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Iain Banks, The Crow Road

I seem to be immune, if not averse, to Banks' mainstream novels. This is the second one I've read, and while I liked it better than Espedair Street, I still found it more than a bit of a slog. It ended well, which almost salvaged it for me, but by then I had built up so much resentment toward the thing that it was probably too late.

This a Scottish family saga, full of the requisite eccentric characters and loving strife. It's also, as the title tells you once the title has been explained, about death. As a story about death it arrives at a very satisfactory bit of wisdom, although it gets there by way of a murder mystery that felt completely out of place to me. It's also a coming-of-age story, and that may be the aspect of it that was least successful for me. The narrative point of view moves around, but the main point of view character is Prentice -- the middle son of one of the families whose saga this is. Despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that Prentice is not entirely dissimilar to yours truly, I found him almost completely uninteresting as the protagonist of this story, and I got bored early on with his tales of getting so drunk he couldn't talk straight. The fact that he's callow and needs to grow up is basically the point of the coming-of-age aspect of the story, but maybe I'm too old for this shit. I just didn't care about his problems or his path. Neither did I find his part in the murder mystery in any way believable, but that's probably because I just didn't care for the character.

I dunno. The whole thing felt kind of juvenile to me, I guess. In the end we get some wisdom about death and a very sweet piece of morse code, but what else was there? A strong sense of the Scottish landscape and of the people. (Very funny, pointed observation at one point that English newspeople on BBC were perfectly able to pronounce the hard "ch" sound in Arabic names but somehow not in Scottish words like "loch".) Maybe if Prentice weren't such a prat (
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I seem to be immune, if not averse, to Banks' mainstream novels. This is the second one I've read, and while I liked it better than <i>Espedair Street</i>, I still found it more than a bit of a slog. It ended well, which almost salvaged it for me, but by then I had built up so much resentment toward the thing that it was probably too late.

This a Scottish family saga, full of the requisite eccentric characters and loving strife. It's also, as the title tells you once the title has been explained, about death. As a story about death it arrives at a very satisfactory bit of wisdom, although it gets there by way of a murder mystery that felt completely out of place to me. It's also a coming-of-age story, and that may be the aspect of it that was least successful for me. The narrative point of view moves around, but the main point of view character is Prentice -- the middle son of one of the families whose saga this is. Despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that Prentice is not entirely dissimilar to yours truly, I found him almost completely uninteresting as the protagonist of this story, and I got bored early on with his tales of getting so drunk he couldn't talk straight. The fact that he's callow and needs to grow up is basically the point of the coming-of-age aspect of the story, but maybe I'm too old for this shit. I just didn't care about his problems or his path. Neither did I find his part in the murder mystery in any way believable, but that's probably because I just didn't care for the character.

I dunno. The whole thing felt kind of juvenile to me, I guess. In the end we get some wisdom about death and a very sweet piece of morse code, but what else was there? A strong sense of the Scottish landscape and of the people. (Very funny, pointed observation at one point that English newspeople on BBC were perfectly able to pronounce the hard "ch" sound in Arabic names but somehow not in Scottish words like "loch".) Maybe if Prentice weren't such a prat (<iLmon semblable! mon frère!</i>) I'd have liked it better. We'll see if I like the TV adaptation any better.

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
holyoutlaw
Jul. 23rd, 2014 01:31 am (UTC)
Isn't this one of his very first books, if not the very first?
randy_byers
Jul. 23rd, 2014 01:38 am (UTC)
I guess it depends on how you count these things, but it was his ninth published novel. The Wasp Factory was his first.
holyoutlaw
Jul. 23rd, 2014 01:41 am (UTC)
I was confusing it with The Wasp Factory, then.

I've liked his SF better than his mainstream, and of his SF, preferred the culture novels. I think we have agreement on this important issue.
randy_byers
Jul. 23rd, 2014 03:59 am (UTC)
It's true, we agree on that, although I think you've read at least one of the non-Culture SF books that I haven't.
janeehawkins
Jul. 23rd, 2014 04:31 pm (UTC)
I tried his mainstream novels and while I respect the writing I find myself caring so little about the stories that I tend to set the book down and forget about it.
randy_byers
Jul. 23rd, 2014 04:37 pm (UTC)
It's interesting. I went out and looked at reviews of The Crow Road on the interwebs yesterday and found nothing but raves, so I was feeling pretty out of tune with the world.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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