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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 7 November 2001
This is the first of his books I have read. At the start I was a bit annoyed. Making up dreams seemed a bit cheap. But then the suspension of disbelief got in there and the the narrative and the description of this place took over.
A brilliant "other place" that completely takes you over. The vision of the place is completely visual - you can see it on the page.
The chapters with the dialect I found hard going and for preference I would have prefered a text that kept the pace going.

A brilliant read and I am shopping for more.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 14 April 2010
After suffering a horrific car accident, the novel's nameless, Scottish protagonist finds himself on the `Bridge', an industrial super-complex his mind has conceived for him to inhabit whilst he is unconscious. The man's identity is now split three-fold, as is the narrative structure of the book. Flashbacks to his pre-coma life represent his Freudian `ego', his surface personality that exists in the "real-world". His dreaming self living on the `Bridge' is his `super-ego' and a third barbarian like character that only desires sex and food is the `id'. Only when these three personifications of the psyche reunite will the book's hero be whole again. In essence this book presents a very traditional tale of self-discovery which has been stripped down to its most bare psychological form.

Everything in this novel, in reflection of Freud's tripartite mental structure, comes in threes; there are three narrators, three versions of the same man, and three sections to the book. Like Freud's psyche though, each of these `threes' combine to form a larger, more complete whole. The story and imagery are immensely surreal, from technological mega-structures to images of men walking forever in search of siren-like representations of female sexuality.

Yet beneath all of these layers of metaphor and psychology Banks also attempts to give a picture of modern-day Scotland and its politics. This is where, in my opinion, Banks attempts too much; his great artistry and surreal narrative is often at odds with the novel's ostensible state-of-the-nation agenda. However, the strength of the book's characterisation and its highly original setting more than make up for this minor flaw. Ultimately I found this to be a well-written and innovative work that lifts the classic coming-of-age yarn into a post-modern literary framework. A mind-bending yet moving novel.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 11 January 2000
The story is about a man in a coma who finds himself waking up with amnesia in a surreal world where everything seems to exist on an endless bridge. None of the other inhabitants find this strange and the man's curiosity and desire to escape take him upon an unusual adventure. This is interspersed with strange dream sequences and a narrative of his life up to the point of falling into a coma. All these threads intertwine into a compelling read. The ending is the weakest part of the story. If you've read The Wasp Factory you'll know how original and unexpected Banks's endings can be. The unusual setting of the Bridge give this tale an other worldly science fiction feel but it is also a story that stays very much on planet earth in the darkest recesses of the human mind. Almost worth a five if Banks hadn't written books to surpass this (Excession and Complicity to name two)
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 27 April 2000
I bought this book many years ago on a whim, I'd heard of the writer but not read any of his work. I read it on holiday in Edinburgh (a coincidence)and it blew me away. The overlapping stories are confusing but patience and a good memory reward the reader. Having read a number of books in this flashback style I have to say this is a virtually perfect example of the style, Mr Banks certainly likes to challenge the reader and meeting that challenge is half the fun of this book, although I've found some of his later books virtually unreadable (Feersum Endjin for one) in this book everything works. Mr Banks skillful narative and pacing create a genuine sense of tension as the book reaches a climax and upon finishing you can only sit back and say 'wow'. This is definitely a book that deserves a second and third reading, there is so much packed in that can only be appreciated second time round. The book will not be to everyones taste, but if you have enjoyed any other Iain Banks book you will enjoy this, read it once, read it twice - you won't be disappointed.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on 4 February 2004
Banks is without doubt a remarkably inventive and talented author and "The Bridge" highlights some of his best features - the story is initially gripping and some of the imagery is inspired. Unfortunately the story flags towards the end, losing focus and meandering and not maintaining the mystery and intrigue of the earlier chapters. Whilst I appreciate that this may have been a deliberate ploy to better portray what our main character is experiencing, imagery is no substitute for a tight story-line and cannot carry a book alone. I really wanted to like "The Bridge" but for me, it wasn't quite up to the standard of some of Banks' other works.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 14 September 2005
Iain Banks' 3rd novel tells the tale of a car crash victim and the symbolic dreamscape he inhabits while deep in a coma. The fantasy world of the bridge is full of delightfully strange oddities and vivid characters, even weirder 'dreams within dreams' (one of which, an amusing fantasy barbarian warrior pastiche, sees Banks experimenting with the sort of illiterate phonetic prose he would later perfect in Feersum Endjinn), and Banks flashback fleshing out of the lead characters real life history is skilfully done. While Banks descriptive and character writing is excellent however, there is something missing here - and that's any strong narrative. The Bridge has one of the slightest plots of any Banks novel, and unlike his previous two novels there are no unexpected plot twists along the way - from the very beginning its made perfectly clear that we are in the dreamworld of a comatose man, and from then on follows a pleasantly weird but rather languid symbolic journey as the character puts his thoughts in order before coming round. The Bridge is certainly recommended for its strong characterisation, inventive weirdness and beautiful prose, but with a very predictable story arc and a paper-thin plot I wouldn't rank this as amongst the authors very best works. A triumph of style over content.
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on 4 August 2013
To my shame, I'd not read any Iain Banks until now. I was very aware of him, his history, his illness & death. Any man who can ask his partner to do him the honour of becoming his widow gets my full attention. I heard The Quarry reviewed on R4, bought it and am hooked. It's a masterpiece, what a way to go. As a result of seeing the Kirsty Wark interview, I followed it with The Bridge and am hooked-er. At times it's a bit impenetrable, but, once you're past the dialect & allow your brain to read on three different planes, it's a wonderful ride. Maybe I'm thick, but it took me a while to make the connections. I kept wanting each strand to carry on, a good sign, I think. I was particularly captivated by the Abberlaine Arrol thread. I'm sure I've met her somewhere.
I've now got Whit, Stonemouth & Espadair Street lined up. Can't wait.
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on 2 September 2013
I've read quite a lot of Iain (with and without the M) Banks' novels. I liked this one the most.

The style is challenging at times, but that was part of the appeal for me. It draws heavily on both Aladsair Gray's Lanark (which I also greatly enjoyed) and on Kafka, in substance as well as style, and plays lots of games of literary allusion with both these and other authors.

One of the appealing things about early Banks is that he made an effort to make each of the novels distinctive (differing in style as well as plot and character), so I'm not sure how useful it is to make comparisons. But the closest comparison is Walking on Glass. He plays some of the same sort of games in The Bridge, but more successfully and with a more engaging human story behind the cleverness.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 18 May 2000
This book for me, sums up all the authors work- challenging but enjoyable. If one is willing to traipse throught the series of interlinking stories, one will be rewarded by what becomes a thoroughly engrossing read. The book owes much to Edinburgh and it's environs and is, in my view, to my city, what Alasdair Gray's "Lanark" is to Glasgow. Indeed Banks acknowledges that he had this novel in his mind when penning "The Bridge". Overall, this is my favourite Banks novel- a fine portrayal of different levels of consciousness and a further improvement on his also laudible earlier efforts.
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on 26 July 1999
I was recommended to The Bridge by a Banks fan, and loved it. Some specific things which I liked were:
1.Very intelligent writing - but in a scientific, not an artsy fartsy, way. 2. Sense of humour, including a careful, ludic approach to words. 3. It got my imagination going. I'm probably not literary enough to notice all the "borrowings" from other books, mentioned by another reviewer. 4. Lots of very good descriptions of the Firth of Forth/Edinburgh/Fife 5. Many moments which remind you of thoughts you've had yourself.
I finished it yesterday, and am now going off to the bookshop to get something else by him (or is "bookshop" a dirty word on Amazon?)
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