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Walking on Glass by Iain Banks

Walking on Glass (1985)

by Iain Banks

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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This is the first Iain Banks that book I have read and I admit I know nothing of his work, other than that he wrote the wasp factory. I have to wonder if having that written on everything he has done since annoys the hell out of him. Anyway, on with the review. This book uses the notion of separate threads coming together - peoples lives becoming entwined. Each of the threads (people) is interesting and well written in itself. How he combines these into the overall plot is... odd. Maybe that is what he does, I'll need to read more of his work to work out if this is a one off, or his style. The twists were quite blunt in places, sickening perhaps, though it is done well.

I didn't really buy into the way the separate threads were combined. One of the characters seemed almost irrelevant at the end of the book (Stephen). He could probably have been taken out entirely and left only one very small hole that could have been filled with a passing bumble bee. It seemed odd to invest heavily in a major character that was pretty much irrelevant when all is said and done. The other characters did require each other - kind of.

So in summary, an enjoyable book, good characters, a few disturbing surprises and an ending that - for me at any rate - missed its target. If anyone can tell me of the significance of Stephen I'd be interested to know; perhaps he is important, and I just completely missed something. ( )
  peterjameswest | Nov 21, 2014 |
This one's going to have me thinking for a while...

Banks' 'Walking on Glass' is the telling of three stories, the main theme of which seems to be with how the easiest of circumstances can make you... well, mad.

I know there are a lot of different takes on this book, but to me the characters of Graham, Grout and Quiss seem to represent different periods of time in a person's life, and with them the key themes of love, employment and age which, when the odds are against them, leave the respective characters feeling broken, and out of touch with reality.

It took a while to get into this book initially, and particularly the story of Quiss, which is over the top in its description of a science fiction setting, was difficult to get into at times. Still, as the three stories overlap one another, the reader finds themselves exploring the endless possibilities of what things actually mean, what is real and what is illusion, and 'Walking on Glass' does make for a fascinating read.

Still, it's not a happy ever after book - on the contrary can be very depressing in parts - and it's not a story with a definite conclusion, which has left many people frustrated, despite the blurb's promise for these characters' inevitable collision (which in retrospect is rather vague).

I can only suggest you read this book for yourself, and draw your own, but it's very much worth doing so - the possibilities are endless. ( )
  kezumi | Feb 4, 2012 |
This book consists of alternate chapters of three separate stories. Graham is in love with the enigmatic Sara. Steven is paranoid. He thinks that he is really a warrior from another world trapped on earth and that 'they ' are out to get him. Quiss and Ajayi, formerly officers on opposite sides of an inter-galactic war, are imprisoned in a castle on an unknown planet, where they are forced to play endless impossible games until they guess the answer to a riddle.

At first the two real-world stories did not grab me but I was drawn in towards the end, once the links between them and the third science-fiction thread became clear.

I failed to guess the correct answer to the riddle. My three incorrect guesses were:
1) The end of the world
2) Stalemate (to link in with the game theme)
3) Nothing ( )
  isabelx | Feb 20, 2011 |
Complex and interesting enough to keep me reading but failed to come together enough to satisfy. Three disparate tales told that try to come together in the end. Don’t let this stop you reading his other science fiction which is top notch.
  Black_samvara | Feb 4, 2008 |
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Iain Banksprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Altschuler, JoninaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kurkijärvi, ReetuTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Makkonen, TopiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For my mother and father
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He walked through the white corridors, past the noticeboards with their offers of small rooms and old cars, past the coffee bar where people sat at tables, past a hole in the white floor where an old chair stood sentry over an open conduit in which a torch shone and a man crawled, and as he left he looked at his watch: TU 28 pm 3;33.
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'Her eyes were black, wide as though with some sustained surprise, the skin from their outer corners to her small ears taut. Her lips were pale, and nearly too full for her small mouth, like something bled but bruised. He had never seen anyone or anything quite so beautiful in his life.' Graham Park is in love. But Sara Fitch is an enigma to him, a creature of almost perverse mystery. Steven Grout is paranoid - and with justice. He knows that They are out to get him. They are. Quiss, insecure in his fabulous if ramshackle castle, is forced to play interminable impossible games. The solution to the oldest of all paradoxical riddles will release him. But he must find an answer before he knows the question. Park, Grout, Quiss - no trio could be further apart. But their separate courses are set for collision.… (more)

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