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June 11, 2008

The Steep Approach to Garbadale - Iain Banks

The Steep Approach to Garbadale - Iain Banks

Book 22 in my 52 books in 2008

Another fiction, as opposed to science fiction, novel from Banks. Slowly but surely I'm nearing completing the full set (the SF I'm bang up to date, with just the recent hardback, 'Matter' outstanding).

The beginning is a bit disconcerting, as you try to work out who the book is going to be about, but it quickly settles down and we get the story of a man called Alban, born to priviledge, in a rich family successful through the business of selling a game that is not unlike monopoly.

There are several themes here; Alban's mother's death, the proposal by an American company to take over the family firm, and Alban's lovelife, especially his relationship with his first cousin Sophie. They are all handled interestingly, you feel as if a conclusion will be reached, you enjoy the journey. In short, you feel throughout as if you are in a safe pair of hands, and won't be disappointed. Nor are you. However, I wasn't quite interested enough a lot of the time. Alban didn't seem to ever make his mind up about anything, or have any clear plan, and so it was difficult to get behind him.

His family were a quite a bunch of eccentrics, quite amusingly described, and one scene with Sophie was so well crafted, and had such a deliciously filthy punchline, I got a few looks on the train as I tried and totally failed to suppress my schoolboy sniggers. The whole book was saved by that page in my opinion.

Sometimes I feel as if there ought to be a section in the bookshop for mainstream novels that contain enough sex to be reclassified onto the erotic shelves. Sometimes I think the authors go a bit further than we really needed for the plot. Banks has done it again, here. In fact, it seems to me to be an increasing trend. I think it's lazy writing, and annoying, as I'm not likely to recommend books containing detailed sex to my mum, or my children to read. My 10 year old asked me the other day why books don't have certificates, like films do, U, PG, 12, 15, 18. I had to guess at an answer, which I think is that they are in a way self certificated - the barriers of entry are higher and a child is unlikely to pick up an adult book filled with violence and sex. Even if they start to read it, if they are mature enough to do that, perhaps they are already mature enough for the content. A film has no such barrier - if it's on screen, anyone can see it. This subject is a particular bugbear of mine, one day I'll try and rationalise it all out.

'The Steep Approach to Garbadale' is a fairly traditional novel, well written, slightly flat in a way, but enjoyable and with a few great trademark Banks scenes.

Posted by se71 at June 11, 2008 10:20 AM


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