Iain Banks RIP

I felt genuinely sad to hear the news of the death of Iain Banks so shortly after he had revealed that his was unwell.  His novels have been very important in my reading life, one of those writers whose novels I have waited for and generally acquired shortly after publication.  I was slow to come to ‘The Wasp Factory‘ , but once I’d read it, I was a dedicated fan.  It’s bleak weirdness and black humour had me hooked.

‘It was the day my grandmother exploded.’ is one of the great opening lines for a novel, and The Crow Road made a tremendous impression on me when I read it for the first time.  There was something about the abundance of ideas, of mysteries and family story, and the deepest black humour that conjured Scotland for me when I was living in Moscow.  I remember reading the book at every available moment I had, at the breakfast table, while I ate my supper and in the short time before bed when I was working 12 hour days.  I was bereft when I had finished it.

Banks was a prolific writer, producing both ‘mainstream’ novels, as well as Science Fiction under the name Iain M Banks.  I enjoyed his Sci-Fi less, but it is a mark of his versatility that I know other readers who admired these books greatly, for his comprehensive creation of an alternative world, and the sharp clever humour always at work.

I now want to revisit my favourites of his novels which are lined up on my bookshelves.  Espedair Street will be the first, I think.  A portrait of the rise and fall of a rock god,  filled with excess, betrayal, death, music and, as the blurb says ‘mistakes that paid off, and smart moves that will be regretted forever’.  It felt like an archetypal story, but with the gothic twists and sideways oddness that were so much fun in his novels.  And then maybe Whit a sardonic tale of a small religious community, led by Isis Whit’s grandfather, who may or may not be making up the rules as he goes along…….

There  is one more book to come, written while he knew he was ill.  In a very recent interview Banks joked that it could be part of his marketing strategy for it, to announce his impending death to improve sales.  It was both enlightening and terribly sad to see that he had retained his sense of humour at such a time.


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  1. louisewalters12

     /  June 10, 2013

    I’ve never read Iain (M) Banks at all, which I feel bad about now. The Wasp Factory I’ve been meaning to read for years and have “never got round to it”. I really must. He was relatively young and it’s a great shame, as you say, RIP.

    • I can’t recommend it highly enough – but then I do have a rather black sense of humour too. His books are all brimming with ideas, sometimes perhaps too many for him to explore them all fully, but there’s always something to really enjoy in each of them.

  2. The last book of his that I read is Espedair Street, which made a huge impact. I didn’t realise he had died.

    • Have you read The Crow Road? Give it a go if not. News of his death came yesterday. Shocking, also because although he was a little bit older, I’ve always thought of him as part of my generation….

  3. Terribly sad – such a wonderful writer. Have you read Raw Spirit? I couldn’t get to Scotland fast enough after I turned the last page. He’ll be sorely missed. Jx

    • I haven’t read Raw Spirit, but I know I’m going to revisit his work now, so will add it to the list. Still sad.

  4. Catherine

     /  June 11, 2013

    I’ve read all of Iain M, and I’d recommend The Player of Games as a good place to start for anyone who isn’t a natural sci-fi reader but feels like giving it a go.


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