|17th October 2009, 11:50 AM||#1 (permalink)|
Here kitty kitty kitty!
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Australia, Queensland
Transition by Iain Banks
Mr Banks has written a superhero book of sorts. The majority of characters here have the particular power of being able to move (or transition) between alternate realities and influence events in them. People determined to have this ability are conscripted into The Concern, a shady and not totally unsubversive organisation that, through operatives with the ability to see into the future of these realities, determine to influence the events in them, generally for altruistic reasons. Temudjin Oh is one such transitioner, a highly skilled assassin who effortlessly flits between alternate versions of our world and interferes with events in ways that are either benign, like tripping up someone before they enter a building targetted by terrorists, to the malignant, like outright whacking the bad guys before they wreak havoc. But all is not well in the concern and Oh is the pawn in a power struggle between rival factions that fight to determine whether it is a force for good or for evil.
Banks writes this book in an episodic style reminiscent of The Use of Weapons, compounded with multiple non-linear threads and following the trail of multiple characters, although ultimately Oh is the centre piece. As Fried Egg once pondered, the non-linear threads makes for confusion and I found myself back tracking frequently to get a better understanding of what was going on. There was one particular section, the meeting between Madame D'Ortolan and a character called Q'Ands (not sure if I have the name right) that confused me a bit. Other characters in the story were ultimately unsatisfying as well, sometimes I am frustrated by how much background is given to a character whose role is ultimately incidental. However, in the end the threads twine together and you do have a complete and typically Banksian story.
I say typically, but in reality (alternate or my current one) my favourite Sci Fi author has moved into a middle ground between his M books and his "normal" books. I haven't read too many of his non SF books, but I have read The Bridge which had a similar theme of alternate realities. In Transition The Concern is a bit like The Culture, or more specifically Special Circumstances, that seeks to influence burgeoning civilisations, but here they are influencing only one world, just different versions of it. Transition is more urban fantasy than hard SF, so I wouldn't call it an M book, although apparently it is published as an Iain M Banks book in The States.
Ultimately this is a good yarn, and great Banks fair, but it's not the sort of SF book that I really like, and it doesn't seem quite clever enough to be as good an urban fantasy as the works of Mieville or Gaiman. And without the hyper-intelligent space ships and smart ass androids, it just doesn't rank up there with his M books.
|18th October 2009, 09:27 AM||#2 (permalink)|
Join Date: Oct 2006
Re: Transition by Iain Banks
Thanks for the review, gully. I have a feeling I'm going to really enjoy this one. Special Circumstances on earth! I'll wait for paperback, many Banks and M. Banks are still in my to-read mountain.
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