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Complicity by Iain Banks
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Complicity (original 1993; edition 1993)

by Iain Banks (Author)

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2,218204,957 (3.75)98
The twenty-fifth anniversary edition of a modern classic: 'ingenious, daring and brilliant' - Guardian COMPLICITY n. 1. the fact of being an accomplice, esp. in a criminal act A few spliffs, a spot of mild S&M, phone through the copy for tomorrow's front page, catch up with the latest from your mystery source - could be big, could be very big - in fact, just a regular day at the office for free-wheeling, substance-abusing Cameron Colley, a fully paid-up Gonzo hack on an Edinburgh newspaper. The source is pretty thin, but Cameron senses a scoop and checks out a series of bizarre deaths from a few years ago - only to find that the police are checking out a series of bizarre deaths that are happening right now. And Cameron just might know more about it than he'd care to admit ... Involvement; connection; liability - Complicity is a stunting exploration of the morality of greed, corruption and violence, venturing fearlessly into the darker recesses of human purpose.… (more)
Member:kevinpars
Title:Complicity
Authors:Iain Banks (Author)
Info:Little, Brown and Co. (1993), Edition: First Edition, 313 pages
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Complicity by Iain Banks (1993)

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Ok I'm not wrapt in it but I'm also not passing it out of my library. He's written better ( )
  Damiella | Aug 18, 2020 |
Sex and violence says Manny. An inferior anti-Thatcherite fantasy says Paul.

And I say….

It is about hopes and disappointments, unrequited love, bravery and cowardice. Technically, it’s a quintessentially modern English novel. There are two stories travelling at once. Neither of them is told chronologically – heaven forbid we should start at the beginning and end at the end, too passe. We do indeed have exposed sex, unexpurgated violence and a Thatcherite setting. But as well as this:

‘…because I had a quick, quiet wank earlier – don’t come too quickly’

we have this:


Summer in Strathspeld: the first really hot day that year, air warm and thick with the coconut smell of gorse – swatched richly yellow on the hills – and the sweet sharpness of pine resin, lying dropleted on the rough trunks in thick translucent bubbles. Insects buzzed and butterflies filled the glades with silent flashes of colour; in the fields the corncrake stooped and zoomed, its strange, percussive call stuttering through the scent-laden air.


Lovely prose.

We have Cameron, our doomed hero, who freezes whenever he shouldn’t, runs when he should stand and fight; Cameron who dreams every night of what he sees as his failings and yet, horrific as they are, he doesn’t face the one that hurts him most. The one where he finally gets sent to the Middle East to be a real reporter and yet again he freezes. He is completely unable to tell his readers what he sees.

Ah. But he does tell us, not knowing we are there, I suppose.


Oh God help me here on the island of the dead with the crise of the tormented, here with the angel of death and the acrid stench of excrement and carrion taking me back in the darkness and the pale fawn light to the place I never wanted to go back to, the man-made earthly black hell and the human scrapyard kilometres long. Here down amongst the dead men, midst-ways with the torn-souled and the wild, inhuman screams; here with the ferryman, the boatman, my eyes covered and my brains scrambled, here with this prince of death, this prophet of reprisal, this jealous, vengeful, unforgiving son of our bastard commonwealth of greed; help me help me help me…

….

I can hear the dead men, hear their flayed souls, wailing on the wind to no ear save mine and no understanding at all. The view behind my eyelids goes from pink to red and then purple into black, and is suffused with a rumblin shift into a terrible, tearing roaring noise, shaking the ground, filling the air, pounding my bones, dark going dark, black stinking hell o mum o dad o no no please don’t take me back there

*

And I’m there, in the one place I’ve hidden from myself’ not that cold day by the hole in the ice or the other day in the sunlit woods near the hole in the hill – days deniable because I was then not yet the me I have become – but just eighteen months ago; the time of my failure and my simple, shaming incapacity to reap and work the obvious power of what I was observing; the place that exposed my incompetence, my hopeless inability to witness.

Because I was there, I was part of it, just a year and a half ago, after months and months of badgering and cajoling and entreating Sir Andrew he finally let me go when the deadline was up and the trucks and tracks and tanks were about to roll I got my wish, I got to go, I was given the chance to do my stuff and show what I was made of, to be a genuine front-line journalist, a rootin-tootin-tokin-tipplin God-bijayziz gonzo war correspondent, bringing the blessed Saint Hunter’s manic subjectivity to the ultimate in scarifying human edge-work: modern warfare.

And forgetting the fact the drinks were few and far between and that the whole media-managed event was so unsportingly one-sided and mostly happened far away from any journos, tendance gonzoid or not, when it came to it – and it did come to it, it was put right there in front of me practically screaming at me to fucking write something - I couldn’t do it; couldn’t hack it as a hack; I just stood there, awestruck, horrorstruck, abosrbing the ghastly force of it with my inadequate and unprepared private humanity, not my public professional persona, not my skill, not the face I had laboured to prepare to face the sea of faces that is the world.

And so I was humbled, scaled, down-sized.

I stood on the sunless desert, beneath a sky black from horizon to horizon, a rolling, heavy sulphurous sky made solid and soiled, packed with the thick, stinking effluence squeezed erupting from the earth’s invaded bowels, and in that darkness at noon, that planned, deliberated disaster, with the bale-fire light of the burning wells flickering in the distance with a dirty, guttering flame, I was reduced to a numb, dumb realisation of our unboundedly resourceful talent for bloody hatred and mad waste, but stripped of the means to describe and present that knowledge.

I crouched on the tar-black grainy stickiness of the plundered sands, within scorching distance of one of the wrecked wells, watching the way the fractured black metal stub in the centre of the crater gouted a compressed froth of oil and gas in quick, shuddering, instantly dispersing bursts and bubbles of brown-black spray into the furious, screaming tower of flame above; a filthy hundred-metre Cypress of fire, shaking the ground like a never-ending earthquake and bellowing madly in a strident jet-engine shriek, shuddering my bones and jarring my teeth and making my eyes tremble in their sockets.

My body shook, my ears rang, my eyes burned, my throat was raw with the acid-bitter stench of the evaporating crude, but it was as though the very ferocity of the experience unmanned me, unmade me and rendered me incapable of telling it.

Later, on the Basra road, by that vast linearity of carnage, a single strip of junk-yard destruction stretching – again – from horizon to horizon on the flat fun face of that dusty land, I wandered the scorched, perforated wreckage of the cars and vans and trucks and buses left after the A10s and the Cobras and the TOWs and the miniguns and the thirty-mill cannons and the cluster munitions had had their unrestrained way with their unarmoured prey, and saw the brown-burned metal, the few bubbled patches of sooty paint, the torn chassis and ripped-open cabs of those Hondas and Nissans and Leylands and Macks, their tyres slack and flattened or quite gone, burned to the steel cording inside, I surveyed the spattered shrapnel of that communal ruin rayed out across the sands, and I tried to imagine what it must have been like to be caught here, beaten, retreating, running desperately away in those thin-skinned civilian vehicles while the missles and shells rained in like supersonic sleep and the belching fire burst billowing everywhere around. I tried, too, to imagine how many people had died here, how many shredded, cindered bodies and bits of bodies had been bagged and removed and buried by the clean-up squads before we were allowed to see this icon of that long day’s slaughter.


But this is not what he writes. He files stories about war is hell and peace too if you are female in this part of the world. He smokes good dope. He goes home. And this is the failure that haunts him so much he can’t even dream of it.

Rollicking good yarn of sex and violence, a small political education for those who don’t know Thatcherite England; but also this other thing, a story of a little boy who happens to have forced upon him by circumstance terrible decisions to make, decisions adults shouldn’t have to make, let alone children, and what it does to his life. The violence and sex really don’t matter, you can skip them and you are left with the guts of a moving tale about complicity and its impact on our hero.

I have to say, it took me as long to read the first five pages as the rest of the book put together. I trapped myself, plane trip to see my mother, it was either the other 307 pages or the airplane what to do in an emergency card. I’m very pleased to report Complicity won.
( )
  bringbackbooks | Jun 16, 2020 |
Don't remember much about it - except it was shocking in places. ( )
  jvgravy | Jun 14, 2020 |
Reading this not so long after reading Banks' earlier novel 'The Crow Road', I was struck very much by similarities between the two novels. The setting is similar; the time period also. The characters are equally well set-up in life. However, the political subtext is much closer to the surface, and the sex and violence is much more pervasive, graphic and frequent.

The main protagonist, Cameron Colley, is an Edinburgh newspaper journalist. He is following enigmatic clues that he is being left by an informant regarding a series of murders of people in the public eye. There may be a connection to the security services. Played out against a backdrop of the period immediately before and after the first Gulf War, the characters examine their own complicity in events (and by extension, ours).

The murders are related in passages of second person singular prose, though Banks does play with this device a little, just to keep the reader off-guard. And reading the book more than twenty years after it was written does raise the odd smile or eyebrow: there is a paedophilic assault described in flashback towards the end which has more resonance now than it might have done then, given the exposure of high-profile paedophiles in recent years; and when the central character is referred to by his given name, 'Cameron' in discussions of Conservative Party policy, I found it somewhat amusing, given that the former Prime Minister wasn't even in Parliament at the time of the events of the novel.

About two-thirds of the way through the book, the protagonist takes a trip to Jersey. From the descriptions connected to that part of the story, I conclude that Banks was using impressions gained during attendance at one of the British Easter science fiction conventions held on that island in the late 1980s; I was there too, and he describes things I recognised... It's also the only explanation for the way that the trip is suddenly shoe-horned into the story.

Although this has the trappings of a conspiracy thriller, it's more or less a character study of a group of middle-class Scots in the late 1980s/early 90s. Which of the characters you find the more unpleasant may well be down to the individual reader's own opinions and prejudices. ( )
1 vote RobertDay | Dec 23, 2017 |
The point is, there is no feasible excuse for what are, for what we have made of ourselves. We have chosen to put profits before people, money before morality, dividends before decency, fanaticism before fairness, and our own trivial comforts before the unspeakable agonies of others

This book revolves around Cameron Colley an Edinburgh journalist. Colley is not a particularly nice bloke, he smokes too much, drinks too much, takes hard drugs, is addicted to computer games and is cuckolding one of his best friends. He is following a story from a mysterious informer which he believes will lead to a big scoop and keeps him busy running all around Scotland. Simultaneously there is a series of pretty grisly not to mention imaginative murders of people who it could be argued fully deserve to be killed meaning that the reader will not feel overly sympathetic towards the victims. Victims who had been named by Colley in a previous editorial implicating him in the murders. Both Colley and the chief investigator on the case become convinced that the killer is someone close to Colley, As Colley ponders the vigilante's identity we are given revelations about his past and his personality. Thus we get a pretty engrossing thriller.That said it had a few issues for me.

I was able to work out who the murderer was fairly early on although perhaps not his motivation meaning that when his identity was revealed it failed to have any real impact. I found the central character if not likeable at least intriguing. I must admit that I liked the idea of some of the murder victims getting their just deserts which meant that I found the ending rather satisfying. The plot was well devised and I like the idea of an anti-hero. I enjoyed the author's writing style although some of the politics within were not necessarily to my taste. Overall I enjoyed it yet IMHO it lacked that little something that would have made it really special. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Jun 7, 2017 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Iain Banksprimary authorall editionscalculated
Brown, PeterCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Canty,TomCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mo, JohannaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The twenty-fifth anniversary edition of a modern classic: 'ingenious, daring and brilliant' - Guardian COMPLICITY n. 1. the fact of being an accomplice, esp. in a criminal act A few spliffs, a spot of mild S&M, phone through the copy for tomorrow's front page, catch up with the latest from your mystery source - could be big, could be very big - in fact, just a regular day at the office for free-wheeling, substance-abusing Cameron Colley, a fully paid-up Gonzo hack on an Edinburgh newspaper. The source is pretty thin, but Cameron senses a scoop and checks out a series of bizarre deaths from a few years ago - only to find that the police are checking out a series of bizarre deaths that are happening right now. And Cameron just might know more about it than he'd care to admit ... Involvement; connection; liability - Complicity is a stunting exploration of the morality of greed, corruption and violence, venturing fearlessly into the darker recesses of human purpose.

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