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.
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.
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.
on 9 January 2017
An interesting, slice of life novel that hauntingly reflected Iain Banks' unknown situation at the time of writing.
This is a story about a man slowly dying of cancer and all his childhood friends arriving for one last week of drunken reminiscing. Its told from the viewpoint of his son Kit, an intelligent and observant 18 year old who suggests early on that he lies somewhere on the spectrum of autism.
A sensitive, incredibly well written book that is brutally honest about life when contrasted with impending death.
on 18 June 2013
I Am about half way thru this book and have got to say.…it's fantastic. Where it is sad it's funny, where its serious its lighthearted. Only a terrifically gifted writer could write about terminal illness in such a way. Knowing that Iain Banks was fighting his own battle during writing the quarry makes it all the more poignant. How ironic though that the first review of this book is for 4 stars due to the issue received not being a first edition! This book was written by an exceptionally gifted writer, the first half has been a pleasure to read with plenty of laughs and extracts that really make you think and appreciate life. I guess sometimes we don't always get what we expect ftom life but then there are worse things that can happen than not receiving a first edition. 5 stars. No question. Read it and weep…and laugh…and be thankful.
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.
on 30 June 2013
Eighteen year old Kit and his terminally ill father, Guy, live in Yorkshire, next to a giant metaphor. Their home is built almost on top of the local quarry which will, by arrangement between Guy and the quarry owners, literally consume the house and its grounds once cancer has consumed Guy. What will the son do when his father and his home are gone?
As well as being Guy's primary carer, Kit has some problems of his own - not the least of which is not knowing the identity of his mother. On top of all this, Kit, who struggles in social situations (to put things mildly) is having to deal with an influx of Guy's old house-mates from university days. From the start, it's pretty clear this isn't just a tearful farewell visit. As always with Banks, underneath the banter there lurks the potential for things to get very messy, very quickly.
Followers of Banks will recognise a fair few of the author's recurring motifs: big rambling houses, posh people behaving badly, political comment, interesting bits of technology, fractious family relationships. But not all of the Banksisms are on show. For one thing, the story's structure is much less complicated than in, say, 'Use of Weapons'. For another thing... well, why not read the book and find out?
The apparent simplicity of 'The Quarry' might lead you to believe it's a sub-standard work. It isn't. In its exploration of the fractured relationship between an isolated, outsider child and his eccentric, willfully obtuse father, 'The Quarry' echoes 'The Wasp Factory', the book which hurled Banks towards literary mega-stardom in 1984. Of the two books, 'The Wasp Factory' has the horror, the pace and the spectacle. 'The Quarry' has maturity and a poignant humanity.
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.
on 12 July 2013
I was really looking forward to reading this as I'm a massive fan of Iain's writing, I'll try and leave his very sad death out of the review and try and judge the book as I would any of his others.
... and that is my first problem, it's a good read overall and I did enjoy it but it just isn't as good as many of his others. I've given the book 3 stars but to be honest if you put this book up against almost any other work of fiction published in the last 12 months it should really have 4 or even 5 stars, but put alongside his fantastic body of work since the wasp factory and it falls somewhere in the lower half for me.... but even that still makes it a good read.
If you enjoy Iain's books you will enjoy it, it has a lot of his 'trademarks' and his usual writing style but it doesn't quite fill me with the same sense of wonder that a lot of his writing does, It starts quite promisingly and it's in typical Banks territory in a lot of ways, I 'got into' the book straight away and found the characters interesting.. and that's the second problem, most of them don't really get any more interesting than they first appear (aside from a couple of characters which I won't go into detail as not to spoil it) I guess I just wanted more character development and suprises that I know Iain can do so well.
Plot, well here's another problem, I have no problem with books that are 'about people' and I wasn't expecting some big hollywood-like movie plot obviously but the 'red herring' threads in this book I found a little frustrating because he sets up so many things that have so much potential but ultimately come to nothing and when I realised I only had a couple of pages left of the book I felt a little disappointed.
But by far the biggest problem with the book for me it that it's just 'good' ... After I'd finished it I thought 'well that was a pretty good read' put the book down and didn't really think about it for the rest of the day (or since, until now) Compare this to the many times I've finished an Iain Banks book and sat with my head spinning for hours afterwards thinking about it over and over and feeling like I should start reading it again straight away to try and unlock the layers of meaning and things mentioned in the first half that only seem to become important when you finish the last page. I just didn't make me 'think' like so many of his others did. I spend most of the time reading The Quarry thinking "I wonder what will happen, I wonder what that meant, I wonder what will happen about that later on, what is that mentioned for, how will it end?" .. but sadly the answer to most of those questions just aren't forthcoming or the answer is simple 'nothing'
If you are already a fan, you'll buy it anyway.. if it's your first Banks book then I'd try something else ... not many people mention these three in their 'best' selection but I would recommend Dead Air, Whit and Complicity. ... then the two everyone loves Crow Road and Wasp Factory... then maybe The Business and Walking on Glass ... oh, just buy them all anyway. The man was a genius, RIP.
on 25 June 2014
Yes I know this was Iain Banks' last book and the character of the dying Guy was obviously based on his own situation, but I didn't like it at all. The plot could be summarised as follows; a lot of uni friends get together and discuss current affairs and their own past misdemeanors.Nothing much happens till about page 250 out of 320 - mostly drinking, cocaine, swearing and talking rubbish. The characters are mostly unattractive - with the exception of Holly and Kit, the latter being Guy's autistic son, probably the most interesting character (and the protagonist) of the novel.
The plot, such as it is, creaks a lot. Why spend a lot of time and energy looking for a dodgy video (and presumably destroy it) if the house and all its contents are going into the quarry anyhow? Why clamber into the quarry to retrieve it?
Yes, its well written but there is no dramatic tension or any interest in following the lives of these people. Sorry Iain.