Have you read an Iain Banks novel before? If you haven't, do - they're very readable and have a wonderful flow to them. The biannual publication of a Banks novel is like making a cup of tea - it's warm and comforting, and though it's much like the last one you had, you still look forward to it.
Garbadale is a good story, and it would be a curmudgeon who didn't recognise the obvious quality of the prose, the narrative and the pacing. If you've never read anything by the same author before, you can go into it with a sense of wide-eyed wonder, marvelling at the time-shifts, the odd snatches of Scottish dialogue, the international flair and so forth. It's genuinely sad, it's genuinely funny; it has a plot twist that is always hinted at but never fully realised until the final few pages.
It is, for wont of a better word, likeable. Scholars and beachreaders alike will read through and like it. I like it. You will like it. Go on, try it.
But therein lies the only problem. If you have read a Banks novel before, you'll recognise the pacing, the tone of voice, the little Scottish interludes and the niceness already. No matter how much of a loner outcast the main character is, he is very lovely really. And, though families may be torn apart (or not) at the end (or not), it'll all be fine in the grand scheme of things. See that final three-page chapter? Oh! Everything turned out grand there, didn't it?
It's not a book-destroying flaw at all. It's an odd authorial tick that really inhibits any sense of excitement at a new book coming. Perhaps that's why he writes the sci-fi works, just to break that pattern. It is a shame that he cannot extend that unpredictability over into his literary fiction....Continua