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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Makes McCarthy's "The Road" seem thin and shallow.
I've read this book so many times over the years and I'm astonished at the negative reviews on here.
Yes it's a bleak future vision but it's much, much more than that.
Superficially it may be an apocalyptic tale of a lawless land overrun by marauding private militia but the real themes are about the relationship between the narrator and his castle and all who...
Published on 9 Aug 2011 by Cloudy

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stone Cold
This is a difficult book to read. There's something hard in the first person narration with every action and description firmly and coldly played out. The narration is intense but has a strange lyrical quality, one of the main reasons that I managed to stay with the book. The lead character is not a person the reader would easily understand or get to grips with. The Song...
Published on 12 Nov 2002 by jo_garbutt


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Makes McCarthy's "The Road" seem thin and shallow., 9 Aug 2011
This review is from: A Song Of Stone (Paperback)
I've read this book so many times over the years and I'm astonished at the negative reviews on here.
Yes it's a bleak future vision but it's much, much more than that.
Superficially it may be an apocalyptic tale of a lawless land overrun by marauding private militia but the real themes are about the relationship between the narrator and his castle and all who have dwelt there.
I choose my words carefully as one of the fascinating puzzles of the novel is exactly what the relationship between him and the woman of the house is. The relationship that develops between her and the "lieutenant" of the occupying soldiers is subtly and cleverly drawn.
I'm a big fan of Iain Banks but without doubt Song of Stone is among my favourites of his many books. 100% recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth a re-reading, 6 Feb 2014
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This review is from: A Song Of Stone (Paperback)
I first read this years ago; possibly late 90s/early oos - so definitely before Amazon reviews took off! I've read a fair bit since then, but ASOS has come back to me at various times, although over the years more and more intertwined with a children's book I also vaguely remember reading about social breakdown and soliders (Noah's Castle is the nearest book I can find, but I'm still not convinced it was the one).

Banks is one of the few authors I can read over again, so, being that the general negativity towards ASOS, I thought I'd read it as a fully fledged adult.

I think I possibly enjoyed it more this time; I certainly don't have the vague, fuzzy feeling I was left with last time (or is that, quite simply, time?) The castle is, in its solemnity and final indignity, the main character in the novel: it appears to exert some power over its inhabitants and even the Lieutenant which makes them unable to leave entirely - even if it should be their destruction. Possibly the castle represents a hierarchical society which binds people even afer less physical structures have crumbled; possibly it's a physical manifestation of refuge and safety individuals can't find anywhere else.

In fact, starting this review has again made me realise how much I enjoyed the novel, but am probably in danger of slipping into an essay if I continue. And it's been many years since I wrote an essay at bedtime.

So.
We are able to feel superior to the main character, as he appears to be the only one blind to the true extent of te ways in which society has changed.

The Lieutenant appears to be the most interesting character in the novel, althogh one wonders whether this another trick: does she only appear interesting because a. Abel wants to sleep with her and b. because she is so different to him (in some ways) and actually throws his faults into sharp relief. Is she actually the man he wants to be?

The true horror appears to be rooted in the mundane, every day life, as evidenced in Morgan's abuse as a small child. Everything Abel and Morgan do as adults appears to have been set in motion at the castle - possibly by their father.

The sense of bleak hopelessness is offset by those who never appear as the protagonists: the soldiers and the castle's workforce whose lives go on regardless of who's in charge and who's on the 'right' side. As it ever has been and ever shall be, I suppose.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A horrible story for sure, but compelling nevertheless and a cautionary tale for those of us who watch the nightly news, 24 July 2014
This review is from: A Song Of Stone (Paperback)
Book Review: A Song of Stone by Iain Banks
A Song of StoneA Song of Stone by Iain Banks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Song of Stone is Iain Banks 9th novel published in 1997, but he had already written another 8 Science Fiction novels under the name Iain M Banks, so a consistent output of almost two book a year at least over ten years.

As with most of the non-Science Fiction this book is fairly political in tone, and I read it the year of its publication in paperback. It was clear to all that this novel was speaking of the unimaginable brutality and horror which was the Bosnian war of 1992-1995. Due a split in the EU, the germans siding with their historic allies the Serbians and the rest of Europe wanting to help the Bosnian Muslims, this is the war Europe watched each night on its televisions, but did little to intervene except by its absence. The carnage and cruelty was unlike anything Europe had ever seen. Still nothing was done.

In A Song of Stone, Iain Banks reflects on the culpability of Europe by placing a similar conflict this time in his homeland which was the lowlands of Scotland. He puts the spotlight on a crumbling stately home and its useless over educated but under skilled aristocratic yet likeable owners, and then throws them in the way of pure cruelty.

I won't say much about the story, except that it is horrific in its slow paced incremental daily increase in needless violence. the kind of which only goes unchecked when all forms of states have evaporated, and in the end this small castle and its occupants come to represent the entire state of Bosnia, and their cruel needless suffering similarly.

It's hard to recommend this book, Iain Banks is, as always, creative, and the inventive horror stays with you long after you have closed the pages.

Still once you start its unput-downable. You have been warned.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stone Cold, 12 Nov 2002
This review is from: A Song Of Stone (Paperback)
This is a difficult book to read. There's something hard in the first person narration with every action and description firmly and coldly played out. The narration is intense but has a strange lyrical quality, one of the main reasons that I managed to stay with the book. The lead character is not a person the reader would easily understand or get to grips with. The Song of Stone reminded me a lot of Canal Dreams, another Iain Banks book, which includes a similar situation of invaders attacking but with that book, there was a different sense of the main character wanting to be freed from her isolation. This is unlike The Song of Stone which is heavily isolated and extremely cold. Still worth a read though not my favourite of his books.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Miserable? You will be...., 5 Jan 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: A Song Of Stone (Paperback)
Possibly one of the bleakest books I've ever read, and almost entirely lacking the warmth of some of his other works.
Set in some post apocolyptic land (Scotland? certainly not sci fi), this tells the sad tale of a minor member of the nobility's encounter with a bunch of roaming soldiers. The relationship between the two groups goes from bad to slightly better to even worse, and nobody ends up happy.
The ending of the book is so resolutely dark and without hope that you wondered why you bothered in the first place. And yet, being by the excellent Iain it is vividly and intently written, and stays with you like a particularly morbid dream for some weeks afterwards.
One to avoid if you're feeling blue (or if you fancy your sister..).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Life Is Tough?, 31 Oct 2010
This review is from: A Song Of Stone (Paperback)
No story? No characters?
I can't understand some of the other reviews here.
The story is there, the characters haunt me still, many months after I read the book. The situations that our narrator is put in, his (& others) reactions to them, the outright nastiness of much of the story, the dark sexuality ... the idea of slowly, slowly accepting that things are going to end badly ... these are the elements that made the novel for me.
I wish that many of the other books I read were half as good as this.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Stone Sour, 4 Mar 2003
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This review is from: A Song Of Stone (Paperback)
I was first drawn to Iain Banks via his Sci Fi and if there is a parallel, this book fits into the same category as Feersum Endjin. Banks is clever, there's no doubt about that, but this book reads too much like a literary exercise, rather than a novel. I'm not against flowery prose as such, but it seems overdone here, to the detriment of the tale. My previous Banks was his first, the Wasp Factory, which, as others have said, is excellent and I guess I bought this one in order to own all of his work to date (completist that I am).
The story itself is a good one. An intriguing premise, unusual characters, and the obligatory perverse sexual angle and if someone described it as such to me, I'd expect to like it. Unfortunately, the first person to third person narrative style wears thin very quickly and the main character is such an unredeeming,pompous a**ehole, if it wasn't for the fact that I have an aversion to putting unfinished books back on the shelf, I might've done exactly that...
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3.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile read, however not the calibre of previous efforts, 23 Jan 2000
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This review is from: A Song Of Stone (Paperback)
Song of Stone is an interesting book, however I would not rate it as highly as some of Banks' other efforts (most notably the brilliant Wasp Factory, Crow Road or Complicity). Set in a not inconceivable future (my guess was that it was set about 50 years from now, when Britain had broken up into warring statelets like Bosnia and Kosovo)it concerns the fate of Abel, a minor aristrocrat whose ancestral home is taken over by a militia. Abel has an at first cordial and respectful relationship with the militia, however this changes to hostility and tragedy when they hold a drunken victory celebration and ruin his castle. I thought it an enjoyable and worthwhile read, having not read any of the Iain M Banks novels I found it comporable more to The Bridge than to any of his other work.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Somewhere between Canal Dreams & Whit in terms of enjoyment., 2 Nov 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: A Song Of Stone (Paperback)
This is a completely new departure in writing for Iain Banks. I was still not sure after half the book as to whether I would finish his latest work, but ploughed on through to the end and was glad I did.
Once you get used to the style and characterisation the reading becomes more of a pleasure.
The central character is weak-willed, except in regard to his sexuality where it seems that there is not end to satisfying his desires.
This lack of character strength allows him to be pulled back to the Castle by the Lieutenant and see centuries of history crumble around his decadence.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An inconsistent and largely infuriating experiment in language..., 29 Feb 2008
This review is from: A Song Of Stone (Paperback)
The setting is an ancient castle segregated and cast adrift amidst a hostile, post-apocalyptic landscape. Our characters represent the final pocket of humanity from disparate backgrounds and viewpoints, with the author choosing to look specifically at the emotional power play between three incongruent archetypes whilst, simultaneously, wrapping their plight in themes such as trust, loyalty, honesty, possession and betrayal. The use of language is exasperating throughout, with the writer using arcane plotting, evocative descriptions, poetic soliloquies, prose-like dialog, jaw-dropping phrasing and more than enough alliteration, to further sketch out the world in which these characters co-exist (whilst also developing the sense of emotional connection and understanding between our three leads). So, with all these noble and intelligently creative characteristics on display, why does The Song of Stone remain one of Banks' most infuriating and inconsistent works?

For me, the book never really got anywhere. That would be it's biggest problem. I admire Banks' desire to push the limits of what modern literature can achiever through its use of language, sentence construction and dialog that could easily be classed as poetry, but really, the narrative of this book is so slight that the whole thing could probably be dubbed style over substance. There were, of course, flashes of genius, with the book alluding to the strange relationship between the couple that own the castle and the band of marauding mercenaries that take it over... as well as some interesting ideas about loyalty and possession, in this case, both the possession of objects and the personal possession of other people. There were also a number of scenes in which Banks was able to get the drama to a dizzying degree, specifically during the huge militant banquet and our protagonist's expulsion from his own home, not least, the drive to the woods and that whole subjective final chapter. But for me, this was too little too late. The whole book seems like a slow trek up a steep hill, with Banks playing far too many games for his own enjoyment and allowing plot elements that could have metamorphosed into staggering twists and turns (ala, The Crow Road, Complicity, etc) instead become mere clichés.

There were times when the whole thing reminded me a little of Banks' better, earlier work, The Bridge, with the notion of Ian Banks venturing into the territory of Iain M. Banks, with elements of social metaphor and allusions to existentialism allowed to permeate his usual constructs of quirky characters, shocking violence and all manner of past immorality. But this too fell flat, and the whole thing took turns into routine thriller territory and even worse, melodrama. It's a crying shame really, with the use of language as previously mentioned featuring amongst the very best examples of showboating literary spectacle of the last decade. It's just a pity that the plot, characters and sub-textual emotional resonance didn't really come together until the latter half of the book. There's still enough going for it to warrant a three star rating, but this is hardly a book to clamour over. Perhaps it would make good reading fodder for those all to familiar rainy days, when there's really nothing better to do.
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