Saturday, 22 October 2011

A Year in Books 2011 - Transition



I am a big fan of Iain Banks and have read everything he has published under this name with the Crow Road still one of my favourite novels. I say this name as he also writes as Iain M Banks science fiction novels. I've not read any of these although I did pick one up once, not being a big science fiction fan I struggled and lasted only 30 pages or so , not really giving it a chance.

In a couple of his earlier novels the genres have blurred a bit with alternative realities forming a key part of both The Bridge and Walking on Glass. I'd enjoyed both of these so wasn't too worried when early reviews of Transition talked about the fact that it could have come under the Iain M Banks moniker. I also wasn't worried by the decidedly mixed reviews after all I remember Complicity suffering the same fate and I loved that one.

After 50 or so pages I was a tad worried. Banks starts with a number of narrators painting a picture of a world of endless alternative realities constantly branching out to form more and more worlds. One world contains the Concern who over see the other realities mainly using a drug controlled ability that allows certain individuals to jump between these realities, temporally inhabiting a host body, before jumping back. I can hear your heart sinking as well from here.

The main narrative is delivered by Temudjin, an assassin carrying out the Concern's orders by killing those with the potential to do evil but beginning to question the moral consequences of his actions. We also hear from Madame d'Ortolan, a powerful member of the Concern's leadership with designs on ultimate control; her Nemesis Mrs Mulverhill; the Philosopher, a state-sponsored torturer; Adrian , a greedy drug dealer with ambitions to become a City trader (these sections are the closest we get to a straight modern day setting); and Patient 8262, faking a mental disorder in a state institution to escape... well initially we arent quite sure what.

It does get confusing and as each person takes centre stage in turn slowly the world of the Concern and the motives of each individual are revealed, but they leave with as many questions as answers.

However my faith in Iain Banks kept me going and I'm glad I did as the character's narratives slowly weave around each other and forms an exciting thriller of good v evil with an edge of your seat climax set in Venice.

Using the idea of parallel worlds Bainks looks at bigger issues such as the responsibility of power and intervention in other cultures which means you cant help but draw comparisons with Iraq , and Afghanistan.

Although his imagination is what drives the plot forward and brings the core concepts to life the real skill is that amid the big concepts and ideas are a set of characters drawn with all the usual human frailties

This isn't usually my cup of a book , but I really enjoyed it and was reluctant to leave the worlds of the Concern which in turn left me with a lingering "what would I do if I could......"

you can buy Transition here  

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