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Walking on Glass by Iain Banks

Walking on Glass (1985)

by Iain Banks

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
This was Iain Banks' 2nd published novel (1985), after 'The Wasp Factory.'
It's really 3 separate stories, which are only-sort-of interconnected. That is, there are some references, recurring motifs, etc, but I didn't think they reflected on one another as much as they could have. Even Banks has, said, reportedly, the book "didn’t do exactly what it set out to do and I think you have failed to an extent if the reader can’t understand what you’re saying."
I don't think it was incomprehensible, I just think that at this point Banks was not quite as adept at playing with structure as he has since become. Still, I have not yet read a Banks book that I didn't really really like, and this is not an exception.

The stories are:
In 1980s, UK, art student Graham is introduced to the enigmatic Sara ffitch by his eccentric best friend, Slater. He instantly falls for her, hard, and moons after her with such a mad crush that the reader can just tell that it's probably unrequited and not all will turn out well.... especially since Sara's rumored to be seeing a tough biker dude...

In the same time and place, a paranoid schizophrenic, Steven Grout, is having a hard time with his life. His odd way of looking at things and lack of self control have just lost him his job - again. He believes he's really a warrior in some Interplanetary conflict, and is searching for the Way Out in sci-fi novels - but it's hard when he constantly has to try to avoid Microwave Guns and more mundane trials.

In another place altogether, a surreal castle outside of time, two actual warriors are being punished for their conduct in the 'Therapeutic Wars.' In a decaying castle made of books and lit by bioluminescent fish, trapped in elderly bodies, the former enemies are forced to play bizarre, random games and to try to answer a nonsensical riddle. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
This is Iain Banks' second novel, and for me anyway, far more interesting than the much mentioned first novel 'The Wasp Factory', though not quite up there with 'The Bridge'. It is interesting to note that the author himself felt he had failed a little with this one because readers didn't quite 'get it'. I don't agree at all with this self criticism, after all, one of the major story lines in the book is about solving a difficult riddle, and that is exactly what the author left for us! A careful read of 'Walking on Glass' reveals the links between the seemingly disparate characters. This is the sort of story that reminds us that even a seemingly mundane life can contain amazing dimensions, horror, madness, and depth. Typically, Iain Banks can blow your mind on one page and then remind you it's all just a big joke on the next. A truly great writer who had his head in the clouds but his feet firmly planted on solid ground. ( )
  Estramir | Jul 16, 2015 |
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 |
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Iain Banksprimary authorall editionscalculated
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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