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3.4 out of 5 stars
3.4 out of 5 stars
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on 30 December 2011
As an avid Banks fan, I'm making my way through his entire works. This looks like the perfect little book to get through over the Christmas holiday. It is by far the worst Banks' book I have read so far. There doesn't seem to be much of a story at all. I felt no empathy or emotional connection to any of the characters. Not worth the time. People interested in Banks should look towards Crow Road, Steep approach to Garbadale, Wasp Nest and Transition. These books cannot fail to excite and provoke thought. After all, we all have a bad day, this was Banks'.
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on 27 November 2012
I'm a big fan of Iain Banks' work, but unfortunately this one just didn't do anything for me. Although it's a reasonably small book, getting through it was a real struggle. It just isn't a page turner I'm afraid.

I can't really go into much more detail than that. If you're a Banks fan, I'd say read it, but don't expect great things.
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on 10 April 2010
This book would probably work better as a straight thriller, but is cluttered with flashbacks and dream sequences of the main character. Whilst these are probably supposed to add depth, it doesn't work and I never really engaged with the heroine. One quote on the blurb compares Ian Banks with Grahame Greene -- obviously not an author the reviewer has ever read -- don't waste your money on this novel, get some Greene instead!
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on 16 September 1999
Banks' usual strange story-twists get cut a little short in this novel, however the characterization of Onada Hisako is superb, and the story does end with a bang! If you have a few hours flight or train ride before you, be sure to pack it in and read it in one go.
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on 19 January 2014
This is a good book. Start out slowly and building character. And then explodes with action and surprises. I do not want to spoil it. But it is enough to say that this is a good read.
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on 9 April 2013
I have always wanted to travel through the Panama Canal. The book started off well as a travel guide but after that got much more interesting.
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on 8 November 2012
Another classic from Iain Banks- evocative prose, dark twists and in Hisako, a fearsome heroine. I didn't put this down until the end.
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on 10 September 2014
Bought this book as a gift for a family member who's an avid reader and a massive fan of Iain Banks.
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For a reasonably thin book, this was a heck of a slog!

"Canal Dreams" tells the story of Hisako Onoda, a world-famous cellist (as we are told many, many times) who is scared of flying and as a result will only travel by surface transport. On her way to Europe by boat she passes through the Panama Canal, where she enjoys scuba diving and flirtations with fellow passengers, until pirates take over her boat. After being captured and raped, Hisako seeks revenge and becomes almost a Rambo character for the remainder of the book.

Strewn with innumerable flashback scenes the book never really seems to get going, the story stopping to leap back in time to show scenes from Hisako's past, most of which don't really add that much to the plot and seemingly only serve to pad the book out to a desired page or word count. None of the characters are particularly appealing or engaging, and the final third or so of the book is just silly, as Hisako suddenly has great skills with machine guns and rocket propelled grenade launchers.

A hugely disappointing novel, and a far cry from the likes of "The Crow Road", "Espedair Street", and "The Steep Approach to Garbadale".

A lovely cover photograph though.
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on 19 January 2010
OK, so it was a while ago now and Iain Banks and/or his publishers would probably say that misspelling Colombia throughout with a 'u' was inexperience or something. But surely when writing and publishing a novel set in a specific part of the world, it is their duty to at least check a map.

Other than this inexcusable mistake, the book is also very hard work. Having lured the reader into getting to know the characters and enjoying their relatively pleasant existence passing time on their ships while stuck in the Panama Canal during a civil war, the story takes a comically violent turn.

The cello isn't an instrument associated with equipping its players with the skills to handle machine guns, Uzis and automatic rifles. Yet Bank's world-famous cellist heroine does so with remarkable strength and precision - Lara Croft meets Jacqueline Du Pre.

And as for the tedious dreams and flashbacks she has, which continually interupt the shoot 'em up scenes just as they start to get a little gripping...

At least Iain Banks is on record as not much liking the book himself, and all credit to him for not letting it be turned into a film
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