The Quarry by Iain Banks: a review

quarry_cover

This was always going to be a difficult read. The Quarry is the final book to be written by Iain Banks before he died of Cancer. One of the main characters in the book is, yes, dying of cancer. Since the publication of The Wasp Factory Banks has dealt with extreme and dark situations. The Quarry isn’t as extreme and dark as that, but it does step from one shadow to the next.

The story revolves around a group of old university friends having a reunion one weekend about twenty years since their course. It is told through the eyes of Kit, the son of Guy, who is the man dying. The dialogue is gritty, earthy and hard-hitting. In one sense it explores the fact that all the characters, and perhaps us the reader, are all dying / failing / insignificant* (delete deepening which metaphor you want to explore). It doesn’t pull any punches but never dissolves into sentimentality or kitsch.

The Quarry is humanity in all its depravity and futility, yet also in all its fellowship and potential. This won’t bring you tears of joy, or indulge you in escapism. You may find yourself staring at the pages and seeing yourself in the words you read. Banks holds a mirror. As we look into it we see our lives… this was always going to be a difficult read.

Mine by Robert R McCammon: a review

I’m pushing myself to read a lot more this year. I was shocked to see the low number of books that I finished in 2013. I’m also trying to clear a pile of books that had been sitting around for a while. Mine by Robert R McCammon was one of those. I had begun to read it last year but had put it down after one and a half chapters not really getting into it. However, I picked it up again and…

… having got past the first couple of chapters, I was hooked. I will not use the cliché that I couldn’t put it down, but there were a couple of days when I read well over 100 pages in one sitting. For someone who struggles with attention at times, this is almost unheard of.

The psychological drama of the book is gripping. The two main characters are desperate to meet their needs and nothing will stop them. In a journey across the United States they leave a trail of death and destruction. The theme of child abduction is every parent’s nightmare and with a protagonist as warped and insane as Mary ‘Terror’, the nightmare is amplified.

If you want a thriller that will keep you gripped throughout, then Mine is a very good read.

Getting it right – Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey: A Review

Is it possible to always do the right thing?

What if the right thing is different depending on who you are?

leviathan_wakes_cover

Doing the right thing is explored through the two central characters in James S.A.Corey’s Leviathan Wakes. This is the first novel in the series The Expanse. Miller, a detective in the asteroid belt, and Holden, the second in command of an ice tanker, are drawn into events that could change the very fabric of life itself. It’s space-opera time, and Leviathan Wakes ticks all the genre boxes.

Leviathan Wakes is well-paced and thankfully, as far as the space-opera genre goes, without too many characters. It covers standard ground: political divisions, company arrogance and alien life.

Each chapter is delivered, from the perspective of the two main characters, alternating between each. It isn’t just the chapter perspective that is different. Both Miller and Holden are very different characters. Their views on what is the best course of action vary throughout, although it doesn’t veer into buddy cop territory.

Leviathan Wakes comes to a satisfying conclusion, whilst leaving plenty to explore in the following books of The Expanse series. If you like a little space-opera sci-fi then Leviathan Wakes is well worth a read.