When anyone asks 18 years old autistic Kit, the narrator of this novel, how his father, Guy is, he says "He's dying". And he is. Dying, that is. Of cancer. I found faint echoes of "Wasp Factory" Frank (and father) in Kit and Guy. Maybe I'm imagining this. If such resonances are there it could hardly be deliberate closing of the circle since Banks didn't become aware of his terminal cancer until he'd written most of the book. But his death certainly brings a heightened level of poignancy to the relationship between Guy and the world, and particularly, between Guy and Kit.
Such plot as there is, and there's not a lot, revolves round the visit of six university friends of Guy. The get-together is prompted by a perceived need to find a missing and potentially embarrassing video tape. There's a sub-plot about Kit searching for his mother but that's about it, plotwise. The quarry of the title is on the land adjoining Guy's property and the company owning it have purchased Guy's land and will soon be taking possession in order to extend the mining operation. Hence the urgency for the tape search.
Not a lot happens and one or two other reviewers have commented that, in their view, the book went a little flat after the initial set-up. That is something that I've felt has occurred in a few of Banks' other novels. I'd hasten to add that by "few", I mean a couple or so where I got the feeling that he had lost interest and his mind was already on to another project. Ironically I had less of that feeling this time. Maybe I had lower expectations or maybe I was satisfied by the verbal sparring which formed much of the book.
Guy is particularly scabrous about the state of the nation. But, while many of the views expressed by him are familiar from other Iain Banks books, to view him as the Banks surrogate is too simplistic. I'm sure there are traces of Iain in Kit as well from the way that he seems able to get under the lad's skin at will - he seems to relish identifying with the autistic condition and uses it to comment on British social mores with considerable humour. The shadowy Miss Willoughby, Kit's therapist / counsellor, remains off-stage throughout. She's so intriguing that, as the novel progressed I was hoping that Banks would allow her a brief walk-on role at the very least.
Apologies if the above sounds rather negative. I enjoyed reading it and will miss very much the appearance of a new Iain Banks novel every couple of years or so. For me he has always been in that small grouping of absolute must-read British authors and, notwithstanding, my remarks above, I have found something to interest and entertain me in every one of his books, current one included. That it doesn't achieve the stone classic level of, say, "The Crow Road" or, "The Bridge", doesn't matter. We should be treasuring (and re-reading) all of his rich and varied legacy.