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Needs a firm hand
on 5 August 2010
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.