Customer Reviews


123 Reviews
5 star:
 (41)
4 star:
 (34)
3 star:
 (23)
2 star:
 (17)
1 star:
 (8)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


75 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Banks at his most inventive & daring
This book 'transitions' the split between Iain Banks' non-sci-fi output & Iain M. Banks' vast space operas, presenting a sci-fi tale with a contemporary setting.

It is based on the premise that a virtually infinite number of parallel dimensions do indeed exist. The inhabitants of one of them have discovered that by ingesting a drug called Septus, they can...
Published on 20 Sep 2009 by Sam Woodward

versus
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I'm sure I'm missing something
It has been suggested that Iain Banks lastest offering is a crossover novel meeting his sci-fi alterego, Iain M Banks halfway. Having never read Iain M Banks I can't comment on that but it is ceratinly a shift from Banks' normal output.

His past books have always been intricate and complex, The Crow Road & Garbadale being good examples, but with Transition the...
Published on 8 Oct 2010 by Fraser the Frank Fish


‹ Previous | 1 213 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

75 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Banks at his most inventive & daring, 20 Sep 2009
By 
Sam Woodward (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Transition (Hardcover)
This book 'transitions' the split between Iain Banks' non-sci-fi output & Iain M. Banks' vast space operas, presenting a sci-fi tale with a contemporary setting.

It is based on the premise that a virtually infinite number of parallel dimensions do indeed exist. The inhabitants of one of them have discovered that by ingesting a drug called Septus, they can transport their consciousness into the bodies of unsuspecting people in other dimensions & thus meddle with the socio-political development of other Earths. They have therefore formed The Concern - an organisation designed to strictly control the use of 'transitioning' & ensure it is used to benefit other worlds. But since The Concern's High Council plays its cards suffocatingly close to its chest, can they actually be trusted? Or could some of its members have agendas of their own? And how can anyone decide what constitutes the greater good anyway? These are questions one of The Concern's assassins has to find answers to when he becomes a piece in a deadly game between his employers & an enigmatic renegade.

The Concern echoes the interfering, egalitarian Culture of Banks' sci-fi novels but as its members are all merely human, The Concern is murkier & harder to trust. The idea of parallel worlds has been used before, notably in The Adventures of Luther Arkwright but never with Banks creative flair & ability to analyse the deeper implications in an entertaining & thought-provoking manner. Yet despite the virtually infinite variety this backdrop provides, the plot is a relatively straightforward one.

Quite appropriately, given the books' subject-matter, the narrative consists of separate threads from different characters' points of view. Banks has really gone to town with this approach, starting with 3-4 such perspectives but later adding more. This is a style which ordinarily results in the reader racing through sections relating to characters/plotlines they like & glumly wading through the rest but in Transition, I found each thread to be equally captivating & enjoyed working out how the disparate pieces fitted together in the overall picture.

I have found that many of Banks' novels (such as The Business) consist of a story which can be summed up in 100 pages, fleshed out with 300 or so pages of florid descriptions & background details. Transition, however, never meanders far from the main plot. It's an expertly-crafted, entertaining & thought-provoking read, which remains gripping throughout. In my view, it's one of his best.

In short, the transition from prologue to epilogue was a thoroughly enjoyable one.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


67 of 74 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Iain Banks meets Iain M Banks?, 7 Sep 2009
By 
This review is from: Transition (Hardcover)
This really is a challenging one and if I'm honest it is a wee bit of a grind at times. On the surface it sounds like a winner, a multiverse, a shadowy organisation, Christian terrorists and the coming together of Iain Banks and Iain M Banks. What's not to like?

Well too many of the plot lines don't seem to go anywhere; there are enough ideas in here for a couple of books and they are cramped in this one.

I have read that this book is Iain's answer to critic's complaints about an increasing gulf between his science fiction and mainstream fiction. I hope that's not true as I don't like the thought of one of my favourite authors being that easily swayed.

Despite what I've said above I genuinely like this book. You can see Iain's politics coming through and he raises some nice philosophical comments on greed, torture and terrorism among others.

A second reading could well be in order.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I'm sure I'm missing something, 8 Oct 2010
By 
Fraser the Frank Fish "paul m" (Benfleet) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Transition (Paperback)
It has been suggested that Iain Banks lastest offering is a crossover novel meeting his sci-fi alterego, Iain M Banks halfway. Having never read Iain M Banks I can't comment on that but it is ceratinly a shift from Banks' normal output.

His past books have always been intricate and complex, The Crow Road & Garbadale being good examples, but with Transition the needle is off the scale.

It's undoubtably a very ambitious project, strands of the story are woven togeher across several contemporaneously existing multi-dimensional worlds, coming together at the end, but unspectacularly.

To be honest, I found this quite a difficult read and not just because of the long words. Like the characters who flit between the shadows I felt I was only skating the surface of Banks' vision, unable to break through to the real darkness below. When I finally made it to the end I was met by anti-climax. Yes, we know what happens to the characters but what was it all about?

A good idea, not a bad book, but not my favourite Banks. Perhaps it was me, but I just didn't get it. I feel a bit like crew of Red Dwarf when the Better Than Life game is over - I knew something was there, just couldn't work it out.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


93 of 104 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A novel of great ideas, 28 Aug 2009
This review is from: Transition (Hardcover)
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of Banksie's best, 7 Nov 2009
By 
Dogbertd (Brussels, BE) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Transition (Paperback)
This is one of Banksie's best science-fiction novels. All the stranger then, that he has written it under his "Iain Banks" title (normally reserved for non-SF) and not his "Iain M. Banks" title (normally reserved for SF.) Does this mean that from here on in he will simply write as "Iain Banks"? Whatever, this is one of his best books (and I think he has rated it as such himself.) As usual his political diatribes are present; this time on the lazy evil spread by the love of money and secondly by the casual acceptance of torture in the fight against terrorism. A nice touch of role reversal is that in most of the worlds he creates here, the terrorists are fundametalist Christians. The book is disorientating at first, but hang in there, all will become clear. The "Steep Approach to Garbadale" was a fine, if somewhat cosy, read, and "Matter" was over-long and disappointing for a Culture novel, but Transition is some of his best writing for a long time.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Transitory Phase?, 26 Jan 2010
This review is from: Transition (Hardcover)
I have been an Iain Banks fan for sometime, and still count The Wasp Factory as one of the greatest books I have ever had the pleasure of reading, and one of the few I can go back to time and time again. However, I have never been a fan of the science fiction genre, never been able to transplant myself into the different worlds of these writers, hence I have never read in full an Iain M Banks novel (I have tried but failed).

This book is certainly different from the aforementioned Wasp Factory, and is nothing like The Crow Road or the more recent The Steep Approach to Garbadale, both of which are excellent reads. As stated elsewhere in reviews here it appears Banks is moving his "traditional" fiction more towards his science fiction and the title could infer this transition (although there are plenty of references throughout the book as to what the title actually means).

The book deals with plenty of contemporary issues; all of which are mentioned in other reviews here. My opinion? At times I found it hard going; some of the threads appear to lead nowhere, and the continued change between other characters means the novel takes a while to get into.... lacking an immediate "flow". However, it is (as always) well written, and explores plenty of subjects (perhaps too many for one tome). Writing this, having finished the book shortly after 6am this morning, I am unsure whether I loved it or hated it.....the best summary I can give is a whole which never equals the sum of its parts.

One for the Banks fans, which I suspect will not gain many new admirers, other than perhaps the readers of "M" who want to be teased away from their extra terrestrial worlds towards "mainstream" fiction. I, and it appears not me alone, hope this is not a genuine move away from the tales of dysfunctional families in Scotland for good!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Much more like it - but feels like goodbye, 3 Oct 2009
This review is from: Transition (Hardcover)
I nearly didn't buy this. Once I'd bought it I nearly didn't read past the acknowledgements page. But I'm now glad I did. "Based on a false story" annoyed me immediately. Aren't they all? That didn't strike me as either clever or funny.

I've not enjoyed any of his last three - the Algebraist, Garbadale and Matter all felt like Banks re-hashing earlier successes. There are still hints of this in here: the Concern is a lot like the Business in that you can never quite trust its apparent benevolence; structurally it harks back to Walking on Glass. Thankfully, in both cases the concepts are taken further than previously and used to better effect here.

Overall this is my favourite Banks book in some time; if not quite at the level of his best it is certainly the only one of his books for a while I've been looking forward to re-reading. The world-travelling concept also inspired me to re-read The Lives of Christopher Chant which I'd heartily recommend even if you're nominally a grown-up.

There are a few flaws: He still can't resist chucking in some clunky political and economic points - he seems to have just learned about limited liability and appears keen to pin the blame for the economic meltdown and the tribulations of capitalism on the concept. The ending, like Matter's, felt slightly contrived and a bit too rapid. Although generally successful in using different voices to effectively distinguish the different perspectives the story is built up from, this occasionally lapses and unless you're paying attention can leave you a little confused.

You will certainly need to pay attention throughout - think The Usual Suspects rather than Titanic - as the storytelling is spare, with as low levels of explanation as you can reasonably get away with and a fairly complex plot built around webs of connection and deception.

Be warned if you're really not a sci-fi fan: despite the missing M the sci-fi quotient is pretty high here, with invented concepts like fragre, as in the sense you have which allows you to identify the particular one of the infinity of parallel worlds you're in. Don't let this deter you though, there is still a lot of humanity, or thereabouts, in this book.

After three books where he really seemed to be running out of steam, the bringing together of the M and non-M books, and the feeling that ideas which didn't really fit in the story were crammed in as if they were the last ones left in the notebook, made me wonder whether this is going to be the last Banks novel. On balance, having enjoyed this book, that would be a shame.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Iain Banks - The literary Oasis ?, 1 Oct 2009
By 
P. G. Harris - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Transition (Hardcover)
First things first, this book is great fun and therefore definitely recommended. As with any Iain Banks or indeed Iain M Banks book, its strength lies in the sheer breadth of his imagination. The story is based in a multiverse where an elite and shadowy organisation (the Concern) have the ability to flit between different versions of Earth, benignly altering events for the greater common good. Or are they ? The central character is a ruthless assassin and through the course of the book we learn (in a fragmentary and non-linear fashion) of his recruitment, training, career and ultimate rebellion, abetted by the seductive Mrs Mulverhill, against the sinister Madame d'Ortolan. I particularly enjoyed the way the structure of the book, with multiple narrators and non-linear story line reflected the structure of the multiverse in which it is set.

So far so good, but I do get the feeling that Iain Banks is a bit like the popular beat combo Oasis. Every new book (album) he publishes is hailed as a return to form, some are better than others, but one knows he will never write (record) another Crow Road (Definiteley Maybe). That said, this is a distinct improvement on "Garbadale" or "The Business".

Other things to say.

1. The weakest part of the book is the character of the self absorbed city
trader, Adrian who is just a lazily written, two dimensional stereotype
2. The book does feel a bit like a greatest hit album at times. The Concern is a cross between the Culture and the Business, we have ultra violence (Canal Dreams), torture (Use of Weapons), bizzare sex (any number), Himalayan locations (The Business again) and even a bit of insect mutilation.

But all in all a thoroughly enjoyable romp, its not his best, but it is very good, and I look forward to the next Concern novel.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Back on form, 30 Sep 2010
By 
This review is from: Transition (Hardcover)
I think this is one of "Iain Banks'" better books for several years. I wouldn't dispute that Iain has passed his best, but and it's a very big but he's still very good at what he does.

I've found his last 3 or 4 "Iain Banks" books pretty average by his previous standards and I thought this book brought back some of the flare his early books contained.

I don't think it's an "Iain M Banks" book and it's not SF, I think people claiming so are not familiar with Walking On Glass, A Song Of Stone, and to a lesser extent The Bridge and Canal Dreams all likewise pretty far removed from reality. Such readers are perhaps not even familiar with SF itself. Having made that point it's largely an irrelevant point I think.

Admittedly the book has lots of great ideas that don't go anywhere and which he really could have developed and most authors would consider it wasteful. Also the book wraps up in a relatively inconclusive/unsatisfying fashion. But anyone familiar with Iain Banks knows he's a bit lazy that way.

Nonetheless all in all I was genuinely entertained.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Needs a firm hand, 5 Aug 2010
By 
John Brown (Belgium) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Transition (Paperback)
The multiverse is real. A small group of people can travel between worlds, inhabiting the bodies of others and influencing events. This process is controlled by The Concern, a multi-versal enterprise which oversees everything. However there is discontent within The Concern, and one person wants to change things, using the tools of The Concern itself.

This book starts with a number of seemingly unrelated narratives and eventually weaves them together. To be honest, I was very glad of the synopsis on the back cover, otherwise I'm not sure I'd have followed it to start with. There is the typical Banks wit, creativity and humour, however I think there's just a bit to much of everything.

There are many fascinating ideas, each of which could have been explored more thoroughly. The whole idea of the multiverse and the relations between different realities needs more detail for a start. Are these worlds which have always existed, representing every possible reality, or are they spawned at decision points, as in the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum theory? What happens to the conciousnesses of the people whose bodies are taken over? How come our transitionary develops his additional powers? Then there are some inconsistencies: how do The Concern transition into younger bodies but stay in the same world? If people can transition objects, why can't they transition themselves physically? Setting it between the Berlin wall falling and 9/11, and trying to link it to the recession of 2008/9 is unnecessary. And the 'big idea' which The Concern want to block is, frankly, not so exciting when you are aware of the multiverse.

So I think it needs a firm editing hand and a bit more focus. I would have been happy for it to have been longer, if it had been a bit more internally consistent and developed. As it is, it's a page turner (well, the 2nd half is)and has plenty of interesting ideas, but needs more work.

Another reviewer pointed out that this book is itself a transition between Iain Banks'work with and without the M, and I think that's a nice idea. If that's really what it's intended to be then Banks would have done himself a favour by spending a little longer refining Transition.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 213 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Transition
Transition by Iain Banks (Hardcover - 3 Sep 2009)
£13.48
Usually dispatched within 10 to 13 days
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews