Iain M Banks

Fried Egg

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Many writers in SF use strands though. After a certain # of pages one can understand the novel. I'm on an AListair Reynolds novel, Revalation SPace, and there are 3 strands to think off, let alone the 2 you find in Use of Weapons.
The problem is that while one strand was linear, the other was not. Each chapter was from a different period of Zakalwe's life, completely non-chronalogical.

To be sure, it is common to use this narative technique in modern SF, which is probably why I tend to prefer older SF.
 

Dale_M

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I've read all of Banks' SF, and love every single one of them. My favourite aspect is the way he mixes scales, from small people to (thinking) intergalactic ships and even planets, and weaves stories in ways which intermixes the happenings at different scales.

My favourites are Excession and Use of Weapons, and least favourites are Player of Games and Inversions. But I would go along with the poster above who advises to read them in order, so start with Consider Phlebas!

I've also read Dead Air (awful rubbish) and The Steep Approach to Garbadale (page-turner), but I prefer to spend my reading time on SF.
 

Rackon

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I'm reading "The Use of Weapons" at the moment and, only 95 pages in, I'm as confused as I normally am when beginning his SF books. The narrative is split between Sma and Zalakwe and the strand folling Zalakwe is all over the place, completely non-linear.

The thing about most of Bank's SF novels is they seem at first almost designed to confuse the reader. He endeavours to weave a disarray of strands and then draw them all together for the conclusion. While this is undoubtedly awfully clever of him, it leaves the reader in a state of confusion for much of the book. Though the reader may feel satisfied as everything falls into place once they reach the end, the first half is always hard work and not very enjoyable.

I enjoy this kind of writing once in a while but I certainly wouldn't want all my SF to be like this because, quite frankly, I wouldn't enjoy it very much.
I loved the structure of Use Of Weapons and I didn't find it confusing at all - in fact, this is one of the chief pleasures of Banks' books.

The structure allows you to see the characters at different moments without foreknowledge which allows Banks to build up the characters layer by layer, shade by shade. It compels you to pay attention to the text and the character *at that moment* and interact creatively with the text as you read. To know too much too soon would be fatal.

This narrative style is a very much a post modern technique, but one which fits well with the multitude of ideas and layers of complexity Banks builds into his novels. In less skilled hands it could be a mess; with Banks it adds depth and emotional resonance.

Of course, if the characters and stories weren't compelling on their own it would all be just so much showing off. But they are supremely involving, and thus the books attain a richness they wouldn't otherwise.
 

Andrew Short

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Ive only read his Sci-Fi, since I picked up the first one I havent read anything else. Very well written and clever books.
 

J-Sun

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Given Banks' recent death, I'm in an awkward position of not being the biggest fan of his books but I did enjoy Consider Phlebas quite a bit and recognize that he has legions of devoted fans and that it's a really tragic thing that occurred that he handled with extraordinary grace. I'd followed the news and was stunned to read he'd died - receiving news of "about a year" tends to make one think of "about a year", not two months. Very sad and my condolences to all concerned.

Despite all that, I wanted to point out this good article - even if not every Banks novel entirely appealed to me I do recognize the validity of most of the points, my very favorite being #7, though 1, 4, and 8 and others are right up there,

11 Rules of Good Writing That Iain M. Banks Left as His Legacy.
 

Bick

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Thanks for the link, J-Sun. Its ages since I read much Banks, but his sad death has steered me to wanting to read more. I thought I'd give Excession and Look to Windward a go. I'm off on hols to the sun for the first two weeks of July (escaping wintry NZ), and may take these with me.
 

Allegra

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Excellent article, J-Sun. Thanks for sharing! I can see your point about #7. And I very much agree on #8 too. It's an insightful sum-up, explained why the Culture books are so appealing.
 

J-Sun

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Glad you all enjoyed the article!

Getting close, Bick - hope you enjoy your escape.
 

Dave

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Dramatisation of The Crow Road is being repeated tonight on BBC4 @ 10.30pm.

Do you think we will see TV or Film versions of his SF books?
 

Allegra

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Do you think we will see TV or Film versions of his SF books?
I'd say film version, definitely 3D! Thinking about all his weird creatures and peculiar ships/drones, it has to be someone highly ambitious and creative to make the TV/film versions.
 

Dave

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Yes, I agree that the budget would have to be high; and so a film rather than a TV series. The high ideas of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (well suited to radio) looked poor on TV, and only marginally better on film.

Banks' non-SF books can be pretty weird too though. The Bridge would be hard to do, but great if attempted. Even in The Crow Road you have a spirit of Uncle Rory talking to the protagonist, Prentice, which was simply achieved on TV by the actor following him about.
 
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