Monday, January 13, 2014

The Quarry by Iain Banks

 Iain Banks, under the name Iain M. Banks, has written some marvelous, intricate science fiction novels that I've read over the years, so when I saw this on the bookshelves at my local library, I decided I should give his mainstream works a try, too. The Big Chill has been one of my favorite movies for the last thirty years, released at a time in my life when I was just beginning to miss the company of my friends from "uni", so the story in The Quarry was a beloved and familiar tale - mostly. A group of friends who went to school together have gathered at the home of one of their number who is dying slowly of terminal cancer, Guy, for the chance to say "goodbye" and to maintain their tenuous contact with one another.

One interesting twist in this tale is that it is told from the point of view of Guy's son, Kit, who appears to live his life somewhere on the autism spectrum, with a few OCD issues thrown in. Banks' description of Kit's thought processes and coping mechanisms is very interesting, and provides us with a unique POV for what turns out to be a long weekend spent trying to capture the good old days.

The dialogue is bitter and brilliant, witty and wonderful. The plot is barely present; this story turns on the interactions between a group of friends who have known each other for so long that nearly nothing remains secret, and everyone is free to say what they really feel, to take off the masks that they wear out in the real world. There's not any sort of an action plot, just an account of how the friends spend their last weekend together, and the interactions between them. The quarry in the story plays a peripheral role, at best, and it's continuous expansion probably merely symbolic of the idea that death inexorably swallows us all, in the end.

A bit off-genre for me, but it was an interesting read.

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