Most helpful critical review
58 of 68 people found the following review helpful
on 30 December 2003
Raw Spirit is three-books-in-one. I like single malt whiskies a lot and bought the book in anticipation of reading a well-written, informative and amusing tour of the Scottish distilleries and their products. I was not disappointed; Iain Banks' travels to all of the major (and many of the minor) distilleries are well-described, informative and (to the extent that his views on the whiskies sampled agree entirely with my own) accurate. Unfortunately the distilleries, their whiskies and the beautiful (and beautifully-described) countryside around them take up less than half of the book. The remainder consists of (a) anecdotes concerning Mr. Banks' friends, family, youthful (and often not-so-youthful) pranks, and cars, and (b) rants on the Iraqi war, the current state of British vs U.S. politics and the wisdom of legalising drugs. The former, although largely irrelevant to a book on whisky, are clearly of interest to fans of Mr. Banks and his novels, but would have been better kept for an autobiography. The latter, however, are totally inappropriate in this book. I happen to agree with most of what Mr. Banks says, particularly on the derogation of British sovereignty to U.S. (a.k.a. neo-con) hegemony, but these are complex issues and totally out of place in this book where the superficial "rant-and-rave" treatment they get can only be a distraction. This is a book that started with an excellent idea but was highjacked by a self-indulgent author, a publisher's deadline and current events, leaving only a taste of what it could and should have been.