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The Steep Approach to Garbadale by Iain…

The Steep Approach to Garbadale (2007)

by Iain Banks

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Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
Depressing. As someone else put it, go read The Crow Road ahead. The disjointed political rants just come out of left field, from a character who doesn't really embody them and really seems lazy ( for a counter example, check out Whit, where Banks writes religion so enthusiastically you'd believe he was a Southern Baptist) - mostly, it's a story that on the whole, was frankly not worth telling. Banks writing has always had these mad flashes of genius but in this book they don't appear quite as often. ( )
  A-S | Jan 6, 2019 |
The appearance of an Iain Banks novel (with or without the “M”) is an event to look forward to. Or was. This disaster is a great dose of disillusion for me and could make me think twice about the next one. The story is unoriginal and without interest and the characters are dull and insipid.

Based around a family whose wealth is founded on a board game, we’re supposed to care if the business is sold to an American game editor. Worse, we’re supposed to understand why likeable black-sheep-of-the-family Alban, who has already sold out his interest in the business, now wants to take a stand, and why anybody else is interested in his opinion. Empire!Banks has used games in previous books and they always suggested modern strategic pursuits. Not this time; this time we get the impression of a dull pre-Monopoly kind of game and we couldn’t care less about it.

Alban is the most wooden Banks’ character of all time. Painted as charming, decent, honest, cynical he is a goody-goody quite beyond belief. With a negligible shareholding in the family business, we’re expected to accept that they hang on his every word and listen with reverence to his foolish company-saving speech (more about American imperialism than business as it happens!). He’s living with down and outs in a tenement when we meet him (presumably just to show how liberal and decent he is) one of whom gets an inexplicable (and plaintive) first person voice in the novel. For some reason (a typo perhaps?) the first person voice slipped into the visit to Doris and Beryl when our drug addict was absent!

The book has some of Banks’ usual wit and imagination (I especially liked girlfriend VG’s background as a tsunami survivor and the “School Bus Siege”) but overall this is a trite heap of rubbish not worthy of the author of such masterpieces as The Bridge and The Algebraist. If you’ve loved everything he has written so far, do yourself a favour and pretend this one never appeared. ( )
  tchelyzt | Jul 15, 2017 |
Banks seems to put more energy and thought into his SF novels these days. While this is head and shoulders above such recent fare as Whit and The Business, it falls far short of his early work, especially The Crow Road, to my mind his best non-genre novel.

Centred around Alban McGill, prodigal relation of the Wopuld family who invented and own the Empire! game, and his life long infatuation with his cousin Sophie, the book has the usual Banksian flashbacks, all leading up to an EGM at the titular Garbadale House, where the Spraint Corporation seek to buy out the family.

There is some wonderful writing along the way, and Alban is a likeable enough protaganist but somehow the plot, although neatly tied up at the end, just didn't grab me. And unfortunately, towards the end, Banks gives in to his weakness for diatribes against American Imperialism.

So, all in all, an enjoyable read, but not one of his best. Roll on the next Culture novel! ( )
  David.Manns | Nov 28, 2016 |
Alban McGill is a member of the wealthy Scottish Wopuld family, who have built a fortune on a game called Empire! (which resembles Risk, and involves taking over the world). Alban has abdicated his place in the family, and has been slumming for the past few years, working as a forester, hanging out with decidedly non-upper-class friends, and slowly building a relationship with a commitment-phobic math-genius outdoorswoman/professor. However, a big family reunion is calling him back into the fold. An American corporation wants to buy out the Wopulds, and they need to vote on whether or not to go through with the deal. Alban is reluctant to go - not least because it will mean seeing his cousin Sophie again - the girl who was his first love, and who still stirs up all kinds of nasty whirlpools of emotion whenever Alban encounters her.
As the novel progresses, we gradually learn more about Alban, his relationship with Sophie, the complexities, oddities, and dark secrets of the Wopuld family - and not least, the repercussions involved with the possibility of giving up Empire! (With some quite blatant but rather wonderful political metaphors and outright rants.)
Banks is one of my favorite authors, so my expectations for one of his books are always high - but this novel did not disappoint. I do think he should have gone with its working title (Empire!), though. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
It's a truism that there are two Iain Banks -- Iain the contemporary fiction writer and Iain M. the science fiction writer. But it's also the case that there are two distinct modes of Iain Banks novels -- the grim and nihilistic (Wasp Factory, The Business, Song of Stone, etc.) versus the sweeping Scots epic (Crow Road, Whit, Espadair Street, and now The Steep Approach to Garbadale). I dunno - maybe it's just a matter of comedy versus tragedy (in the classical sense)?

In any case, put Banks' latest squarely in the feel-good category. Not that there aren't odd twists to the plot; it wouldn't be Banks without those. The characters are fairly well-drawn and likable even when they aren't (a Banks speciality, I think) and while the story isn't the most profound or original ever penned, it's a worthwhile read and, if Banks were more known in the U.S. contemporary fiction market, probably would be on numerous "great summer reads" lists. ( )
  ronhenry | Nov 17, 2015 |
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Dark family secrets, a long-lost love affair and a multi-million pound gaming business lie at the heart of this Iain Banks' novel.

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