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John Sutherland, 18 November 1993

by Iain Banks.
Little, Brown, 313 pp., £15.99, September 1993, 0 316 90688 3
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Against a Dark Background 
by Iain M. Banks.
Orbit, 496 pp., £8.99, January 1994, 1 85723 185 6
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... Say ‘Iain Banks’ and the person you are talking to will say ‘The Wasp Factory.’ Banks may have as much trouble getting out from under the success of his first novel as did William Golding. It was a memorable debut. The Wasp Factory provoked a moral panic in 1984. The TLS critic called it the ‘literary equivalent of the nastiest kind of juvenile delinquency’; Margaret Forster thought it less a novel than the script for a video nasty ...


Ian Sansom: Iain Banks, 5 December 2013

The Quarry 
by Iain Banks.
Little, Brown, 326 pp., £18.99, June 2013, 978 1 4087 0394 6
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... of alternative employment. Ignore your inner urges. No man but a blockhead etc. Do anything else. Iain Banks was not a blockhead. He was one of the few winners in one of the world’s oldest and most respected winner-takes-all systems. So now that the obituaries have been written and the tributes paid, how might the rest of us claim our inheritance? What ...

In Charge of the Tuck Shop

Sam Thompson: Iain Banks, 22 March 2007

The Steep Approach to Garbadale 
by Iain Banks.
Little, Brown, 390 pp., £17.99, March 2007, 978 0 316 73105 8
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... In interviews, Iain Banks has said that his new novel The Steep Approach to Garbadale was first imagined as a fantastical tale of multiple realities, in which characters would find themselves magically trapped inside a board game. The novel he has written instead is a family romance, set in the UK in 2005, and the board game it features is safely non-magical ...

Turns of the Screw

Hugh Barnes, 7 August 1986

Mating Birds 
by Lewis Nkosi.
Constable, 184 pp., £8.95, July 1986, 0 00 946724 6
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Lost Time 
by Catharine Arnold.
Hodder, 220 pp., £9.95, May 1986, 0 340 38783 1
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The Bridge 
by Iain Banks.
Macmillan, 259 pp., £9.95, July 1986, 0 333 41285 0
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Incidents at the Shrine 
by Ben Okri.
Heinemann, 130 pp., £9.95, July 1986, 0 434 53230 4
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Things fall apart 
by Chinua Achebe.
Heinemann, 150 pp., £3.50, July 1986, 0 435 90526 0
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The Innocents 
by Carolyn Slaughter.
Viking, 219 pp., £9.95, May 1986, 0 670 81016 9
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... imagination, and of accidents that proceed from it, is enhanced, however, by comparison with Iain Banks’s treatment of related matters in his new novel. Banks has made a name for himself as an unembarrassable master of the macabre, which he gleefully represented in The Wasp Factory and Walking on ...

Who’ll be last?

Jenny Diski, 19 November 2015

... If it were​ a race, the first man home – except for Iain Banks who won the trophy by a mile – would be Oliver Sacks (announced 19 February – died 30 August), with Henning Mankell (announced 17 January – died 5 October) a close second. Lisa Jardine won a race of her own, staying shtum publicly, her death a surprise except to the few who knew ...

Cows are more important

Adam Mars-Jones: ‘The Discomfort of Evening’, 24 September 2020

The Discomfort of Evening 
by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, translated by Michele Hutchison.
Faber, 288 pp., £12.99, March, 978 0 571 34936 4
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... value is something of a tradition, whether or not its author goes on to show a wider range, as Iain Banks did after The Wasp Factory in 1984, or leaves it at that, as Charlotte Roche seems to have done since the publication of Wetlands in 2008. In any case Rijneveld’s material, though irreproachably extreme, can be interpreted equally glibly in ...

Adventures at the End of Time

Angela Carter, 7 March 1991

by Iain Sinclair.
Paladin, 407 pp., £14.99, March 1991, 0 586 09074 6
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... Iain Sinclair, in the profane spirit of Surrealism, has chosen to decorate the endpapers of his new work of fiction with a dozen unutterably strange picture-postcards. They show scenes such as that of six men, heavily veiled, veils held down by brimmed hats, posed with long-barrelled rifles. And two men in grass skirts, with feathers in their hair, intent on a game of billiards ...

Instrumental Tricks

James Vincent: Prosthetic Brainpower, 5 October 2023

Empire of the Sum: The Rise and Reign of the Pocket Calculator 
by Keith Houston.
Norton, 374 pp., £25, October, 978 0 393 88214 8
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... Houston compares the fate of the calculator to that of an alien species in the science fiction of Iain M. Banks, which becomes so advanced that it ‘sublimes’ from the physical universe altogether to settle in higher dimensions. The calculator as a gadget may have sublimed into software, but the comparison doesn’t do ...


Iain Sinclair: Ronnie Kray bows out, 8 June 1995

... says London refuses to oblige major film productions? Roads closed off, police, colourful extras, banks of cameras: the funeral is a one-day epic with a minimalist performance at its centre. There’s nothing for the uninvited to witness. One hundred and forty ticketed seats barely cover the worldwide media interest; reporters book in for a taped rendering of ...

Bad News

Iain Sinclair, 6 December 1990

by John Farrand.
Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 239 pp., $40, June 1990, 1 55670 134 9
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Weather Watch 
by Dick File.
Fourth Estate, 299 pp., £14.99, November 1990, 1 872180 12 4
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Climate Change: The IPCC Scientific Assessment 
edited by J.T. Houghton, G.J. Jenkins and J.J. Ephraums.
Cambridge, 365 pp., £40, September 1990, 9780521403603
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Crop Circles: The Latest Evidence 
by Pat Delgado and Colin Andrews.
Bloomsbury, 80 pp., £5.99, October 1990, 0 7475 0843 7
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The Stumbling Block, Its Index 
by B. Catling.
Book Works, £22, October 1990, 9781870699051
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... the capacity of crushing to zero the spirits of fragile, potentially suicidal personalities. Cloud banks absorb the hurt from wounded psyches, become leaden, withhold more of the light. We infect the skies with our own despair. And are infected in return. Unsuspected weather-allergies roam the city like serial-killers. Bad will generates a sympathetic storm. A ...


Iain Sinclair: The Thames, 25 June 2009

Thames: Sacred River 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Vintage, 608 pp., £14.99, August 2008, 978 0 09 942255 6
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... son et lumière procession, is noticed by Ackroyd in the act of ‘meeting his adherents by the banks of the Ravensbourne’. ‘No other tributary of the Thames,’ he writes, ‘has such a history of insurrection and bloodshed.’ One of the distinguishing features of Ackroyd’s Thames is recurrence; landscape is revised, personages come and go, the ...

Rodinsky’s Place

Patrick Wright, 29 October 1987

White Chappell: Scarlet Tracings 
by Iain Sinclair.
Goldmark, 210 pp., £12.50, October 1987, 1 870507 00 2
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... the Trust went on to bring credit facilities into an area which had been ‘red-lined’ by banks and building societies. It emerged as a campaigning property company, able to buy buildings, refurbish them with a care for the minutest period detail, and resell them under covenant. The new immigrants form a mixed and largely agreeable group, and they ...


Iain Sinclair: Out of Essex, 8 January 2004

... beneath a fast stream. John Clare, in ‘Recollections after a Ramble’, writes of sitting by the banks of a river and thinking: ‘If I tumbled in/I should fall direct to heaven.’ The wet colour is hazy, soft; it does its best to subvert the over-emphatic actuality of the borrowed original. Memories are elective, not involuntary. More like dreams or ...

In Fife

Kathleen Jamie, 23 April 2015

... bowl in the Ochil hills, and is orientated almost exactly east-west. On its north and south banks grow sparse hawthorns tufted with lichen and old stunted oaks. At its western end, where the springs that feed the loch rise, Scots pines and larches dominate. On winter afternoons they stand silhouetted against the sunset. Because the loch was dammed to ...


Iain Sinclair: The Plutocrat Tour, 7 July 2022

... the Transport and General Workers’ Union and to receive an entry on my pink card. The shift to banks signalled the end of the old ways and the beginning of the serious money vision of a revamped territory: tower blocks, shopping malls, architect-finessed stadiums.Knowles pursues the money trail through Shoreditch, the City and Canary Wharf, looking for ...

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