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September 27, 2007

A Song of Stone - Iain Banks

A Song of Stone - Iain Banks

The action takes place in a fictional country and time, where lawlessness has taken over in a war that seems to have no purpose.
A Lord (Abel) and his lady (Morgan) have decided to leave their castle before it is captured by bandits, and set off on the road as refugees. The same day however they are captured by a female leiutenant (Loot) and her ragtag company of soldiers. They are forced back to the castle, and this is where Abel plays a dangerous game, sometimes helping the soldiers, sometimes attempting sabotage, with death a real possibility at any time.

This is a novel of war and lust, and really very unpleasant on both counts. It starts depressingly, and only gets worse as it goes on. The aristocratic narrator plays with language for it's own sake. Some of the paragraphs are little more than old fashioned flowery wallpaper; you can see how someone might have once found it interesting, but it's now become too fussy and overwrought to be palatable. So you find yourself skimming from boring descriptive passages, slap bang into decapitation, incest and rape.

I suppose as a condemnation of war and the baseness of human nature, this works. There is no glorification of conflict, no compassion overcoming evil. However without some positivity, the relentless pessimism just drags you down as a reader and depresses you. Abel is a very original character, part Marquis De Sade, Machiavellian in nature, and completely amoral. Even though you feel you ought to be on his side against the soldiers, he's so unpleasant you can't, and so watching the plot unfold is more of an intellectual exercise than it should be. Who wins or loses isn't really important, and perhaps this is what Banks wants us to understand.

So though I think it could be a valuable book, the x-rated sex and the thoroughly nasty violence are so uncomfortable, and some of the prose so overblown and pretentious, that I'd never recommend it to anyone.

Posted by se71 at September 27, 2007 01:52 PM


I totally agree - I usually love Iain Banks - he's done some corkers, so I was really looking forward to this read.

However, this book is just so depressing - with no respite, humour, or hope. It's the only book I have ever thrown in the bin. It was that bad.

Posted by: lepista [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 8, 2007 04:35 PM

Yes, no hope. That's harsh though, binning a book, I don't think I could do that.

Posted by: se71 [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 9, 2007 10:05 AM

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