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on 2 May 2012
Addictive, nostalgic, funny, tense and satisfying. I'm shocked to see so many unflattering reviews of Stonemouth above - (in fact I almost took note of the 'same old formula' lines myself) - but I have to disagree that this book is boring, flat, predictable... following a tried and tested formula.

Sure, Banks displays some of his more trademark themes throughout, but he does it so well. And Stonemouth is such a tight, well paced novel... the plot moves so smoothly and effortlessly, its a wonder he can evoke such knowing and telling segements of the past we are all so familier with - love, betrayal, violence, returning home....

The Steep Aproach to Garbadale may seem very much a companion piece to Stonemouth (its no Crow Road - he may never surpass that), but Garbadale I found a little clunky in places, a tad too long.

Stonemouth cuts to the chase. Yes there a family secrets and a sense of dread in Stewart returning home. Yes there are romantic moments and themes on lost love.... but if you've been a fan of his and find his storytelling so real and close to home, then this will not disappoint.

The music/ drugs/ childhood anicdotes and smart-alec quips are all here, but you'd be hard pressed to find another writer who can do it in the way Banks can.

Perhaps some were hoping for something a little different, sure. But do not be put off by a 1/2 star review stating Banks is perhaps lazily revisiting old ground here.... Its handled beautifully - a very accomplished book, well paced, tone pitch perfect and one of the more satisfying endings I've seen in Banks for a while now.

Better than Steep Approach, but no Crow Road - 4 stars seems about right
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 2 April 2012
This novel is essentially a love story, and a very modern one, where the main characters, who are in their mid twenties, experiment with almost everything - often with serious consequences. The story is centred around the return of Stewart Gilmour from London, where he has found some success, to his home town near Aberdeen, and his reunion with the people he grew up with, including his former girlfriend, some close friends and a number of people who he has enraged in the past by his actions.

The town of Stonemouth has problems; an unusually high fatality rate involving the nearby bridge, a strong drug culture, and the presence of two dominant families, who mix legal and illegal activity in fairly equal measure. The story is unfolded against this backdrop. Iain Banks covers strong themes here; loyalty, friendship, enduring love, fear and courage, and beautifully evokes aspects of life in Scotland, as well as what it is to be young, smart, and prone to making some very bad decisions.

This is a beautifully written and highly enjoyable work of fiction. I found myself caring what happened to the main characters and I was sorry when it was finished.

Highly recommended
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on 7 August 2012
'Whit're ye reading?'
'"Stonemouth" by yon Iain Banks.'
'Whit like is it?'
'Is it wan o'thae wi' the spaceships an'that?'
'Huz it got folks explodin' an' that?'
'Whit like is it, then?'
'Some shagger shags aw the gurls and gits hissel into a spot o'bother.'
'Braw! Will ye read it agin?'
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on 28 June 2013
Stonemouth was my first read of Banks having only seen the TV drama of Crow Road several years ago and has now encouraged me to read more of his fiction. Am not a fan of sci-fi so unable to comment on his other genre. From the start of the book, I got into the sharp scottish accent with all the characters and could picture every description whether it was scenery, town, or their characters. A tale combining first loves, childhood friendships, jealousy, rivalry, drug culture, describing how life really is within a small depressed town. For me, this book had an engaging storyline that I got into and couldn't put down. Romance, anger, depression, humour & wit all in one hit. Definitely worth reading.
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on 30 January 2017
A great read with Stewart Gilmour returning to his home toun of Stonemouth having been chased out of town 5 years previously.
Back to attend a funeral of a grandfather of a local gangsters family.
Why was he run out of town, that you will have to read to find out.
The story has some great characters with a bit of witty Scottish banter thrown in for a bit of fun.
This book was selected for me by a Scotsman the only one in our book club, and I'm sure it is going to be well recieved in our next meeting
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: a novel about the moral and psychological growth of the main character

This is my first Iain Banks book, why, I have no idea. I am of Scottish heritage, my maiden name, MacLeod, and I love all things Scottish. Reading the initial PR about thus book caught my attention, and I was not disappointed. This is the real Scotland, not the tourist's brand. Stewart Gilmour returns to his hometown, meets a man on the bridge that enters town, and is also the jumping off place for some poor souls. He needs the OK from the town's head mobster to return for a funeral. It seems he was run off from town a while ago for some deed we are not privy to. As the story moves alng, we do find the reason, but it is a long long time coming.

The Murstons are the family with the money and the misdeeds. The author treats us to Stewart Gilmour's life as he grows up in Stonemouth to set the stage for the finale. We meet the friends, the foes, relatives, the townspeople, and how they all work together to formulate the culture of this town. Gilmour's returns to town as an educated professional man, and he is envied and defiled, depending which side you are on.

The writing is swift and superb. The characters jump out at you. This is a book that gives as good as we get. I don't want to spoil one page for anyone. You will want to continue to read until you can't keep your eyes open. What we learn fairly early on is that you can't go home again easily. All those unanswered questions, may be best not answered. What we know as a young person, may not be at all what we know for sure as an adult.

Recommended. prisrob 12-04-13
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on 7 May 2012
I am a big fan of Iain Banks' work; he is just about the only author whose books I get when they are released in hardback, rather than wait on the paperback publication. I've also started reading his Science Fiction works, published as Iain M Banks, but for the sake of clarity references to his oeuvre in this review are specifically to the "non-M" books.

After a number of books which failed to reach the heights of his previous works, his last book, Transition, was something of a return to form. It was with some anticipation and trepidation that I embarked upon Stonemouth. Would I be disappointed? Was Transition's improved quality partly because it was border-line science fiction? (I'm told that the Iain M Banks novels have remained more consistent than the non-M works)

The answers to those questions? "Yes and No" and "I think so".

Stonemouth is a (fictional) town in the North-East of Scotland, somewhere between Aberdeen and Peterhead. Our protagonist, Stewart, is returning to the town for the first time in five years for the funeral of Joe Murston - the patriarch of the local "mafia" family. Joe also happens to be the grandfather of Stewart's former fiancée, his wedding to whom was cancelled when he was run out of the town just a week before the nuptuals were due.

The subject matter is vintage Banks - a story told in flashbacks, telling of friendships and secrets, family ties and betrayals, all sprinkled with helpings of violence, sex, drugs and politics - although there is less violence than one may expect. The book shares a lot with its predecessors - The Crow Road in particular - but lacks their ambition. Where The Crow Road is an epic, multi-later, inter-generational tail, Stonemouth is more linear with less depth and less dramatic secrets. So yes, Stonemouth is in this respect disappointing, as if Banks' was only firing on two cylinders, recycling ideas, re-treading plots and updating previous novels.

This idea of him seeling to update previous works struck me in the first chapter where there are copious references to pop-culture in a way which will very quickly date the book. On page 10, for example, Family Guy, Cee Lo Green and "Tinchy featuring Tinie" get a mention. It seems as if Banks' is trying too hard to get into the mind of a 25 year old and the result is that it both jars and fails to be authentic: Stewart doesn't sound like any 25 year old I know - at least not initially.

(This lack of authenticity is compounded by unfortunate mention of the dominance and money of Celtic and Rangers and the perennial debate on them playing in England - although Banks' was never to know what was about to befall Rangers around the time of publication of the novel!)

It is a novel of promise but of poor execution. Elements of plot get picked up, played with and put aside. The attempt at creating an atmosphere of menace rarely does. Stewart seems content to spend longer than strictly speaking necessary in the company of those we are told are so keen to hurt him. And whilst the impending sense of doom does reach a climax, it also lacks a certain authenticity.

For all these criticisms - and a number more beside - Stonemouth is an enjoyable romp. After a few chapters I put my early reservations and aside and settled into the book as it settled into its stride. And in the end, I did kinda like it.

That said, I can't escape the conclusion that it is sub-standard compared to Banks' previous work and, if it weren't a Banks' novel, I wouldn't be rushing to read anything else by the author. Whilst Transition may have been Banks' back at (or close to) his best, it seems that his best is now reserved for works with a Science Fiction bent. He's still someway off his best when it comes to non-genre fiction.
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It is now 28 years since The Wasp Factory was published. It didn't take long to become a cult novel and everybody assumed that the author, Iain Banks, was destined for big things. He followed it up with several good, highly original books but of late the standard has tailed off, his last few being pale shadows of his best work. He seems to have become the Paul Gascoigne of British literature; no-one doubts his talent but he hasn't really lived up to his potential. So if anybody needed to bring out a decent book to restore his fading reputation it was Iain Banks. With the publication of Stonemouth he as partly succeeded in doing this, because although it is not in the same class as The Wasp Factory, Crow Road or Whit this must be his best book for some time.

Stonemouth tells the story of the Stewart Gilmores return to the Scottish town of the same name to attend a funeral after being forced to move away by local gangsters following an indiscretion shortly before he was due to be married to a member of their family. The events of his short visit result in a likeable story complete with a cast of believable characters and a satisfying ending. Whilst it lacks the complexity of some of Banks' earlier novels this is still a well thought out tale which is told well.

There was one aspect of this book that annoyed me a little though, and that was that at times it read a little like an elongated advertisement for Apple products. At various points in the story the lead character praises Apple phones and Apple computers, even having a dig at Windows in the process. It was so blatant that I felt compelled to check the cover to see if I could find the words "sponsored by Apple".
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on 5 June 2012
People seem to be very uptight about what "type" of Iain Banks book they like and they all have a favourite in the genre and want the next book to surpass it. That's all well and good but you just need to read the book and consider it for its own merits. Basically this is a very well written book which is interesting and amusing enough to keep the reader engaged. It isn't ground breaking, fair enough, but it is a good book and way better than almost all novels of its type out there at the moment. Read it and make your own mind up.
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VINE VOICEon 3 December 2012
Stonemouth is certainly better than the previous Banks' effort "Transition", but there is still evidence here that a once unmissable, original writer has somehow lost his way. Familiar, family-based themes from The Crow Road and The Steep Approach To Garbadale are re-cyled here, but when you boil it down the essence of the story is weak, based as it is around one event that happened to the main character some five years previously.

As the book progresses, it becomes apparent that Banks can still write wonderfully well, and the sense of time and place are done well, as both Stonemouth and most of the characters come over as well-formed and believable inventions. But there is something slightly uneasy, almost embarrassing, about a writer approaching 60 who wants to write his stories from the perspective of a 20 something year-old man. For those of us who have grown up reading Iain Banks, perhaps it would be nice if he tackled some different themes from a slightly different perspective, rather than the unconvincing yoof culture stance he takes here.

A previous reviewer has hit the nail right on the head. Stewart Gilmour - the central character here - simply fails to convince us that he is a young man, as it almost feels like he is being given the words and thoughts of a much older and wiser person to carry along in the book, and it doesn't really work.

With the book essentially driven by characters rather than a very deep plot, there is a tendency to pad some aspects of the story out, and the conclusion is not terribly convincing, when it finally happens. Banks needs new direction and new challenges in his mainstream novels now. There is more than an inkling here that he's going through the motions and just using old ideas. The writing saves him - but for how much longer?
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