It’s Saturday April 10th, which means it’s #BanksRead 2021 time. I’m going to spend the week and a bit talking about one of my favourite authors of all time, Iain Banks – with or without the ‘M’.
I’d like to invite you to join with me to celebrate this much-missed author, by reading one of his books or joining in the conversation. This post will remain sticky for the duration and is where you can link with your reviews. If you tweet, please use the tag #BanksRead2021.
A chronological list of his books, split into mainstream and SF can be found on my BanksRead project page here, alongside my reviews of those read or re-read since I started blogging.
Why Iain Banks? A short introduction…
I discovered Iain Banks in 1985, a year after his debut novel was published. I spotted a stylish black covered paperback with white embossed tiles on the front – this was in the days of small format paperbacks too – but it stood out and once I read the blurb, I knew this was a book for me. That was, of course, The Wasp Factory, and I have followed Banks ever since, and I still have my first edition paperback – a bit tanned now, but in excellent condition otherwise. (I built those tiles into the logo for #BanksRead2021; the bottom part is a detail from Stonemouth, his penultimate novel.)
What I love about Banks’ mainstream fiction is that he refuses to conform to type. His novels are all standalone and different from each other. From the psychological drama of The Wasp Factory, to the cancer-ridden protagonist of his last novel, The Quarry (published posthumously), to me it has always felt like Banks has written about what was currently interesting him. Although you could sort of divide some of his novels into a sub-section of family dramas, and others into a more philosophical grouping, there is no overarching overlap. Indeed, he has said:
I don’t really do themes. I might accidentally, but themes are an emergent phenomena of the writing of the book, of just trying to get a story out there.
Then in 1987, the first of his ‘Culture Series’ of SF novels came. Consider Phlebas was a breath of fresh air, his ‘Culture’ often described as a socialist utopia – unusual for SF even in those days! In those days, I still read loads of SF, and so hoped that he’d write more – he didn’ t disappoint. He spoke about these books:
A lot of what the ‘Culture’ is about is a reaction to all the science fiction I was reading in my very early teens.
Heinlein, Aldiss, Asimov, Clarke et al were all influences on Banks (according to Wikipedia) – I read the same books as a teen, so was pre-disposed to enjoy The Culture. I’ll admit, I didn’t like his later machine speak much, and I still have a handful of his SF novels to read, mainly non-Culture ones. I need to make time for them, but another time. Amazon Prime were involved in adapting his Culture novels for television, but these plans have been cancelled by his estate apparently – this is a shame, but fingers crossed for the future – they’d make great thoughtful SF.
The other attraction to Banks’ is of course the man himself. He always came over on television appearances as very genial, but with strong, feisty opinions, good at arguing his point when required. Definitely an all round good chap whom you’d love to have a pint or dram with.
Don’t forget to leave any links to your reviews etc in the comments and I’ll add any reviews to my list below