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Transition by Iain Banks

Transition (edition 2009)

by Iain Banks

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1,448545,175 (3.61)50
Authors:Iain Banks
Info:Abacus, Paperback
Collections:Read 2012

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Transition by Iain M. Banks



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Showing 1-5 of 53 (next | show all)
A good, solid Banks book - not one of his classics, perhaps, but a superbly paced thriller that handles both the different skeins of narration and the twists and turns of plot deftly. The novel is a contemplation of solipsism, and of the responsibilities and insulations of power, with a lovely mirror held up to the War on Terror and a quick diversion into financial ethics.

For me, all Banks' great books fall into his SF works, and in some ways this "cross-over" allows him to flex some of those same allegorical muscles here (although he has done so before, with the Bridge and Walking on Glass), and this is definitely in the high end of his non-M books. ( )
  Pezski | Jun 8, 2017 |
There are alternate realities and the Concern travels between them setting things right. Who should Temudjinn Oh trust? Mrs Mulverhill or Madame d'Ortolan?
A good science fiction story. ( )
  nx74defiant | Mar 12, 2017 |
Banks usually splits his novels between contemporary fiction and science fiction, but here he publishes what is obviously a science fiction story under his 'contemporary' nom de plume. I'm unsure of the reasons for this, but it is certainly his most enjoyable novel in quite some time, certainly an improvement on The Steep Approach to Garbadale, which was just The Crow Road reheated.

The story, told from the point of view of several characters, but mainly that of a man called Temudjin Oh, is about an organisation called The Concern, which intervenes in the affairs of alternate realities for supposedly benign reasons. They do this using the talents of 'Transitionaries', people who can flit between realities with the aid of a drug called Septus. With me so far? Good.

But the head of the Concern's central council, Madame d'Ortolan, has her own agenda, and Oh finds himself a hunted man. A renegade called Mrs Mulverhill comes to his aid and he finds himself caught in a power struggle for control of The Concern. It's an ambitious storyline and thankfully free, for the most part, of Banks's recent penchant for making his character's mouthpieces for his political rhetoric.

Banks is no stranger to mixing genres, his earlier novels such as Walking on Glass and The Bridge featured fantasy elements, but here the whole story is fantastical.

However I do have reservations. The structure is fragmented to say the least and the start of the book is very confusing. You're not sure what the hell is going on and it takes perseverance to get a grip on the story. As ever Banks' can tell a good tale but what I'd really like is for him to return to the form of Espedair Street or The Crow Road - brilliantly told contemporary fiction. However, well worth reading. ( )
  David.Manns | Nov 28, 2016 |
This is an odd book, being an Iain M Banks book in the US and an Iain Banks book in the UK. But the truth is that it fits into neither oeuvre, being a sort of exploration of the multiverse disguising a rant about the evils of the world, particularly the commercial aspects of the world. I virtually always finish books that I start,,but in this case it was a real effort. I gained no enjoyment or knowledge from reading this book. ( )
  johnwbeha | Oct 4, 2016 |
I got half way through and gave up. There was no particular storyline, just a group of unpleasant people talking about themselves, having sex, and killing people. Not one of his better ones ( )
  SChant | Feb 6, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 53 (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.
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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)
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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:49 -0400)

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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.

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Orbit Books

2 editions of this book were published by Orbit Books.

Editions: 0316071986, 0316071994

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