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3.8 out of 5 stars259
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 31 December 2013
Banks' final novel is a strange yet enjoyable read. Unlike other review writers here, I've only read a handful of his other novels, and only one of his science fiction creations, 'Consider Phlebas', so I want as sorely disappointed as some. Yet, this novel is lacking something; it doesn't really go anywhere and I was left wondering if Banks gave up on the narrative hooks, which he'd introduced.

Kit is a likeable character, who I warmed to and wanted to see done right by at the end, however I could never picture him quite right: at the beginning his idiosyncrasies of character didn't seem consistent, and I felt he was too much Banks' mouthpiece to be true to his autistic traits, which jarred with me somehow and didn't seem wholly congruent.

Later in the novel, Banks appeared to jump ship and "become" Guy, to spit out his tirade against modern life and its banalities and disappointments. Despite the difficulties and humiliations of his terminal illness, I could never warm to Guy enough to care what he thought about the world he was leaving behind. He was too vile to his son on too many occasions for me to really care about his end.

The quarry out back (which I assume was meant to be a metaphor for life/death/circumstance?) didn't work for me either. Again, hard to visualise and too contrived to fit the narrative in the way Banks designed it to.

Despite these shortcomings, I finished the novel quickly and I enjoyed it essentially. Having been to university in the 90s, I could recognise characters like Haze, Ali, Rob and Hol, as well as their connection to the house which had been their student home.

I read somewhere that Banks himself had suggested it might've been more fitting for him to go out on a big science fiction Culture-high, however for me this is good enough. It still makes me want to revisit the novels I've already read, and try others which make up the rich Banks legacy of literature.
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VINE VOICEon 11 May 2014
I have been reading Iain Banks and Iain M Banks books since his brilliant debut novels ‘The Wasp Factory’ and ‘Consider Phlebas’ and so it is with a rather sad frame of mind that I began to read ‘The Quarry’ his last non science fiction novel. The Quarry in question is set to eventually engulf the house of the narrator, Kit – an eighteen year old boy with something like mild Asperger’s syndrome, where he lives with his father Guy who is dying of cancer. As such the quarry sits as a brooding metaphor in the background of the rest of the story which revolves around Kit trying to find out who his mother is before his father dies (he was left on Guy’s doorstep as a baby) and Guy’s group of old university chums coming to the dilapidated house to say farewell to their old friend but also wanting to find an embarrassing video tape that could ruin their careers if made public.

Set as it is mostly in the old leaking house (another metaphor for Guy’s illness) it could easily be converted to a stage play in which the old university friend’s devour copious amounts of alcohol, curry, drugs, bacon butties and cups of tea while discussing politics, religion, death and the state of the world.

Much better than ‘Stonemouth’, which I found a little lightweight, this novel is a fitting final bow at the curtain by this player of games who voice has been in my life since my teenage years and will be sadly missed by me and countless other dedicated readers.
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on 5 September 2014
I fell in love with the novels of Iain Banks a few pages into The Crow Road many years ago and I've enjoyed every one since.
Given the author's impending death and the subject matter, this could have been a self-pityingly maudlin read. But handled with wit and almost unnerving honesty it is story which lays bare the selfish motivations of a group of old friends. Even our hero and narrator Kit, is not blemish-free.
Banks's sharp pen strips each character to the bone and leaves us remarkably with hope. A great funny, moving read.
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on 7 August 2013
I have read all of Banks' novels and some of the Sci-Fi (plus the whisky book). This is another great novel from the man, who, until recently, was the UK's finest living writer. I'd give it 4.5 stars as it wasn't the most brilliant of endings, but under the circumstances in which it was written this is understandable. There are only two other writers who have consistently given me so much pleasure. This book has many laugh out loud moments and writing of such brilliance that I felt like stopping to applaud frequently. What a loss !
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VINE VOICEon 21 February 2016
I read this book as soon as it was published, and was all set to write the review, when the sadness of the situation overwhelmed me. The author, my favourite contemporary author, dying of cancer, mirroring the father of the "hero" of this novel. No self referential work, however, it wasn't until after he had completed writing it that Iain Banks went to his doctor to check out the bad back he had been developing, and discovered that it was caused by a cancer, in the advanced stages, and all but untreatable. As you will know if you are a fan of Iain (M) Banks, he faced death with a commendable, fatalistic aplomb, and I hope that I will have th strength to do the same.

Banks himself said that this was not the great, final novel that he would have chosen to write had he known, but it is certainly worth the reading. Set in Northumberland rather than Scotland, it deals with familiar themes of the outsider, and allows Banks a few swipes at class enemies - he is particularly critical of the drivers of BMWs, Mercs and Audis in the final chapter. I share his disdain for "me too" German car owners, if not his politics!

I wish, like the author, that his last novel had been a great "Culture" sci-fi space opera, but it was not to be. This is not his best novel, but it's well worth the read even if you are not a compleatist like me.
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on 19 December 2015
Too much dialogue. Told through the sensory organs & cognitive mind set of an autistic son; Kit. His father Guy is dying of the big C. The house is to be demolished. The mining people are going to extend the quarry. This part is inevitable. Quarry has a double meaning. Meaning the hunted. They are all looking for a porno tape they all made as students. Kits father; Guy is being pursued by his illness, yet remains a shady clandestine figure, rather like the father in the wasp factory. He does also make a run for it in the penultimate chapter. But I think these are meant to be red herrings. The quarry is in fact a metaphor for itself, as in a hard stony place a source of mineable stone. The books constant background - the noise made by 5 friends bickering about politics, status, social class and general sniping is the books Achilles heel. Kit lives in a real time game, but is haunted by not knowing who his mother is. This is obviously meant to be a film, a bit like Shallow Grave, or Trainspotting. where the constant script; of sniping would come to life. Hopefully giving the ex students some individuality. This was Banks' last novel, himself sadly becoming victim to the C word himself shortly after publication. Too many lines for boring characters robs this novel of a star. But otherwise some great writing.
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on 3 July 2013
A wonderful last novel from Ian Banks. A group of old friends with a lot of history between them meet up for the last time, as one of them is dying. Over the course of the book their personalities become more vivid, complex, secrets are revealed, emotions rise, and the story is told by Kit, a teenager with Asperger's, who has trouble understanding emotions and who describes/understands everything completely literally, leaving it to us to figure out what he can't see right in front of him.
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on 29 January 2015
Like others have said - if this will be your first Iain Banks novel - go and read the others and then come back to this one. Get to know him as a person and then this will be so much more affecting. To be honest, much of Iain Banks' recent output has been lacklustre. Still very readable (I don't know any other writer who puts words onto the page in such a natural way) but not as vibrant, imaginative or god-damn great as the earlier works. (Stonemouth excepted). On the other hand this book was funny and has lasted with me well after finishing it. Firstly the realisation of a kid with autism is both warm and brings much of the humour. i laughed out loud continuously when reading this on the train (why doesn't anybody else laugh when reading on the train - what humourless drivel are you reading?), I won't go into much detail of the last 100 pages so as not to spoil it - but it is a brilliant evocation of staring into the abyss of death and how to react to that. Do you laugh, cry, get angry, get even, get stoned or get out? In many ways Iain Banks work has been a search for meaning in a godless world. At the end he seems to have been at peace with his fate - whatever that may be. If you read and soak up Iain Banks' work maybe you will be more likely to be in the same position when the time comes.
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on 15 October 2014
I really enjoyed this book. As usual with Iain Banks, the characters were full, rounded and real, and at varying shades of grey on endearing to irritating scale. There was not a caricature in sight and I could empathise with each of them, so much so that the plot (such as it was) mattered little. The book showed, through conflicting values and a shared youth that, on many levels, promised more than it actually delivered (doesn't everyone's?), the ties that bound each to the others. It was that sense of transcending love that provided both the sad and the optimistic taste I was left with after I had turned the final pages.
It was a clever move to tell the tale mainly through the eyes of an autistic young man, and I can only imagine and admire the honest way his father and the main character, Guy, was painted. It avoided sentimentality but the anger, bitterness, sadness and joy in existence still shone through, and with only a hint of self pity. It must have been both difficult and illuminating for the author to explore his emotions and, most notably, the reasons why he could not end his life before that greater force was ready to take it.

I am full of admiration, it was a fitting epitaph to an original and highly creative mind. He will be sadly missed.
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on 6 July 2013
This last book of the late, great Iain Banks has a 'neater' end than his others which is hardly surprising. I thought it would be a difficult read given the subject matter and his impending death which was uncannily close to events in the book (I understand he was already 60% through the book when he received his dire prognosis). However, how many people diagnosed with terminal cancer have a rant at the world knowing that millions will read it?
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