By Ting Mikyunyu
Strangely, this novel has many good mentions on other Iain Banks’ threads, but not a thread of its own.
This is a whodunnit, set in Scotland. The main character, Cameron is a cigarette-and-alcohol-and-substance-abusing journalist on an Edinburgh newspaper. He has a penchant for computer games and a friend’s wife. He is hot on the trail of a series of unsolved murder-suicides from a few decades back, following hints fed to him over the phone by an unknown source.
The source is a very clever person who places Cameron in strange places and at odd times, thus preventing him from providing alibis for his whereabouts as a series of gruesome murders start taking place around him.
There are three strands to this novel. Firstly, Cameron’s, whose sections are written in the first person. The murderer commits his/her foul deeds in the third person. And there is Cameron’s backstory that drops in from time to time, slowly bringing everything together in a very innovative way. (I don’t think it was accidental that I suspected who the murderer may be just a few pages before he/she becomes the next victim! Somehow, I think Mr Banks planned it that way.)
I loved this, my first Iain Banks novel. Having spent many winters north of the border, and loving the country and its people - and their accent - I became comfortable with the setting and the dialogue immediately. I also loved the little touches that remind the reader that they are in Scotland. For example the use of “Amn’t I?” instead of “Aren’t I?” (The first of which, if you think about it, is grammatically correct.)
Two things I didn’t like very much were 1. Drizabone, which I assume is some kind of rainproof garment. Is this product placement? Or is Scotland comfortably familiar with this garment? 2. Cameron’s cigarette-and-alcohol-and-substance-abuse lifestyle did nothing for me, and didn’t seem to do much for the story either.
Regardless, am looking forward to reading more.
I searched the forums this morning with the help of RG looking for an existing thread for this book but we were unable to find one. If, as I suspect, one does exist and we have missed it I apologise but as I am about half way through this novel I felt that it was about time I started to comment on it!
The book is about a former rock star/song writer who is now living back in his home town of Glasgow in obscurity. The few people he does now associate with have no idea who he is or how rich he is and treat him accordingly. The novel exists in two time lines, the present and that of the rise and fall of the band and is told by Daniel/Weird the former bassist/song writer of the band.
In many ways Daniel is a working class version of Prentice, the main character in the Crowe Road. He bumbles about getting things wrong, missing clues as to others feelings and failing to understand his own. Like Prentice I can not help but warm to him and as a mum want to give advice and guidance he has so badly needed at times. He tells the story of his rise and fall to and from stardom in a series of anecdotes from his past rather than as a whole story so the reader is constantly wondering exactly where things have gone so horribly wrong.
I find the book a real mixture of humour and pathos, laughing with Daniel one minute and aching for him the next. How true a picture of the life of a rock star it presents I do not know but I suspect that the elements of luck and being in the right place at the right time are true enough. If you listen to or read interviews of famous rock stars they all have stories to tell of near misses and sheer fluke that have started their careers.
So here it is, the final novel in the late Iain Banks's illustrious 30 year career.
The irony of The Quarry is that it is a novel about cancer written by a man who only found out he had the disease part way through its creation. One hopes, however, there isn't mich of the author in the character with the cancer, Guy. He isn't a plucky fighter, he's indignant, misanthropic, angry and bitter and swears a lot to prove it, although one suspects he might be like this even without his disease. He's the father of Kit, the novel's narrator, a hulking teenager with some form of autistic spectrum disorder, from whom he has kept the identity of his mother for no immediately obvious reason. They live together in a dilapidated, rambling house on the edge of a quarry in some unspecified part of north Yorkshire.
Kit's mental condition allows him to view dispassionately a weekend reunion of Guy with some fellow film students from the fictional Bewford University. They're a diverse bunch, with little in common beyond their shared past. There's Hol, now a struggling film critic, who has taken Kit under her wing to try to teach him some social skills. There are Ali and Rob, an increasingly fractious couple prone to spouting corporate gobbledygook, Paul, rising star of New Labour, serial monogamist Pris and inveterate stoner Haze. All are concerned about the whereabouts of a compromising videotape they made together as students and thought to be somewhere in the crumbling house.
The videotape, and for that matter, the cancer, are something of a diversion from a novel that is really an examination of this diverse group, some of whom have clung to youthful ideals, and suffer for it, some of whom have abandoned them and aren't much better off. All are flawed and very humnan. The titular quarry, too, plays a less than central role for most of the novel except, one supposes, as a metaphor for death.
This falls into the same area of Banks's oeuvre as The Crow Road. It's hugely entertaining and by turns funny, angry, geeky and bemused much, as one imagines, Banks himself was. Where he exploded onto the literary scene in the early 1980s with The Wasp Factory, The Quarry provides a less controversial exit that showcases much of what was great about his writing. Newcomers could just as well start with Iain Banks's last novel as his first; its one of his best.
I'm almost finished reading tha steep approach to Garbadale and once again Iain Banks has hooked me without me even noticing.
This novel has more in common with The Crow Road with its family theme than some of the others. Its not an earth shatteringly exciting story but it still managed to keep my interest. Iain Banks makes you feel that you are in the story and that you're also being "let in" on the family secrets. It isn't his best work but its still a good read, it won't tax your brain but it will satisfy an Iain Banks addicts' fix!
I have just started reaing this as I tried to read it in my teens after loving The Wasp Factory. I struggled with it then but have decided to give it another attempt.
I shall be reporting back once I have finished- providing that I finish it this time. But if I dont I will write further anyway.