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Canal Dreams Paperback – 19 Jul 1990

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Product details

  • Paperback: 198 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus; 1st edition (19 July 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034910171X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349101712
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 2 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 545,846 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Iain Banks came to widespread and controversial public notice with the publication of his first novel, The Wasp Factory, in 1984. He gained enormous popular and critical acclaim for both his mainstream and his science fiction novels. Iain Banks died in June 2013.

Product Description


* 'Apocalyptic is the first word that springs to mind to describe this violent and powerful novel in which Banks once again demonstrates his extraordinary dark powers of imagination . . . impressive (THE TIMES)

Banks has a powerful literary presence, convincingly marrying fantasy and reality, Bond-like bravado and a weightier, more sadistic sense of human evil - FINANCIAL TIMES (Short, compact and brilliantly crafted. - THE SCOTSMAN)

Canal Dreams is a terse and fluid turn the pages with simultaneous revulsion and fascination. - THE LIST

Book Description

* Paperback reissue of Iain Banks' CANAL DREAMS - 'extraordinary, brilliant, bloody' (Fay Weldon)

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tic tic tic tic . . . Tiny noises of compression, sounding through her skull. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Craobh Rua VINE VOICE on 1 May 2006
Format: Paperback
Iain Banks first novel, The Wasp Factory, was published in 1984. In the years since, he's won critical acclaim, topped best-seller lists and has even written Science Fiction books under the cunning nom-de-plume 'Iain M. Banks'. He's also seen this book, "The Crow Road", adapted for television by the BBC in 1996. "Canal Dreams" is his fifth non sci-fi book and was first published in 1989.

The book's central character is Hisako Onoda, a world-famous cellist. As the book opens, Hisako is en-route from Japan to Europe, where she's due to perform in a series of concerts. However, as she's terrified of flying, she's making the journey by boat. Having travelled to Honolulu on the Gassam Maru, she then boarded the Nakodo - which was due to take her to Rotterdam via the Panama Canal. Unfortunately, due to `civil unrest' in the region - armed conflict between guerrilla fighters and government forces - the canal has been closed. Fro the moment, the Nakodo and two other ships are essentially trapped on Gat�n Lake. Although they are hoping for the all-clear to continue their journey soon, the conflict I, unfortunately, coming closer.

There are elements of a thriller to "Canal Dreams", but the strength of the book lies in telling Hisako's story. She is a very well-developed character, though her past in only gradually given away - the book jumps backwards and forwards, looking at some of the key events of Hisako's life. It's a method that may take a little getting used to - especially if you haven't read anything by Banks before. However, for me, I felt it really added to the enjoyment of the book. Hisako's travelling companions aren't so well developed, and little is told of their lives, thoughts or motivations. However, as "Canal Dreams" doesn't set out to tell their stories this really isn't a problem - and I would absolutely recommend this book.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Jane Aland VINE VOICE on 3 Nov. 2005
Format: Paperback
Canal Dreams concerns a cello player scared of flying, who during a trip through the Panama Canal unwittingly ends up caught between revolutionaries and American special forces operatives. The basic scenario of this thriller is a good one, and the plight of the hostages stranded in the Panama Canal should result in a tense novel, but for some reason Canal Dreams never really comes to life. Probably the main culprit is the heroine Hisako, whose status as both a concert cellist and a martial artist able to kill with one strike is a little unlikely. Banks seems keen to explore what happens to people under extreme pressure – do they go meekly to their deaths or fight? It’s a good angle for a novel, but unfortunately due to her background Hisako is a very cold unemotional character who never really connects with the reader, and for all the pyrotechnics the action scenes never really come to life. Canal Dreams isn’t a bad book – there are plenty of nice moments in Banks writing to keep the pages turning, but compared to his other novels this is a rather flat and unengaging work. For Banks completists only.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sally Ann Melia on 12 July 2014
Format: Paperback
I have read all of Iain Banks Books, and unusually perhaps this one I have always enjoyed.

Canal Dreams tells the story of Hisako Onoda a Japanese Cello super star prodigy who when invited to play the major capitals of Europe refuses to fly, and instead chooses to take a ship from Japan. She travels as a passenger aboard across the Pacific, through the Panama canal then to the Atlantic and Europe. In the early chapters there is some mention of guerilla in Costa Rica, but this in no way prepares us for what comes next.

As she enters Panama the country is already descending into war, but caught in her world of music and plans for Europe Hisako is barely aware of this, and sleepwalks onwards despite entreaties to leave the ship and take the plane. So Hisako is still on board when the oil tanker Nakado when trapped with two other ships in the Panama Canal, becomes the subject of an attack.

I won't say more about the story, just to say this is the opening, and the tale itself is one of human frailties vis human cruelties. the female character Hisako, as with all of Iain Banks female protagonist is carefully drawn and immediately compelling. the action is as cruel and relentless as any terrorist film.

With flashbacks to Hisoka's youth in Japan and a detailed knowledge of the engineering and layout of a super tanker, this book offers both exotic locals and interesting technological details.

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By D Brookes on 21 Sept. 2008
Format: Paperback
Iain Banks' mainstream work usually hinges on some aspect of unreality - psychosis, pseudo-history, the subconscious - and this one apparently centres on dreams, hense the title. You can read about the story and main character elsewhere, but nobody seems to have touched upon the apparent irrelevancy of the dreams, other than to highten the tension that Banks strives (and ultimately fails) to set up during this Panama-based tale of hostage situation. Most writers agree that dream sequences add little to literature, and this is the case with "Canal Dreams"; they seem to be present only to fill out this otherwise very short novel. They reveal nothing about the character, little about her present state of mind and don't advance the story by even a fraction.

The character development is unusually poor for Banks, who in every other novel seems to perform marvelously in this respect. The main character begins to be defined by her directionless childhood and the beginning of her adult like through her skills as a cellist. Then the last 100 pages suddenly reveal extreme and unlikely tragedies in her personal life, one after the other, that are almost totally unseeded during the early chapters of the novel.

It seems that as Banks' thriller turns into a slightly ridiculous action novel, he feels he has to justify his character's extreme actions by constructing a more and more sympathetic history for her. He fails in this respect too - you wonder if her implausible past is another of her dreams. But no. As if the trials during her period of capture by what at first appear to be Panamanian terrorists weren't enough.

The remaining characters are quite poorly drawn, and it hurts me to say it.
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