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The Steep Approach To Garbadale by Iain…
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The Steep Approach To Garbadale (original 2007; edition 2008)

by Iain Banks

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1,058327,934 (3.43)36
Member:PreludeAndFugue
Title:The Steep Approach To Garbadale
Authors:Iain Banks
Info:Abacus (2008), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 400 pages
Collections:Your library, Read but unowned
Rating:**1/2
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The Steep Approach to Garbadale by Iain Banks (2007)

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Alban McGill is a member of the wealthy Scottish Wopuld family, who have built a fortune on a game called Empire! (which resembles Risk, and involves taking over the world). Alban has abdicated his place in the family, and has been slumming for the past few years, working as a forester, hanging out with decidedly non-upper-class friends, and slowly building a relationship with a commitment-phobic math-genius outdoorswoman/professor. However, a big family reunion is calling him back into the fold. An American corporation wants to buy out the Wopulds, and they need to vote on whether or not to go through with the deal. Alban is reluctant to go - not least because it will mean seeing his cousin Sophie again - the girl who was his first love, and who still stirs up all kinds of nasty whirlpools of emotion whenever Alban encounters her.
As the novel progresses, we gradually learn more about Alban, his relationship with Sophie, the complexities, oddities, and dark secrets of the Wopuld family - and not least, the repercussions involved with the possibility of giving up Empire! (With some quite blatant but rather wonderful political metaphors and outright rants.)
Banks is one of my favorite authors, so my expectations for one of his books are always high - but this novel did not disappoint. I do think he should have gone with its working title (Empire!), though. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
It's a truism that there are two Iain Banks -- Iain the contemporary fiction writer and Iain M. the science fiction writer. But it's also the case that there are two distinct modes of Iain Banks novels -- the grim and nihilistic (Wasp Factory, The Business, Song of Stone, etc.) versus the sweeping Scots epic (Crow Road, Whit, Espadair Street, and now The Steep Approach to Garbadale). I dunno - maybe it's just a matter of comedy versus tragedy (in the classical sense)?

In any case, put Banks' latest squarely in the feel-good category. Not that there aren't odd twists to the plot; it wouldn't be Banks without those. The characters are fairly well-drawn and likable even when they aren't (a Banks speciality, I think) and while the story isn't the most profound or original ever penned, it's a worthwhile read and, if Banks were more known in the U.S. contemporary fiction market, probably would be on numerous "great summer reads" lists. ( )
  ronhenry | Nov 17, 2015 |
I like reading Banks' mainstream novels, as they always remind me why I should write more mainstream fiction. This was an enjoyable glimpse into a family, though the big reveal at the end kind of made me roll my eyes. But the writing was silky as always, which is a joy to read. ( )
  darushawehm | Oct 24, 2015 |
Well, it's not the best Iain Banks novel, but it's not the worst either. My attitude may have been affected by having the deep dark family secret spoiled for me by, I think, the Guardian's Digested Read, so I embarked on this with a certain sense dour dutifulness, as it was the one Iain Banks novel I hadn't yet read and I felt almost obliged to read the damn thing.

Thing is, most of it is perfectly fine. It's a family novel, very much in line with Crow Road, Stonemouth and even Wit, I suppose. Our young hero is the member of a fabulously wealthy family who produce a world famous game. He got annoyed with either the family or the business and buggered off to cut down trees for a few years, but now he's lured back for a special party and EGM which revolves around selling the company to the Yanks. As an adolescent he had a brief but torrid affair with his cousin Sophie, and he still isn't quite over it. Or her.

So, tangled familial issues, lost love, big business, young protagonist with liberal notions - at one point he lectures an American executive at length about the evils of the Iraq War, in what is probably the worst bit of the book - and a long-buried secret. All familiar elements, and Banks handles them all with the usual skill and aplomb. It's no Crow Road, but it's Song Of Stone either. ( )
  Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
Iain Banks seems always to be at his best when dealing with dysfunctional families, and he certainly returns to form here. The main protagonist is Alban McGill, part of the Wopuld family which owns the rights to "Empire!", an extremely successful game (fairly loosely based upon "Risk", I think). A few years before the novel starts the family had sold a significant portion to the American conglomerate Spraint who now wants to buy out the rest of the family holding. Alban had become dissatisfied with corporate life and had left the firm to work as a logger working on conifer plantations all over Wales and Scotland. As the novel opens his more commercially savvy cousin Fielding has tracked him down to a squat in Perth, and persuades him to come back into the family fold, at least temporarily, to try to lead the opposition to the sale.
Another aspect of the novel at which Banks has always excelled is the use of flashback, often nested within other flashbacks. This can be disconcerting, but it does offer a useful means of conveying a lot of necessary background material without requiring tedious explanatory sections. Through the dextrous application of flashbacks we learn that Alban had been (and possibly still is) madly in love with his cousin Sophie, through he has only seen her two or three times over the last twenty years. He does, however, also have a long-term occasional relationship with Verushka Graef, an academic mathematician based at Glasgow University.
All of the characters are eminently credible, and while the plot unwinds in Banks's characteristically chaotic manner it is never less than engrossing.
He completely sold me the dummy over the ending, too.
All in all a very enjoyable book. ( )
  Eyejaybee | Dec 2, 2012 |
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Dark family secrets, a long-lost love affair and a multi-million pound gaming business lie at the heart of this Iain Banks' novel.

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