It's been a pretty tough day on the writing front, I have to admit. Words have flowed easily over the past few weeks, but there have still been odd days where for whatever reason it's just not come and I've ended up giving it up as a bad job, going off to brood on whatever it was that went wrong. Today has been one of those days. I've managed 800 words - an hour or so of solid writing - but none of those have been saved. Chances are I'll go back and restart the story I'm working on tomorrow, or at least make major revisions to what I have.
As a result of this mini-block, I've spent much of the day reading. Over the past few days I've been reacquainting myself with the dark, sexy underworld of Iain Banks (or his books, at any rate) in the form of Transition, his latest novel, which went paperback a month or so back.
It's an interesting read. Our world forms just one reality in a multiverse which is overseen by the Concern (what is it about Banks and his organisations or civilisations being single words beginning with 'C' - Culture and Concern?) and its operatives. It's a tale of power-plays within the organisations and of good and evil. Perhaps most importantly, it's a novel of our times.
It says it right at the start. This is a novel about the post-9/11 world, about the credit crunch, the banks, counter-terrorism and moralities connected to all of the previously mentioned. A book for kids this ain't. It's adult in every sense of the word, being both intelligent in its analysis of the world around us and also being violent - with graphic depictions of torture among other things - and sexually-charged - the amount of detailed sex scenes is a little on the high side for my taste, it has to be said.
In fact, there are a few things which I'm not happy with. At times it feels like Banks is pontificating about his world view. Adrian the banker is the biggest symptom of this. He's a young banker, a former drug-dealer who still takes some, who indulges in meaningless sex with hundreds of women and lives a generally carefree playboy lifestyle. It feels like Banks is pinning the banking crisis on this one man.
Another problem that I had was that the novel feels like disconnected threads for much of its duration, and that some of those threads could have been cut out. Had it been left up to me, I wouldn't even have had the Philosopher's storyline. I understand what Banks is trying to say, but it feels superfluous. But then again, my own preference has always been for tightly-plotted novels, where every word counts for something towards the conclusion, so that might be something you bear in mind when considering this.
But I did enjoy it, and it's worth remembering this. It whips along at a brisk pace and is skilfully constructed. I'm not going to be put off reading more Iain (M.) Banks at any point in the near future, unless Surface Detail is the worst book in the history of the English language (which it won't be).