Iain Banks has devised a typically complex work of fiction, one which the narrator starts by introducing himself as an 'unreliable narrator' and which switches narrative voice frequently, presenting the development of the plot from different angles, yet not always filling in the gaps between them until the climax when the novel develops a clearer form.
Banks boldly moves away from the beautiful accounts of Scottish landscapes and the warm character led drama of works such as The Crow Road, Whit and The Steep Approach to Garbadale(three of my favourite novels) to a novel of ideas that is more similar to his science-fiction work. His characters have the special ability to travel through a series of worlds by taking a drug. However their travels are policed by a mysterious organisation, The Concern, whose rule under Madame d'Otrtolan, is far from benevolent. Different sections of the novel are narrated by a range of characters including a patient in a strange hospital, a greedy capitalist trader and a torturer. As Banks moves from world to world his descriptions of lavish parties and claustrophobic hospitals are detailed and evocative. The ending is tense and exciting. Yet in the development of the story, the rapid changes of perspective often become frustrating and confusing dissipating the momentum of the plot.
This is an ambitious and challenging novel but one which I did not enjoy as much as others by the writer.