an unexpected turn about two-thirds in, and becomes as much about an intra-cult struggle than about Isis' opening up to the outside world.

Isis is an odd and likable creation, and the workings of the cult are fascinating, funny, and believable. I appreciate that Banks didn't sensationalize the material, as he must have been tempted to, and yet there's something about the novel that's a little too restrained. I would have liked to have seen Isis' faith challenged more, and on a more profound level than the less-than-startling revelations which come out about the cult leader. As it is, it's an entertaining and surprisingly warmhearted book but neither as deep nor as wild as it could have been.

COMPLICITY is a full-throttle ride of a book, and darker than sin. A substance-abusing, computer and sexual game-playing journalist gets involved in a series of appalling crimes committed against people who were responsible for evil deeds of the legal variety. The nature of the journalist's involvement turns on a plot point which didn't quite work for me, but the theme and narration are very strong. As a bonus, it contains the only non-gratuitous use of the second person I've ever encountered outside of Choose Your Own Adventure books and a Bob Leman short story whose name I forget. Disturbing, thought-provoking, and vivid.

ESPEDAIR STREET is a funny and bittersweet novel about a retired rock star and how he got to be where he is today. I read this one a while ago and can't remember the plot at all, but I did like it a lot and it's not really about the plot, but about the characters and their relationships and the wonderful and tragic craziness of fame and ordinary life.

A SONG OF STONE is boring and depressing, a bad combination. In an unnamed, war-torn country... Have you noticed how reviews which begin "in an unnamed, war-torn country" are never about anything anyone would ever want to read? In an unnamed, war-torn country, a female soldier and her company invade the castle of an unpleasant and passive couple with a predictable dark secret. Bad stuff happens. Pretentious and annoying.
I ordered a couple of his books from amazon.uk, and after reading one last night I thought I'd do a quick round-up on his mainstream fiction. (I assume his sf is more widely read in livejournal circles.)

THE CROW ROAD awaits on my desk. The first sentence is promising: "It was the day my grandmother exploded."

WHIT is the one I read last night. Nineteen-year-old Isis Whit is the Elect of God of a small English cult. Like most, if not all, of Banks' mainstream novels, it's told in the first person, and Isis has a rather unique narrative style: complex, somewhat stilted, innocent yet erudite. It's occasionally annoying but a good portrayal of a bright but very sheltered girl.

Isis was raised entirely on the ashram, whose Luddite religion is fairly but not gratuitously weird, and has had virtually no experience with modern society until she's sent on a quest to find and reclaim her apostate cousin Morag. Isis ventures out into the world, and culture clashes come quick and fast. The plot, however, takes an unexpected turn about two-thirds in, and becomes as much about an intra-cult struggle than about Isis' opening up to the outside world.

Isis is an odd and likable creation, and the workings of the cult are fascinating, funny, and believable. I appreciate that Banks didn't sensationalize the material, as he must have been tempted to, and yet there's something about the novel that's a little too restrained. I would have liked to have seen Isis' faith challenged more, and on a more profound level than the less-than-startling revelations which come out about the cult leader. As it is, it's an entertaining and surprisingly warmhearted book but neither as deep nor as wild as it could have been.

COMPLICITY is a full-throttle ride of a book, and darker than sin. A substance-abusing, computer and sexual game-playing journalist gets involved in a series of appalling crimes committed against people who were responsible for evil deeds of the legal variety. The nature of the journalist's involvement turns on a plot point which didn't quite work for me, but the theme and narration are very strong. As a bonus, it contains the only non-gratuitous use of the second person I've ever encountered outside of Choose Your Own Adventure books and a Bob Leman short story whose name I forget. Disturbing, thought-provoking, and vivid.

ESPEDAIR STREET is a funny and bittersweet novel about a retired rock star and how he got to be where he is today. I read this one a while ago and can't remember the plot at all, but I did like it a lot and it's not really about the plot, but about the characters and their relationships and the wonderful and tragic craziness of fame and ordinary life.

A SONG OF STONE is boring and depressing, a bad combination. In an unnamed, war-torn country... Have you noticed how reviews which begin "in an unnamed, war-torn country" are never about anything anyone would ever want to read? In an unnamed, war-torn country, a female soldier and her company invade the castle of an unpleasant and passive couple with a predictable dark secret. Bad stuff happens. Pretentious and annoying.
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