I’ve been very intermittent lately I know. Sorry… Anyhoo…

I started reading a new book this week. I don’t read a massive amount of books. I don’t know what the average is for book consumption, but I’d guess I read between 15 and 25 a year, which includes re-reading books that I’ve read in the past. One of the few advantages of having a rubbish memory is being able to read a book that you read a few years ago and enjoying it all over again because you forgot most of what it was about. I’ve not read this book before, and I’m very much looking forward to reading it, though my enjoyment of it will be tinged with sadness…

The book is called The Hydrogen Sonata and is written by Iain M. Banks. It’s the latest in a series of loosely connected science fiction novels which started with Consider Phlebas which was published in 1987. The Scottish author also wrote more conventional, so called contemporary fiction, under the name Iain Banks. Earlier this year, Iain Banks released a statement revealing that he had been diagnosed with advanced cancer, originating in the gall bladder, and was unlikely to live for more than a year. It was shocking and saddening to hear this news about a well respected figure in British literature, still only relatively young at the age of 59.

Shocked and saddened… And strangely disappointed. I feel so selfish when I think “No more books by Iain Banks, oh no!” but I still think it…

His debut novel was The Wasp Factory published in 1984. I would guess my mum bought it for me either that year or the following year. I was a keen reader all through my teenage years, and it was a pastime my mum was keen to support, so she often bought me interesting new books. At the time the novel courted controversy due to some scenes of graphic violence but I was quite an advanced reader for my age and my mum was open minded about censorship, so she had no issues about giving it to me. She also bought me American Psycho when that was first published, so she was very open minded.

I very much enjoyed The Wasp Factory, it was dark and twisted but gritty and realistic, the story of a Scottish teenager who is as much a victim as he is an animal torturer and worse. From that point on, I made sure to buy every new book by Iain Banks once it was released in paperback (and later in hardback, partly as a treat, partly as a cure for impatience) and was seldom disappointed. Some were better than others, but I don’t think there was ever a bad one.

From 1987 onward, the regular novels were interspersed with science fiction novels, most of them based on the Culture, a technologically advanced, predominantly pacifistic society spread loosely across many galaxies. The stories themselves are epic tales of high adventure, space opera, featuring an incredibly diverse range of alien characters and scientifically correct (theoretically speaking) detailed descriptions of all manner of futuristic technology. The first of this series was Consider Phlebas, which I would consider to be my favourite of all Iain Banks’ books. It has intergalactic space pirates with laser guns, hugely powerful artificial intelligences (which feature heavily throughout the Culture novels) and vast space ships zapping around at incredible speeds. All very exciting! Not particularly high brow I admit, but a damned good read anyhoo!

Once I’ve finished The Hydrogen Sonata, it will be the end of an era, the end of the Culture. I imagine there’s fan fiction out there on the internet if I ever wanted to go and search for it, but it wouldn’t be the same. His final novel, The Quarry, is scheduled for release in the next few months, and I expect to go through this same slightly strange range of emotions again when I read that. I want more stories, I want the books to go on.

I’d like to thank Iain Banks. His work has brought pleasure to my life over the course of 27 books in 29 years. My world has been a better place for having him in it, and I know I’ll be re-reading through my collection in the future, so he’ll continue to bring me pleasure.

Thanks for all the good books. Cheers!

Thanks for all the good books. Cheers!

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On a little side note, I went to a funeral today, and it was to remember someone who had passed away, by coincidence, in Scotland My world has been a better place for knowing her too, and my memories of her will continue to bring me pleasure. Farewell Meg.

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Who knows what’s going to come next? Something or other, I’ve got a few ideas bubbling around. Until then…
Peace… ses x