Popcultureboy’s #CBR5 Review #86: The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

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There isn’t really anything I can say about this seriously fantastic book that hasn’t been said either at the time or in the months following Banks’s cruelly premature death. But don’t let that stop you reading the full review. You can find it here.

Lady Cordelia #CBR5 Review #61: The Quarry by Iain Banks

UnknownI have been a fan of Iain Banks since I received Complicity as a gift in 1996.  That novel blew my mind and still ranks as an all-time favourite.  Though I haven’t loved all of his books, it saddened me to know that The Quarry would be the last Iain Banks book I would ever read for the first time.

The story of The Quarry feels very familiar: a group of university friends have gathered for a weekend together about twenty years after graduation.  The reason for the reunion is ostensibly to visit Guy, who is dying from cancer.  Guy lives with his eighteen-year-old son Kit, the narrator of the story, in a rambling old house on the edge of a quarry in the north of England.  Kit soon realises that his father’s friends are all desperate to find a video recording that they made together in their university days.  The search for the videotape forms the largest part of the book, but the real story is found in how the estranged friends reconnect, with old roles being reprised and resentments revisited.

Once I got over my initial horror that I was of an age with the old friends rather than the young narrator, I really started to identify with this story.   Personally, I found the whole videotape storyline to be a MacGuffin, but the self-interested reason the friends have for reuniting is purposeful.  Having Kit as an outside observer of the group gives a wonderfully analytical perspective on the way they interact, revealing old insecurities and bitterness.  I found it difficult and confronting to read the character of Guy, knowing that Banks wrote this while he was dealing with his own cancer – the emotion and language at times were just too raw.

Definitely worth a read for any long-term fans of Iain Banks, as well as being a great reminder to revisit Complicity, The Crow Road and Espedair Street.