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3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
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on 4 July 2016
I read the reviews of this book before buying it and was a little put off by them. However as Iain is no longer with us, it was my last chance to read one of his amazing SF novels and I am so glad I did.

The opening is a swirl of different characters that coalesce into a riveting story of an organisation ('The Concern') operating in a multiverse where they are interfering in different timelines to steer the total civilisation. I will mention no more of the plot to avoid spoilers but the ideas, characters, plot and pace are everything you would want. It left me wanting more - much more.

Bravo Iain, you are sadly missed.
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on 21 June 2017
This Iain Banks should almost certainly have a M in it. It is not only a great SF story but some of the political parallels, especially in 2017, I found scary. I have not read any of his non M books, this was full of politics and philosophy and I felt exposed a window into his thoughts. Parallel worlds and alternative realities all too real all too possible. It is all tied together with a good story and great characters, pictures, places, just as you would expect from the great man. Sadly missed but greatly appreciated.
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VINE VOICEon 7 December 2010
...Well, it is really; so not sure why the "M" isn't there. Frankly it doesn't matter, though. This is an excellent book. The disparate characters seem never to have a chance of meeting. The mystery character (not giving anything away) seems destined always to remain so and had me guessing. There are sequences (dolls) where Banks seems perfectly to have conjured onto the page scenes from a nightmare with the same disjointed sense of hyper-reality / fantasy, readers will have experienced in their heads (oh, is that just me?).
Loved the denoument. Loved the idea of the eclipse. Loved the visualisation.
My favourite book this year.
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on 25 July 2017
Another masterpiece by the sadly-departed Ian (M) Banks. Possibly more confusing in the early stages than his 'Culture' novels, and certainly more so than "The Algebraist", my all-time favorite, but persevere and practice what I say: keep a blank sheet of paper handy when you start reading, and TAKE NOTES.
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on 18 July 2017
Nice,hard to put down.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 20 September 2009
This book 'transitions' the split between Iain Banks' non-sci-fi output & Iain M. Banks' vast space operas, presenting a sci-fi tale with a contemporary setting.

It is based on the premise that a virtually infinite number of parallel dimensions do indeed exist. The inhabitants of one of them have discovered that by ingesting a drug called Septus, they can transport their consciousness into the bodies of unsuspecting people in other dimensions & thus meddle with the socio-political development of other Earths. They have therefore formed The Concern - an organisation designed to strictly control the use of 'transitioning' & ensure it is used to benefit other worlds. But since The Concern's High Council plays its cards suffocatingly close to its chest, can they actually be trusted? Or could some of its members have agendas of their own? And how can anyone decide what constitutes the greater good anyway? These are questions one of The Concern's assassins has to find answers to when he becomes a piece in a deadly game between his employers & an enigmatic renegade.

The Concern echoes the interfering, egalitarian Culture of Banks' sci-fi novels but as its members are all merely human, The Concern is murkier & harder to trust. The idea of parallel worlds has been used before, notably in The Adventures of Luther Arkwright but never with Banks creative flair & ability to analyse the deeper implications in an entertaining & thought-provoking manner. Yet despite the virtually infinite variety this backdrop provides, the plot is a relatively straightforward one.

Quite appropriately, given the books' subject-matter, the narrative consists of separate threads from different characters' points of view. Banks has really gone to town with this approach, starting with 3-4 such perspectives but later adding more. This is a style which ordinarily results in the reader racing through sections relating to characters/plotlines they like & glumly wading through the rest but in Transition, I found each thread to be equally captivating & enjoyed working out how the disparate pieces fitted together in the overall picture.

I have found that many of Banks' novels (such as The Business) consist of a story which can be summed up in 100 pages, fleshed out with 300 or so pages of florid descriptions & background details. Transition, however, never meanders far from the main plot. It's an expertly-crafted, entertaining & thought-provoking read, which remains gripping throughout. In my view, it's one of his best.

In short, the transition from prologue to epilogue was a thoroughly enjoyable one.
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on 18 July 2012
I re-read this book recently after getting to thinking I must have missed something the first time round. The central idea of the novel is ambitious and impressive, dealing with multiple characters across a myriad of realities (the "many worlds"). Tackling the multiverse was never going to be easy, and I'm surprised by some of this novel's brighter reviews in the national press.

The page-to-page experience of the novel is generally a good one. Banks is an excellent writer, and there are some brilliant pieces of description and ideas. The characters, however, are not well formed. Adrian Cubbish is the worst of these. He's from up north but has set himself the challenge of playing a barrow-boy-banker. The sections of the book written from his viewpoint are the most stereotypical and predictable. Lots of "know what I mean?" and "But I was the golden boy, wasn't I?"

Although the central theme is impressive, the plot doesn't hold together in the slightest. Ideas are set out and then rubbished, and the `rules' that seem to apply to those with the ability to transition between the many worlds are all eventually forgotten, giving way to a confusing narrative where anything is possible (which makes for very dull storytelling).

This comes to a head towards the end of the novel, which has set up the premise that to visit an alternative reality there must be human bodies there which travellers can take up as hosts. Two of the main characters visit a world where an accident caused by a "gamma-ray burster" left the planet "devoid of humans". The visitors seem to have use of human bodies whilst they are there, but there is no explanation as to how. Similarly, just after setting up the premise, the central character hypothesises about transitioning into mid-air from an aeroplane and falling to his death: impossible, unless transitioned into the body of a skydiver intent on suicide. For this to happen to him there would have to be someone in mid-air over the Atlantic for him to take up as a host. These and similar inconsistencies make the whole thing a bit of a waste of time.

The novel's many worlds and characters could have been interesting. Indeed, some of the ideas continue to intrigue me. Banks sets up a great premise, and then explores about four percent of it. The inadequate characters, of which there are so many, are under explored. They never visit or come across alternative versions of themselves (wouldn't you be tempted?) and it's never quite clear what happens to host minds when they are displaced, or the original bodies of the travellers when they are left unattended (we know they are functional, but seem to lack personality - they are described as "husks" but seem to look after themselves, therefore retaining an identity (character) of some kind that isn't acknowledged). In a book with so many characters, it would be nice if some had approached the subject matter, and the central plot points of the novel, from a few more angles.
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on 30 September 2010
I think this is one of "Iain Banks'" better books for several years. I wouldn't dispute that Iain has passed his best, but and it's a very big but he's still very good at what he does.

I've found his last 3 or 4 "Iain Banks" books pretty average by his previous standards and I thought this book brought back some of the flare his early books contained.

I don't think it's an "Iain M Banks" book and it's not SF, I think people claiming so are not familiar with Walking On Glass, A Song Of Stone, and to a lesser extent The Bridge and Canal Dreams all likewise pretty far removed from reality. Such readers are perhaps not even familiar with SF itself. Having made that point it's largely an irrelevant point I think.

Admittedly the book has lots of great ideas that don't go anywhere and which he really could have developed and most authors would consider it wasteful. Also the book wraps up in a relatively inconclusive/unsatisfying fashion. But anyone familiar with Iain Banks knows he's a bit lazy that way.

Nonetheless all in all I was genuinely entertained.
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on 5 August 2010
The multiverse is real. A small group of people can travel between worlds, inhabiting the bodies of others and influencing events. This process is controlled by The Concern, a multi-versal enterprise which oversees everything. However there is discontent within The Concern, and one person wants to change things, using the tools of The Concern itself.

This book starts with a number of seemingly unrelated narratives and eventually weaves them together. To be honest, I was very glad of the synopsis on the back cover, otherwise I'm not sure I'd have followed it to start with. There is the typical Banks wit, creativity and humour, however I think there's just a bit to much of everything.

There are many fascinating ideas, each of which could have been explored more thoroughly. The whole idea of the multiverse and the relations between different realities needs more detail for a start. Are these worlds which have always existed, representing every possible reality, or are they spawned at decision points, as in the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum theory? What happens to the conciousnesses of the people whose bodies are taken over? How come our transitionary develops his additional powers? Then there are some inconsistencies: how do The Concern transition into younger bodies but stay in the same world? If people can transition objects, why can't they transition themselves physically? Setting it between the Berlin wall falling and 9/11, and trying to link it to the recession of 2008/9 is unnecessary. And the 'big idea' which The Concern want to block is, frankly, not so exciting when you are aware of the multiverse.

So I think it needs a firm editing hand and a bit more focus. I would have been happy for it to have been longer, if it had been a bit more internally consistent and developed. As it is, it's a page turner (well, the 2nd half is)and has plenty of interesting ideas, but needs more work.

Another reviewer pointed out that this book is itself a transition between Iain Banks'work with and without the M, and I think that's a nice idea. If that's really what it's intended to be then Banks would have done himself a favour by spending a little longer refining Transition.
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on 7 September 2009
This really is a challenging one and if I'm honest it is a wee bit of a grind at times. On the surface it sounds like a winner, a multiverse, a shadowy organisation, Christian terrorists and the coming together of Iain Banks and Iain M Banks. What's not to like?

Well too many of the plot lines don't seem to go anywhere; there are enough ideas in here for a couple of books and they are cramped in this one.

I have read that this book is Iain's answer to critic's complaints about an increasing gulf between his science fiction and mainstream fiction. I hope that's not true as I don't like the thought of one of my favourite authors being that easily swayed.

Despite what I've said above I genuinely like this book. You can see Iain's politics coming through and he raises some nice philosophical comments on greed, torture and terrorism among others.

A second reading could well be in order.
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