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Transition by Iain Banks
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Transition (edition 2009)

by Iain Banks

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1,237436,425 (3.64)44
Member:KerryD1971
Title:Transition
Authors:Iain Banks
Info:Abacus, Paperback
Collections:Read 2012, Your library
Rating:****
Tags:Fiction

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Transition by Iain M. Banks

Recently added byprivate library, Marleen_Cloutier, Jon.Henry.Higham, Karlstar, Rawpunk, wolfsbruder, link_rae
  1. 01
    Complicity by Iain Banks (sturlington)
    sturlington: By the same author, but wow--very different.
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Showing 1-5 of 42 (next | show all)
I used to be an Iain M. Banks fan, but this book was just bad. There are many, many parallel universes and many parallel Earths (and a very few non-Earths) and in this universe there are a few lucky people who can transition at will between universes and take over a person. Banks takes us through the lives of a few different versions of the same person, plus a few other main characters. The book jumps from viewpoint to viewpoint quite often. Most of the characters are not pleasant people. Through this universe of transitions there is one organization that seeks to nudge things in a positive direction - until it starts to do the opposite and there is a power struggle for control. Who's a good guy and who's a bad guy is a mystery through the book. Unfortunately, this is mainly a biography of some bad, mostly forgettable people with some James Bond-ish action thrown in, undertaken by someone who can pop from universe to universe and still maintain the abilities of a Bond type agent no matter what body or universe they are in. Eventually his 'hero' develops mysterious superpowers out of nowhere.
Somewhere in the middle Banks throws in a completely random, pointless 'Christian Terrorist' group which causes problems in one universe - for what reasons he never explains, nor why its important to the book. It just shows up to allow him his mandatory anti-religion rant, without him bothering to make it effective. Sure, in an infinite multitude of worlds such a thing is possible, but since it was a total tangent (and never resolved) to his main conspiracy, what was the point?
Pointless, drifting, random, meaningless. A real transition for Banks, from well-written scifi to worthless action thriller. ( )
1 vote Karlstar | Oct 18, 2014 |
i was thrilled to discover this one was an sf novel i'd somehow missed, but sadly this book didn't quite work: the characters just weren't very interesting, it didn't seem to develop organically, and it rather tended to belabour its premise. proving, i guess, that any writer can have an off-book (but as this is the first time his writing has been less than deliriously glorious in about 20 recent purchases, i was shocked). ( )
  macha | Aug 30, 2014 |
As already noted in other reviews, the author could as well have used his writer's name Iain M. Banks for this book.
Taking place in multiple parallel universes, or the multiverse as you wish, it comes close to being science fiction.
In my opinion it is loosely based on, or even a tribute to, Isaac Asimov's The end of eternity (https://www.librarything.com/work/21149).
And I have to admit that I liked it as much as Asimov's, as it contains well-described characters, a nice plot and lots of humour. Some brain gym is required to keep track of the various characters and their story lines, but that only contributed to the reading pleasure. ( )
  bluyssae | Aug 4, 2014 |
I guess this was a work in progress but he ran out of time. I could have done without all the copulating but the basic idea of the multiverse was tackled really well. So thanks for a last book.
Ah - I later realise this wasn't his last book, so theoretically he could have done some editing...... ( )
  Ma_Washigeri | Jun 17, 2014 |
This read like it was an Iain M Banks book - it's firmly in the world of Sci-fi following people that can jump between the parallel universes by kind of temporarily possessing the body of someone else already in that universe. It's pretty confusing, and leaves a lot of questions unanswered and I'm still not entirely sure what the hell was going on or why. But plenty of diverse characters and wild imagination made it a good read. ( )
  AlisonSakai | Feb 23, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 42 (next | show all)
In the end, for better or worse, this is a novel held together by its author’s moral vision. Transition may boast a postmodern plethora of worlds, but it offers a single old-fashioned world-view which all this random rattling about paradoxically reveals... This is a thriller with a conscience, decent and timely, even if, amid all the blood and thunder, it sounds what can seem an incongruously still small voice.
 
Despite being published without the M in the author’s name - except in the US - this Iain Banks novel features parallel worlds, and flitting between them, and has as a plot point the existence or not of alien intelligences somewhere out there. As such it can scarcely be described as mainstream. But then early Iain “no M” Banks offerings (Walking On Glass, The Bridge, Canal Dreams) were suffused with SFness and/or sensibility (The Wasp Factory.)

Transition does, though, signal its literariness from the outset – its strapline is “based on a false story” and the first words of its prologue are, “Apparently I am what is known as an unreliable narrator.” There is, too, a high degree of characterisation throughout even though, with the aid of a drug known as septus, most of its main characters can flit from one body to another. In typical Banksian fashion there is a shadowy organisation - here known as l’Expédience, or the Concern (which last is a pun) based on a world unusually known as Calbefraques rather than Earth - in charge of the use and distribution of septus and of recruitment to and training for the transition process.

I did notice that while at one point it is said that there has to be a recipient body for transitioning to take place - the one left behind has only rudimentary function as a husk - later transitions to uninhabited worlds do take place without added explanation.

The narrative is divided between various viewpoint personalities, Patient 8262, who is in hiding in a hospital in a country where the local language is not his own, The Transitionary, who may be an earlier incarnation of Patient 8262, Adrian, a former drug dealer turned hedge fund manager, Madame d’Ortolan, foremost member of the Concern’s ruling council, The Philosopher, a legal torturer, and occasional others. The Transitionary’s is a first person present tense narrative, others are past tense, sometimes first, sometimes third person. The most intriguing character is the rather prosaically named Mrs Mulverhill – who is not married, merely likes the name.

In the sort of inversion beloved of SF authors one of the parallel worlds has a set of Christian fanatics pitted against the state and indulging in suicide bombings and the like. The scenario gives Banks the opportunity to riff on how proportionate a response society ought to have to terrorism and on the (in)efficacy of torture. One of his characters also skewers “the invisible hand.”

Devotees of Iain M Banks will probably find this a treat. Followers of his M-less namesake ought also to find enough in it to satisfy them.
added by jackdeighton | editA Son of The Rock, Jack Deighton
 
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Epigraph
Dedication
For Alastair and Emily, and in memory of Bec
With thanks to Adèle, Mic, Richard, Les, Gary and Zoe
First words
Apparently I am what is known as an Unreliable Narrator, though of course if you believe everything you're told you deserve whatever you get. (Prologue)
I think I have been very clever in doing what I have done, in landing myself where I am.
This is how it ends: he comes into my room. (Epilogue)
Quotations
But of course she was not a racist. To the contrary, as she could point out, in appropriate company (that would be to say, highly limited and avowedly discreet company), had she not tasted of what she thought of as the Dark Pleasures, with blacks, on more than one occasion? The epitome of such enjoyment was, for her, to be taken anally by such a Nubian brute. Privately, she thought of this act as "going to Sèvres-Babylone," as this was the deepest, darkest, and most excitingly, enticingly dangerous Métro station that she knew of.
Paris has changed once more. There is a canal through the breadth of the Ile St Louis, the street is full of gaily dressed hussars on clopping, head-tossing horses being politely applauded by a few passers-by who have stopped to watch and everything smells of steam. I look up, hoping for airships. I always like it when there are airships, but I can't see any.
And don't forget Goldman's Law: nobody knows anything. Nobody knows what will work. That's why they make so many remakes and Part Twos; what looks like lack of imagination is really down to too much, as execs visualise all the things that could go wrong with a brand new, untested idea. Going with something containing elements that definitely worked in the past removes some of the terrifying uncertainty.
We live in an infinity of infinities, and we reshape our lives with every passing thought and each unconscious action, threading an ever-changing course through the myriad possibilities of existence.
Libertarianism. A simple-minded right-wing ideology ideally suited to those unable or unwilling to see past their own sociopathic self-regard.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316071986, Hardcover)

There is a world that hangs suspended between triumph and catastrophe, between the dismantling of the Wall and the fall of the Twin Towers, frozen in the shadow of suicide terrorism and global financial collapse. Such a world requires a firm hand and a guiding light. But does it need the Concern: an all-powerful organization with a malevolent presiding genius, pervasive influence and numberless invisible operatives in possession of extraordinary powers?

Among those operatives are Temudjin Oh, of mysterious Mongolian origins, an un-killable assassin who journeys between the peaks of Nepal, a version of Victorian London and the dark palaces of Venice under snow; Adrian Cubbish, a restlessly greedy City trader; and a nameless, faceless state-sponsored torturer known only as the Philosopher, who moves between time zones with sinister ease. Then there are those who question the Concern: the bandit queen Mrs. Mulverhill, roaming the worlds recruiting rebels to her side; and Patient 8262, under sedation and feigning madness in a forgotten hospital ward, in hiding from a dirty past.

There is a world that needs help; but whether it needs the Concern is a different matter.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:25:17 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Sharing nothing in common except links to an organization committed to protecting the world from itself, an assembly of dubious characters including a torturer, a reluctant assassin, and an amnesiac patient confront challenges beyond their imagining.

(summary from another edition)

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Editions: 0316071986, 0316071994

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