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The Steep Approach To Garbadale by [Banks, Iain]
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The Steep Approach To Garbadale Kindle Edition

3.3 out of 5 stars 83 customer reviews

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Length: 401 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Product Description

Review

** 'Compellingly, beautifully crafted . . . A fascinating read (NEW BOOKS MAGAZINE)

** 'Banks begins his most consistent book since THE CROW ROAD with slaight-of-hand tricks displaying the master in rude form ... These shifts in voice are so perfect, so clean and witty that when Alban comes to the fore, we feel he's one of is ... the maturit (WATERSTONES BOOKS QUARTERLY)

** 'A novel that could easily replace THE CROW ROAD as his career highlight (MAXIM)

** 'Banks still has the ability to make the reader smile with pleasure (SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY)

Book Description

Dark family secrets and a passionate love affair, full of his trademark warmth, humanity and ingenuity, this is Iain Banks' best novel since THE CROW ROAD.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1316 KB
  • Print Length: 401 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus; Reprint edition (4 Sept. 2008)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002TZ3D8U
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars 83 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #47,270 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Format: Hardcover
I must say I was a little shocked by some of the negative reviews of this novel because I actually enjoyed it quite a lot. I'm a long-time Banks reader and, though I don't much like his SF, his literary fiction always gives me something to think about.

True, it's not as good as some of his earlier novels, but I found myself liking the protagonist, Alban, very much. He's a kind of black sheep who has all but abandoned the family business, but finds himself enmeshed in the debate about the proposed American buy-out as an advocate for not selling. For Alban, who owns so few shares that his voting power is virtually irrelevant, it's a matter of principle. Alban is very much a lefty and resents the commercial imperialism of the Americans. That resentment comes to the fore near the end of the book, when he lets fly at one of the (admittedly stereotypical) American executives about everything he hates about American politics and foreign policy. It's not subtle, but it adds a political dimension to the way you interpret the book. Indeed, you could read it as a leftist political statement against US imperialism - at least partly.

Interlaced with the business stuff is the family stuff, notably Alban's obsession with his cousin Sophie. Yes, a little soapy, but I found it quite fascinating. The family story is told through narrative that jumps backwards and forwards in time. Time-jumping can be annoying if not done well, and I think Banks does it well enough here. I didn't find it obtrusive or confusing. For me, it progressively built layers of complexity that illuminated the family dynamics.

Certainly the novel has its flaws, but nonetheless, I think it's Banks' best effort since Complicity.
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Format: Hardcover
There's a lot to like about 'The Steep Approach to Garbadale'. Banks is on typically fine form with his prose, characters and juxtaposed situations, and the book is poignant, funny and exciting.

Were this a novel by a 'lesser' author, I'd probably finish there - and conclude saying it's well worth the asking price, and a great read.

However, we know that Banks is capable of a lot more, and this book seems 'light' in comparison to some of his meatier work. His plot is expertly crafted initially - his interleaved characters, timeframes and the presence of mysteries yet to be uncovered make it an enthralling read. Sadly however, the resolution and denouement does not really compare to the build up, and he seems to leave parts of his story dangling. Perhaps he's attempting to break his reputation as a writer who specialises in 'twist' endings, but in that case - why go to such lengths to build suspense if the revelation isn't up to it?

The book is also marketed as being about games, with the family in question being in charge of a 'monopoly' or 'risk' style boardgame that is worth millions. This aspect of the story may be attributable to Banks' publicised fascination with the 'Civilisation' computer game - but it does make the book slightly frustrating as well. There's not much game-orientated stuff going on - the occupation of the family business turns out to be largely incidental to the plot.

Finally, there are some unusual stylistic quirks which, unusually for Banks, seem to be in-jokes or asides rather than important elements.
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Format: Hardcover
I've read more than half of Iain Banks's regular novels (as opposed to Iain M Banks's science fiction work) and although I enjoyed this book, I would have to say that the story would be a little bit leaden if it weren't for the author's well-crafted plotting. Which is to say that it's an unexciting story told with the skill of a page-turner.

The central character is a young man called Alban who is struggling vainly to come to terms with the failure of his adolescent first love about 20 years after the event. He has a girlfriend and some colourful friends but he remains obsessive about Sophie. She is his first cousin and so their secret summer of love in the Eighties was doomed when their family found out and she was condemned to exile in a Spanish boarding school.

This love story is told in flashback at a time when Alban's wealthy family, which owes its riches to a board game devised by Alban's grandfather, is coming together from around the world to consider a buy-out of the family firm by a large American company. And so of course Alban and Sophie are set to meet for the first time in several years.

There are a number of questions that drive the plot forwards. What happened between Alban and Sophie in the intervening years? Will they reunite or will Alban stay with the far more interesting Verushka, nicknamed VG? Is the family protecting the truth behind Alban's mother's sudden suicide when he was a small boy? And will Alban convince his family to keep its identity and reject the lure of millions of dollars from the Spraint Corporation?

There's an undisguised subtext here. This is a book about a board game called Empire! which is a game of global domination.
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