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3.3 out of 5 stars
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3.3 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 22 August 2011
Iain Banks was born in Scotland in 1954 and published his first book - "The Wasp Factory" - in 1984. In the years since, he's won critical acclaim, topped best-seller lists and has even written Science Fiction books under the cunning nom-de-plume 'Iain M. Banks'. "The Steep Approach to Garbadale" was first published in 2007, and is his twelfth non sci-fi book.

Thanks to "Empire" - the UK's most successful ever board game - the Wopuld clan are outrageously rich. Most of the family members hold shares, and many also hold high-ranking positions in the family business. However, Alban McGill - the great-grandson of Empire's developer - is one of the family's more notable exceptions. Although he'd once been a member of the family firm, he resigned after an American firm bought 25% of the business - now, he holds only a token number of shares. (Officially, this injection of cash was the reason why he walked - but there was a great deal more going on behind the scenes). Since then, Alban has kept his family beyond arms reach - barely even keeping in touch with his parents. Now in his mid-thirties, he has since worked as a lumberjack. (Unfortunately he has been recently had to quit, with a severe case of white finger). "The Steep Approach to Garbadale" opens with Fielding Wopuld - one of Alban's cousins - finally tracking him down to a council house in Perth.

Alban proves to be the book's central character and Fielding has been hunting for him at their grandmother's insistence. (Grandma Win is the current head of the family firm and - unlike Alban - Fielding remains happily employed there in a very senior position). He arrives with some letters from Alban's last know address and a request for help. Spraint, the American firm who bought into the company, now want outright control - and have made a sizeable bid for the remaining shares. Fielding isn't overly keen on selling and he hopes that Al will help him convert family members to the "no" camp. The decision is to be made at an EGM, held in Garbadale - one of the family's stately homes in Scotland, and Grandma Win's chief residence. However, Fielding wants to canvass as many family members as possible before then.

"The Steep Approach to Garbadale" features the usual Banks style - as the 'current' events move forward, the book gradually reveals more and more about Alban's past. (As it turns out, there are very good reasons why Alban would feel awkward around family reunions - especially when they involve his cousin Sophie. Garbadale, too, holds a very painful memory for him). Alban's Great Aunt Beryl also throws in an extra spot of intrigue, hinting that he might have a small family mystery to solve at Garbadale. (Beryl and her sister, Doris, were canvassed by Alban and Fielding early in the book - they proved to be my two favourite characters).

Not necessarily Banks at his best - but most other authors would still struggle to match Banks on a bad day. An enjoyable, fun read that also has moments of sadness and darkness - certainly recommended.
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on 15 February 2016
I did not enjoy this book again found it difficult to follow
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on 10 April 2007
I have this reading policy.

I read a Lehane, Pellacanos, Lee Burke, Don Winslow or similar and then I read a "worthy" book. Because I think I should. By using this alternating method I reckon I can broaden the brain a bit and hold my end up at two sorts of dinner party.

Banks is one of the "worthy" authors. Expected to sort of enjoy it, but thought I'd look forward to the next thriller.

I think this book is the goods. Alban is a great protagonist, the story moves. It's actually bloody interesting. A page-turner! Not what I expected.

I confess I flicked through some of the banging on about the state of the world, but I loved it. I've ordered 3 more of Banks' books and I'm looking forward to them.

PS. Just finished The Crow Road. Excellent, but not better. God, I've read two "worthy" ones in a row.
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on 9 March 2015
great product,as described. good seller
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on 17 June 2009
This was so satifying to read. Properly written, no lightweight-ness of the recent chick lit I've been reading. But such a page-turner and does not alientate the reader. The plot was excellent, the characters were depicted without you really realising it was happening. Unlike a lot of other novels where the writer shifts time quite frequently, it wasn't irritating at all, but helpful, interesting and added to the novel. It also gave a good ending - not cheesy and not unnecessarily tragic for emotional effect. I've not read Iain Banks before but will certainly be reading more.
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on 14 October 2016
A*
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on 23 February 2014
The book was sent promptly and a good copy ... untiliit got here and our postman put it in the parcel box
by our gate that had filled with water! It got soaked and is drying in the airing cupboard, a bit misshapen.
No one's fault, really (except the weather) but a plastic bag would have saved it,though not been as green
as cardboard.
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on 29 January 2009
I cannot emphasis how devoid of ideas this book is. Banks uses the old homecoming plot without any real purpose. The characters are just totally empty with nothing in the way of motivation. Just as in dead air, this seems to be a vox piece for the author to tell us where he's been and what he thinks of the US government in some extremely clunky ways. Also, you can see that ending a mile off, I don't even know why I bothered finishing this.
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on 21 October 2007
I love Iain Banks' work. I really do. He's a wonderful storyteller and his distinctive descriptive prose, when at its best, is hard to beat. The Steep Approach To Garbadale is well written (as always), and I dare say that those who have not read The Crow Road would find little to complain about. As a fan of The Crow Road, however, I found the similarities between the two books very distracting, to the point where I found it difficult to focus on the plot and characters of Garbadale without comparing them with those of The Crow Road.

If I were asked to recommend one or the other, I'd definitely go for The Crow Road as I found the characters and narrative much more engaging. The Steep Approach To Garbadale comes across as a bit of a filler when you compare the two books. Having said that, it certainly passes the time enjoyably enough - Iain Banks' wonderful way with words saves it from bombing irretrievably.
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on 20 March 2007
I read an interview with Banks where he said that his obsession with Civilization (PC game not the world at large) led to the novel being later than expected. Well clearly he was still pressed for time because the cliches just keep coming in Garbadale, the plot is tracing paper thin and the narrative jumps seem to have been half a dozen different attempts at a book (first person or second, dialect or not...I know I'll just add them all in and pretend it's my style). Go back and reread something of his like The Crow Road or Espedair Street to remember what a good story teller he can be. In a word, PANTS.
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