you seen my teeth?
Business by Iain Banks
Little Brown £16.99, pp393
of Iain Banks will need no encouragement to buy his latest
novel. Non-believers, however, should know that Banks is on
decent form this time round, and that the book is closer in
quality to Complicity or The Crow Road rather than
the slightly disappointing Whit or Song of Stone.
a doozy of an opening, deploying the familiar Banksian technique
of destabilising the reader with peculiar violence and stylistic
quirks. Mike Daniels wakes up having gone home with a strange
woman and discovers that he is missing half his teeth. In
a dialogue-driven prologue, he calls up Kathryn Telman, senior
executive in The Business, a commercial organisation older
than the Christian Church. Her response is taciturn, reminding
him of his business meeting in Tokyo the following morning
and recommending that he see a dentist before breakfast.
interviews have made much of Banks's politics and it is clear
that the jet-setting in this novel is supposed to be taken
ironically, but it is enjoyable in a Louise Bagshawe sort
of way, loaded with well-written descriptions of conspicuous
consumption. It can be hard to write well about extremely
rich people, but Banks makes Kathryn Telman's opulent lifestyle
sound completely realistic. He is good on technology, especially
futuristic weapons and the space-race, and packs in contemporary
references to South Park, Catatonia, Pinochet, Garbage and
stuff that you only find in the back of computer magazines.
It is impressive to find a British writer with such evident
final third becomes less interesting. Until this point, the
voice of Banks's narrator is pitch-perfect. Kathryn, his narrator,
is initially convincing, psychologically well-rounded with
a compelling set of motivations. Towards the end, her voice
slips. The bad puns become more frequent, and even her musical
taste begins to blur with that of previous Banks protagonists.
He proves himself as a storyteller, drawing together the disparate
elements into one central mystery, but loses the ambiguous
atmosphere too rapidly. It is at this point that the novel
dissolves into mere techno-thriller, instead of the interesting
hybrid Banks had maintained before.
chapter is the weakest, prefacing the plot's disappointing
final twist with the assertion: 'We're all the same species,
the same assemblage of cells, with the same unarguable needs
for food, water and shelter.’
as may be. But judging Banks by the high standards he deserves,
this seems a limp conclusion to an otherwise intellectually
(R) thedailystar.net 2004