The Quarry by Iain Banks

Sally Ann Melia

Sally Ann Melia, SF&F
Apr 18, 2013
S A Melia is an English SF&F writer based in Surre
The Quarry by Iain Banks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have read all the books by Iain Banks, and actually took quite a long time to get round to reading the Quarry. I think of reading this last book, but I finished it in March 2014.

It was with a great deal of sadness that I finally read this book, and the book with its tale of a house destined to fall into a Quarry, was a sad tale which perfectly suited my mood.

It's the story of a reunion of friends who ten or so years after university meet up on the occasion of a funeral, but also to discuss a 'mistake' in this case a video tape they made at Uni, and which most of them now want to destroy.

I won't say much about the story is told from the point of view of Kit who is a teenager with some mild learning difficulty. But this is a good story from Iain, maybe a little melancholy, or maybe that was the mood i read it in.


Mad Mountain Man
Jun 29, 2010
Scottish Highlands
My take:

The Quarry is an intensely character driven book with virtually no plot. It is written from the perspective of Kit, a teenager with Asperger’s living with his father, Guy, a sole parent who refuses to tell Kit who his mother is/was. The narrative is written in an extremely close first person that puts you right inside Kit’s head with all of his thoughts. As some who know me well might appreciate this is particularly interesting to me and I felt Banks does an exceptional job of not only putting the reader into Kit’s head but also, and very importantly, presenting his outlook on life as perfectly normal and reasonable and everyone else’s as far more unreasonable and illogical. I loved this aspect of the writing, brilliantly done! However this is also a poignantly sad book to read as Guy is dying of cancer with only a few months left to live and, towards the end of writing the book, Banks got his own cancer diagnosis with only a few months left for him. It is quite clear that Banks has channelled much of his own anger into Guys many angry outbursts about the injustice of it all (Guy is only in his mid-forties whilst Banks was just short of 60).

The book is also built around one of Banks’s favourite tropes of a groups of old friends and/or relatives reuniting following, or in anticipation of, a death and then de-closeting loads of skeletons. However his previous books employing this trope have generally only used it as the starting point and have significant plots independent of the cause for the reunion. The quarry, in contrast, doesn’t really bother much with a plot, instead focusing on the characters’ attitudes and reactions to Guy’s imminent end. In this respect the book is quite brutally honest about the difference between people’s facades and their true feelings.

I have seen many disappointed reviews of The Quarry, frequently from people who otherwise love Banks’s work, sometimes due to the repeated use of the reunion trope already mentioned, sometimes due to the lack of plot and sometimes due to the grumpy old man feeling running throughout (many complaints about whinging) which in fairness does on occasion get a little trying. However for myself I loved it and found the brutally honest examination of the characters’ true motives rather cathartic. It’s not a long book and is, in my humble opinion, well worth the effort.

4/5 stars