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3.8 out of 5 stars
The Quarry
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55 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on 26 June 2013
The Quarry is about a gathering of former university housemates who come together for a long weekend in the house they shared while at college. The house is the family home of one of the group, Guy, who is dying of cancer and he has asked them to come together one last time while he is still alive.

The characters in this book came to life for me. I got to know their views and their foibles. Their actions and conversation were consistent throughout the book and the interactions with the others were totally believable. I felt I was with the group for that long weekend in the North East of England.

When I find interesting pieces in a book I take note of the page number for future reference. I found many such pieces in The Quarry.

In an interview with Stuart Kelly that was printed in the Guardian on 15th June, 2013, just six days after Iain Banks' death, Iain is quoted as saying, "let's face it; in the end the real best way to sign off would have been with a great big rollicking Culture novel." He was still very proud of "The Quarry", and rightly so.

While Iain referred to the book as a "relatively minor piece" it is still an excellent novel and those readers who are familiar with Iain's views on the world, the universe and everything, will recognize many of his firmly held beliefs expressed in the words of Guy. Religion, politics, corruption, racism, violence and corporate exploitation of the poor all come in for mention in what could be described as a manifesto of Iain's views.

As an avid reader of Iain Banks and Iain M. Banks books for over twenty-five years, and as someone who has become familiar with the author's views on a wide range of social matters, I found "The Quarry" felt like a presentation of many of the things Iain felt were wrong with the world and with the human race, and the many ways in which people are cruel to people for no valid reasons whatsoever. These would be things that Guy would describe as "f**kwittery and bo**ockry".

Guy has a major rant starting on page 292 which is all the more poignant when you know it was written immediately after Iain had received the news that he had cancer and that he only had months to live, just over three months as it turned out. At that stage he only had ten thousand words left to write to finish the novel.

I found this book to be a very apt parting shot by Iain Banks. It strikes me as a personal statement from him and it is a novel I will come back to many times as I feel it is the most personal novel he wrote.

Thank you Iain for a wonderful body of literary work and for all the words of wisdom you have passed on at every opportunity.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 6 July 2013
Just finished The Quarry and unable to start another book so instead will comment on this. I have read both Iain Banks and Iain M Banks books since the publication of the Wasp Factory in the 1980s. So coming to this book was sad knowing it was the last and knowing the topic was close to what was happening to him. If he had not been fatally ill would we all have been thinking of this as a book about a young man with Aspergers? How much did news of young hackers with autism or the financial abuse of Scottish Artist Peter Howson influence the original idea. These have all been strong media stories in Scotland over the last few years as have issues about personal care and end of life decisions.

However this was a book I found hard to put down. I found it both sad & funny but also enlightening. I rarely comment on books being keen instead to dive into the next one. This is a book however I do not want to taint with the taste of other books. Enjoyed the book and will misss the author.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 11 June 2014
Firstly, if you have been a fan of Iain Banks (with and without the 'M' respectively) you may feel exactly what I felt when you read the last chapter of The Quarry, close the book and place it back on the shelf. For me it was a truly sorrowful moment. I placed it back next my other Banks' books, and re-read the spines of each and every one in turn, promising to go back to The Wasp Factory and start the collection again. That this was his final novel, and now he's sadly passed, seems fitting due to the subject matter alone. But it's an experience i doubt fans of his will not forget for a while...

I bought this on the day it came out. The news, just weeks earlier, with a dark streak of humour running through his message to us, was that Iain Banks was 'officially very poorly'. I bought it with, I suppose, the usual excitement of the thought of a new work by him.... But both I and the store assistant shared a knowing look... This would be the last time that particular sense of excitement hit us. The work was about to lose a stunning voice. I returned home and put it on the shelf.... I'd normally devour it, hammer it out in one sitting, greedily absorb each page, each word. Strangely not this time though.

It sat on the shelf for weeks. I wanted, this time, to pace it out. Not rush, not dive in. I wanted to gradually savour the book. Trust me it's worth it.

And it's probably worth pointing out that this is far from his best work. But the personal connection it makes (impossible to ignore, circumstances given) is staggering. The writing is, as ever, flawless. The characters, wonderful. The plot, some may say is slow and meandering, but the overall emotive experience it shares it unlike any book I've read before.

There is bias here, true. And I'm sure I'm not the first person to wax lyrical about how Banks' book connect. I suppose the nature of the book, and the way in which the author left us, merge. For that alone, I can't imagine another book leaving me feeling quite so satisfied, yet altogether down. It haunted me for days.

Perhaps my generation, thankfully, haven't experienced our heroes and idols leave us.... But in Banks', I know I've shared an author with others touched by the same vigour, humour, style and verve. The quarry, again, is a fitting end to that giddy excitement of awaiting the next Banks' novel.

And so, The Wasp Factory is next for me.... With its dog eared pages, cracked spine and ruffled chapters. Then the Bridge, then Walking on Glass, then.... All of them, again.

RIP
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 10 October 2013
Not a great swan song, sadly.
I'm a great Banks fan, of both his Sci Fi and "straight" fiction, but unfortunately this one is below his usual standard. There are some quite nice rants and conversational exchanges, but the whole thing is a bit lacklustre and rather fizzles out at the end.
I like the narrator, and enjoy the quirk of making him Aspergers. I have a son with Aspergers and the thought processes and comments are pretty accurate.
The plot is thin, and doesn't allow even a writer of Banks' skill to develop lines and characters in any very satisfactory way.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 7 August 2013
Ok.. Firstly I am sad that this is the last Ian Banks book I will ever read (apart from re-reading earlier works) I have been an avid fan of his for many years including his Sci Fi Books)

Now this is not his finest novel.. Too me that is The Crow Road, The Wasp Factory , and Espedair street . However it is a good read. Very easy to read and engaging all the way through. It is a testament to his writing that this is a story in which not much actually happens, but there there is still much to hold the reader. A modern day Peters Friends Perhaps?.. The premise of the novel is a group of old friends who were at university , come together again for one last weekend as one of them Guy, is dying of cancer. The book is narrated by Kit the son Guy. Kit has autism and that gives the narrative an interesting as well as comical twist.

During the weekend the main plot is that they are all looking for a video tape made in student days that could now compromise all or one of them if it came to light after Guys death. Each of the friends have differing characters.. Guy is bitter at the world and his illness, Paul is a big shot lawyer and potential MP, Hol a left wing writer and film critic, Rob and Ali the Corporate hi flyers. That is essentially the plot. No big action scenes, or set pieces, and most of the story is set in or around Guys House. The title refers to a stone quarry next to Guys house.. The quarry owners will be buying the house house and extending the quarry after Guys death.

The characters reminisce about old times, There is lots of references to what the author does not like in the world today ( a dying mans last rant at the world perhaps?) but don't let that put you off. Not The authors greatest work, but one that holds up very well amongst his incredible back catalogue.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 9 July 2013
Sadly this is the last book Iain Banks ever wrote, and it is certainly a very poignant read. You can imagine him going through the same turmoil as Guy, one of the main characters who is dying of cancer.

It certainly isn't my most favourite book by Iain (M) Banks, but it certainly works better than some of the other non-SF books that I have read of his.

The basic premise is one of a bunch of university friends gathering for a long weekend at the house they all lived in as students. One of their number, Guy, still lives there with his son (who is the POV character for the whole story). Guy is dying from cancer and is nearing his final stages when the gang all arrive for the weekend.

Kit, the son, is slightly non-functional socially, although coaches well from Hol, one of the uni friends that still visits regularly. Each of those present have their own failures, weaknesses and foibles. As the weekend progresses the clues to these get more obvious. A side plot is the search for a missing tape from when the students (in the film and media studies group) made their own pastiches of well known movies on a hand held video camera almost 20 years ago.

To begin with it is barely mentioned, although there are oblique references that Kit doesn't quite get. A couple of one to one meetings though begin to shed light on it, and it is clear that it is potentially quite embarrassing. However still low key. The tension builds and more and more is revealed until a full scale hunt for the tape is being made by everyone present.

I thought that The Quarry was fresher than his previous non-SF book Stonemouth. I enjoyed that one too, but it seemed sort of similar in many ways to The Steep Approach to Garbadale and perhaps also to Complicity. There are similarities to some of these in The Quarry also, but I thought that the characters were well worked out. Even though I know that he wrote most of it before he knew he too was dying there is still something about the way Guy is written that comes across as very much how I imagine Iain would have taken it himself.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 27 July 2013
This is a book about people. It centers on the histories and interactions of a group of friends over a few days. Some secrets of personality and belief are revealed in rather surprising ways. The narrator apparently has mild Aspergers syndrome - and Banks uses this to great effect to demonstrate the difficulties of pure rationalism in a world beset by fears and superstitions. The cancer motif has been given a lot of attention, given the recent death of Banks from the same malady around the date of this book's publication. It is not the central theme, and is treated without sentiment, but is largely a symbol of entropy and the shadow of mortality. Much like the quarry itself, the disease threatens to cut away all the underpinnings of structure and life. This is a work of subtle genius.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 24 June 2014
Sad that this was Iain Banks' last novel. I have enjoyed most of his 'straight' novels (tried one of the SF stories but it was not to my taste) but this one I found had an extremely thin plot and most of the characters seemed indistinguishable and rather unpleasant. Putting the central character, Kit, on the autistic scale added interest to his internal dialogue but had no perceptible impact on the outcome of events. The sub plot of the relationship between Kit and Holly was more interesting than the main thrust - the search for the tape.

I'm with the comments of the reviewers who have awarded one and two stars except that there are some really awful books out there. This isn't that bad so I'll give it three.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 September 2013
I hardly ever review books that just felt I had to add to this. I have read Iain Banks novels and science fiction and he will be a very sadly missed author. I do not understand the complaints about lack of plot in this last novel. It just draws you in with its description of detail, characters and superb insights into someone with ASD. Although that is to some extent incidental and just provides a good way to look at how we all behave from a different perspective, It is poignant well observed and "unput down-able". Sure no twists and turns of complex plots it is just a super piece of writing from one of our best writers who will be sadly missed an awesome epitaph
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I didn’t know who Iain Banks was until 2012, when I moved to Edinburgh, where a friend suggested I read The Wasp Factory. In 2013, I did and enjoyed it. Quite a young man, that Frank (the main character) and his wasp factory; quite a loony father, disturbed brother, and bizarre existence. A good and highly original read. Shortly after I finished the book, Banks announced he was officially “Very Poorly,” and a few months later he was dead. The Quarry was to be his last effort.

Probably, the most interesting thing about The Quarry is that one of its central figures, Guy, has terminal cancer, and Banks discovered he had terminal cancer something like 87,000 words in, or right about where we get to hear (spoiler alert) Guy’s angry manifesto, his bitter goodbye to a world filled with religious nuts and other idiots. Besides that, the novel is not very literary. Only two or three paragraphs really shine and the characters are trite and two-dimensional. It reminded me of Douglas Coupland, the Gen-X author who writes about video games and anything hi-tech and new. It also reminded me of the really awful 1983 movie The Big Chill, right down to the cocaine-inspired lovers’ spats. What I’m saying is: The Quarry is disappointing, more like a drug-store paperback or B-movie script than a proper novel. It was, at least, easy reading, good for a holiday or being on a plane. No disrespect to the departed. I’m sure other books by Iain Banks are entirely worth it, and sci-fi types say his titles published under Iain M. Banks are excellent.

Troy Parfitt is the author of War Torn: Adventures in the Brave New Canada
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