Top critical review
2 people found this helpful
Youngish, techish, yet not quite...
on 5 September 2013
A young man, Stewart, returns to the small town that he grew up in to attend the funeral of an elder of an influential and shady family and revisits old wounds and the act of indiscretion that causes him to leave his childhood home in the first place. The premise is interesting enough, but the patchy writing and stilted dialogue are letdowns to an otherwise promising story.
Perhaps Banks tries too hard to make the setting and the youth of the protagonist credible - e.g. isn't it always the young ones who lament that they are old? and therefore incessant instances of characters who hurl themselves over bridges or are misfits, and a little off-the-hinge. However, Banks is no Brett Easton Ellis or Chuck Palahniuk, and he fails to convince us that the characters are as conflicted as they claim to be, perhaps because they lack strong, plausible motivation to be the way they are. There is also overly enthusiastic (and unnecessary) references to modern tech gadgetry, which shows up the writer's anxiety to remind the reader that the characters are truly of the 21st century.
The spurts of caustic humour that dot the exchanges between Stewart and his gay/bisexual friend Ferg (his sexuality a character trait that the writer throws up presumably to titillate rather than illuminate) doesn't sound authentic when they seem to head nowhere. Most of the action of the novel takes place over a weekend, and there are numerous chance meetings with old school friends and meetings at pubs and someone's house, where above-mentioned stilted dialogue takes place.
To Banks's credit, there are some spots of brilliance when he tries to draw out an action sequence - eg at the pool room when Stewart is accosted by some ruffians, but unfortunately it becomes tedious, rather than engaging in the way perhaps another Brit author, Ian McEwan, styles his prolonged moments of suspense.
In brief, Stewart is embroiled with a druglord in a small town through his entanglement with the druglord's daughters, but Banks fails to keep the reader's interest when there is a whole host of other characters who make little impression, and who appear to assemble and disperse for no observable reason but for them to be there just in order for the protagonist to relate to in order for some action to take place. This is most apparent in what is supposed to be an explosive, violent climax near the end of the book.
I must say I am disappointed by this novel, when I had high hopes from such a prolific author.