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Old 09-01-2013, 10:43 PM   #1
Penforhire
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The Quarry

I just finished reading Iain Banks' last novel, The Quarry. A search did not show any MR discussion of this book so here we are.

I feel quite sad knowing this is the last novel he will ever write. Although it is not my favorite of his, not even in my top three or five of his, it was so much more poignant because of that. I read that he wanted his last book to be another Culture novel. We'll have to accept Surface Detail as that last Culture story.

I normally take a written work for what it is, evaluating the words and ignoring the author's life (gender, sexual orientation, religion, etcetera). But it was just impossible in this case. He was one of my favorites and he is gone. It colored my reading of The Quarry in ways I thought I was immune to.

I poked around on-line, looking for reviews of The Quarry to hold up against my own interpretation and see if I missed anything. I was amazed to find out he finished most of this book before discovering his own cancer, as the story revolves around the son of a man (Guy) with terminal cancer.

I thoroughly enjoyed the skill in Banks' treatment of a man's college-days friends for one last weekend together. He managed to give strong characterizations to each and every person, not just tags and traits. He captured the "f--k cancer!" emotion that touches many of our own lives. His portrayal of the man's son, slightly autistic but high-functioning, near the end of his own adolescence, rang true and we wish him better than he got.

I wish I could be more enthused about the story itself but it feels like something meant to hold a mirror up to our own lives while allowing Banks to get in a few political and social rants. In terms of transformation, the boy (Kit) loses some of his remaining illusions about life and Guy's friends prove the only thing holding them together is Guy and their memories.

Banks points out how we tend to fail our college-age selves later in life by selling out or otherwise not achieving our ambitions. I don't want to spoil any of the plot but the final betrayal was a small thing yet still shocking, coming from the one person in the group who seemed closest to their roots. Kit overcomes this but I felt it was largely because of his own emotional disability. Aspergers has its positives.

Anyway, tell us what you thought of The Quarry. I don't recommend it for someone's first Banks novel. I'd first suggest The Crow Road among his 'literature' books or The Player of Games in his SF books.

Last edited by Penforhire; 09-02-2013 at 12:37 AM.
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