The Collapse of The World Banks (or Why I'm Giving Up On Love)

on Thursday, January 26, 2012
At what point is it okay to give up on your once favourite authors?

So I was catching up on my backlog of book podcasts yesterday afternoon when I heard that Iain Banks has a new novel called Stonemouth coming out in April. I should, in theory, be very excited. Back in my early university days a friend gave me a copy of The Bridge, promising that it would provide the adult version of the mindfuck experience I had felt with I Am The Cheese. Same sense of discomfort, he said. Same paranoia. Same need to question everything. He was right and to this day The Bridge remains one of my favorutie books. As soon as I had finished it I hunted down every other Banks novel I could find. The Wasp Factory, Walking On Glass, The Crow Road, Complicity. Loved them all. I even dabbled in his hard science fiction stuff, with particular props to the awesome Feersum Endjinn. That's not to say there weren't the odd misses too. Espedair Street is embarrassingly bad. Canal Dreams is only average.

Once I had ploughed through them all, I began to anticipate his next release. Which is about when he began to lose it. Whit was quirky but hardly satisfying. Song of Stone promised something of a return to form but didn't quite deliver. Ditto The Business. Then came the book that had to go down as his worst so far - Dead Air - but I forgave him because any number of great novelists were publishing confused crap, trying to grapple with the September 11 attacks. Like any good fanboy, I wrote off the loss and waited once again with baited breath. Five years later The Steep Approach To Garbadale appeared and proved not only unworthy of the wait, but even worse than its predecessor. Wow that book was awful. Transition, released fairly soon afterwards, was slightly better but, after three bad books in a row, I had to concede that Banks might finally have fallen off my DEAR list.

I'm not sure how to feel about Stonemouth. The conditioned response in me is to get excited. The rational reaction is indifference. Perhaps even annoyance. But then I think of Andrew Miller. Having loved his debut Ingenious Pain, I suffered through the next four books and was ready to give up on him when he pulled out last year's magnificent novel Pure. Maybe Banks will work a similar miracle. If Stonemouth turns out to be as awful as I'm expecting I think I will finally have to give up on him altogether. Until the next book, that is. Pavlov's dog folks. Pavlov's dog.


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