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164 Reviews
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57 of 61 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Same old, same old?
Addictive, nostalgic, funny, tense and satisfying. I'm shocked to see so many unflattering reviews of Stonemouth above - (in fact I almost took note of the 'same old formula' lines myself) - but I have to disagree that this book is boring, flat, predictable... following a tried and tested formula.

Sure, Banks displays some of his more trademark themes...
Published on 2 May 2012 by M. Traynor

versus
36 of 43 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 'Awright...'
'Whit're ye reading?'
'"Stonemouth" by yon Iain Banks.'
'Whit like is it?'
'Awright.'
'Is it wan o'thae wi' the spaceships an'that?'
'Naw.'
'Huz it got folks explodin' an' that?'
'Naw.'
'Whit like is it, then?'
'Some shagger shags aw the gurls and gits hissel into a spot o'bother.'
'Braw! Will ye read it agin?'...
Published on 7 Aug 2012 by Dogbertd


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5.0 out of 5 stars ... comments about this book as I thought it was excellent. My first experience of Ian Banks was 'The ..., 25 Sep 2014
This review is from: Stonemouth (Hardcover)
I was surprised to see some negative comments about this book as I thought it was excellent. My first experience of Ian Banks was 'The Quarry' which I found rather boring, and did not seem to take me anywhere, and also it was very poignant as it was Ian Banks's last novel before his death. I did feel that I must read something else by Bank's as he was given such rave reviews over his previous novels. I approached Stonemouth with trepidation as I thought it would be in broad Scottish accents, and I would not be able to make or tail out of it, but it was not. It was a love story-girl and boy meet-fall in love-decide to get married-boy does something wrong-girls family decide to sort him out-simple as that.
This was well written, and one feels the bleakness of the north east of Scotland, and the characters that inhabit the area.
Well worth 5*
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's a decent read, 5 Jun 2012
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This review is from: Stonemouth (Hardcover)
People seem to be very uptight about what "type" of Iain Banks book they like and they all have a favourite in the genre and want the next book to surpass it. That's all well and good but you just need to read the book and consider it for its own merits. Basically this is a very well written book which is interesting and amusing enough to keep the reader engaged. It isn't ground breaking, fair enough, but it is a good book and way better than almost all novels of its type out there at the moment. Read it and make your own mind up.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Apple-lly Iain Banks returns to form, 3 Jun 2012
By 
Bantam Dave (Bradford, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Stonemouth (Hardcover)
It is now 28 years since The Wasp Factory was published. It didn't take long to become a cult novel and everybody assumed that the author, Iain Banks, was destined for big things. He followed it up with several good, highly original books but of late the standard has tailed off, his last few being pale shadows of his best work. He seems to have become the Paul Gascoigne of British literature; no-one doubts his talent but he hasn't really lived up to his potential. So if anybody needed to bring out a decent book to restore his fading reputation it was Iain Banks. With the publication of Stonemouth he as partly succeeded in doing this, because although it is not in the same class as The Wasp Factory, Crow Road or Whit this must be his best book for some time.

Stonemouth tells the story of the Stewart Gilmores return to the Scottish town of the same name to attend a funeral after being forced to move away by local gangsters following an indiscretion shortly before he was due to be married to a member of their family. The events of his short visit result in a likeable story complete with a cast of believable characters and a satisfying ending. Whilst it lacks the complexity of some of Banks' earlier novels this is still a well thought out tale which is told well.

There was one aspect of this book that annoyed me a little though, and that was that at times it read a little like an elongated advertisement for Apple products. At various points in the story the lead character praises Apple phones and Apple computers, even having a dig at Windows in the process. It was so blatant that I felt compelled to check the cover to see if I could find the words "sponsored by Apple".
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Familiar but disappointing, 7 May 2012
By 
A. Brown "oneexwidow" (Bristol) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Stonemouth (Hardcover)
I am a big fan of Iain Banks' work; he is just about the only author whose books I get when they are released in hardback, rather than wait on the paperback publication. I've also started reading his Science Fiction works, published as Iain M Banks, but for the sake of clarity references to his oeuvre in this review are specifically to the "non-M" books.

After a number of books which failed to reach the heights of his previous works, his last book, Transition, was something of a return to form. It was with some anticipation and trepidation that I embarked upon Stonemouth. Would I be disappointed? Was Transition's improved quality partly because it was border-line science fiction? (I'm told that the Iain M Banks novels have remained more consistent than the non-M works)

The answers to those questions? "Yes and No" and "I think so".

Stonemouth is a (fictional) town in the North-East of Scotland, somewhere between Aberdeen and Peterhead. Our protagonist, Stewart, is returning to the town for the first time in five years for the funeral of Joe Murston - the patriarch of the local "mafia" family. Joe also happens to be the grandfather of Stewart's former fiancée, his wedding to whom was cancelled when he was run out of the town just a week before the nuptuals were due.

The subject matter is vintage Banks - a story told in flashbacks, telling of friendships and secrets, family ties and betrayals, all sprinkled with helpings of violence, sex, drugs and politics - although there is less violence than one may expect. The book shares a lot with its predecessors - The Crow Road in particular - but lacks their ambition. Where The Crow Road is an epic, multi-later, inter-generational tail, Stonemouth is more linear with less depth and less dramatic secrets. So yes, Stonemouth is in this respect disappointing, as if Banks' was only firing on two cylinders, recycling ideas, re-treading plots and updating previous novels.

This idea of him seeling to update previous works struck me in the first chapter where there are copious references to pop-culture in a way which will very quickly date the book. On page 10, for example, Family Guy, Cee Lo Green and "Tinchy featuring Tinie" get a mention. It seems as if Banks' is trying too hard to get into the mind of a 25 year old and the result is that it both jars and fails to be authentic: Stewart doesn't sound like any 25 year old I know - at least not initially.

(This lack of authenticity is compounded by unfortunate mention of the dominance and money of Celtic and Rangers and the perennial debate on them playing in England - although Banks' was never to know what was about to befall Rangers around the time of publication of the novel!)

It is a novel of promise but of poor execution. Elements of plot get picked up, played with and put aside. The attempt at creating an atmosphere of menace rarely does. Stewart seems content to spend longer than strictly speaking necessary in the company of those we are told are so keen to hurt him. And whilst the impending sense of doom does reach a climax, it also lacks a certain authenticity.

For all these criticisms - and a number more beside - Stonemouth is an enjoyable romp. After a few chapters I put my early reservations and aside and settled into the book as it settled into its stride. And in the end, I did kinda like it.

That said, I can't escape the conclusion that it is sub-standard compared to Banks' previous work and, if it weren't a Banks' novel, I wouldn't be rushing to read anything else by the author. Whilst Transition may have been Banks' back at (or close to) his best, it seems that his best is now reserved for works with a Science Fiction bent. He's still someway off his best when it comes to non-genre fiction.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 14 Feb 2013
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This review is from: Stonemouth (Kindle Edition)
Ian Banks has been such a creative writer this one falls well below expectations. Reads as if his editor has asked for passages of purple prose to flesh out a thin and predicatble story line. On the plus side, the dialect used will not put off those unfamiliar with East Coast Scots.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lazy but well-written novel, 3 Dec 2012
By 
Jl Adcock "John Adcock" (Ashtead UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Stonemouth (Hardcover)
Stonemouth is certainly better than the previous Banks' effort "Transition", but there is still evidence here that a once unmissable, original writer has somehow lost his way. Familiar, family-based themes from The Crow Road and The Steep Approach To Garbadale are re-cyled here, but when you boil it down the essence of the story is weak, based as it is around one event that happened to the main character some five years previously.

As the book progresses, it becomes apparent that Banks can still write wonderfully well, and the sense of time and place are done well, as both Stonemouth and most of the characters come over as well-formed and believable inventions. But there is something slightly uneasy, almost embarrassing, about a writer approaching 60 who wants to write his stories from the perspective of a 20 something year-old man. For those of us who have grown up reading Iain Banks, perhaps it would be nice if he tackled some different themes from a slightly different perspective, rather than the unconvincing yoof culture stance he takes here.

A previous reviewer has hit the nail right on the head. Stewart Gilmour - the central character here - simply fails to convince us that he is a young man, as it almost feels like he is being given the words and thoughts of a much older and wiser person to carry along in the book, and it doesn't really work.

With the book essentially driven by characters rather than a very deep plot, there is a tendency to pad some aspects of the story out, and the conclusion is not terribly convincing, when it finally happens. Banks needs new direction and new challenges in his mainstream novels now. There is more than an inkling here that he's going through the motions and just using old ideas. The writing saves him - but for how much longer?
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Could not be bothered to finish it, 3 Sep 2012
By 
Robert (Uxbridge, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Stonemouth (Hardcover)
With the exception of the factual The Whisky Trail I love Iain Banks. But I was not engrossed by Stonemouth. It was a book where the situation or characters did not engage. The idea that a small town could have two continuing and influential criminal families where the local police and establishment turn a blind eye because they keep worse villains out is just not going to happen. Regional Crime Squad anyone? Or a journalist, or Customs or any cross border agency. But Banks writes so well I could set aside the disbelief, normally. But on this occasion I really just did not see the characters as real either. I persevered for about half-way then abandoned it. A first for a Banks book.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Engaging but lacking, 19 Jun 2012
This review is from: Stonemouth (Hardcover)
Stonemouth is a good read with some incredible prose and some very flat characters. Banks has a phenomenal narrative voice which propels you through the book and makes it hard to put down, but the characters here are paper thin and the plot is, despite what the better reviewers think, a tired re-hash of former glories. I would not have bought the book myself, but it was a gift and I did enjoy it, I just don't think the characters ring true to life and I don't think Banks is capable of getting inside the heads of people at all any more. His female characters exist only to be worshipped and his male characters are boring stereotypes.

A previous reviewer suggested Banks try his hand at a middle aged protagonist, and I whole-heartedly concur. If he's looking to retread former glories, maybe Espedair Street re-written as a once successful writer looking back over his career as it fades to repetitiveness may provoke him into meaningful character insight, since his prose itself is majestic. Hackwork, but well written.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It hurts, giving a 2 star review to Iain Banks -, 29 April 2012
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This review is from: Stonemouth (Hardcover)
and in all honesty, he has written worse books than this ("Dead Air" springs to mind).

The problem is, as already stated by most reviewers, is that he's done this all before. Wealthy family with disturbing secrets ? Check. Local boy comes home and takes drugs with his peers ? Check. Name-dropping references to 'cool' products / brands / bands ? Check.

Not only has he done it all before, but the story itself is fairly weak.

It would be great if in middle age, Banks could give us a protagonist facing middle age issues. His readership is I imagine predominantly in his age group, and as such the drugs / casual sex mix isn't 'edgy' any more, in fact it's slightly boring. He's still a good writer, and I hope he carries on writing (especially the Culture novels), but he needs a new riff for his non "M" books now.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Classic Banks but slightly hackneyed, 20 April 2012
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This review is from: Stonemouth (Hardcover)
OK - so this is classic Banks - Crow Rd - "boy meets girl" territory. Good narrative and characterisation - somewhat weaker plot than usual, but still passable. Bit of a "banker" for the old Iain Banks current account. Apalling ending - won't spoil it for you, but very undeveloped.

Iain if you are reading this, you need to get a bit more creative on your contemporary stuff, cos this is the third time through the same story (Crow Rd, Garbadale and now this)
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Stonemouth
Stonemouth by Iain Banks (Paperback - 3 Jan 2013)
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