Iain Banks, the prolific author of social and science fiction, announced in April that he had inoperable cancer of the gall-bladder and less than a year to live. He began as he meant to end - with high courage, spare language and light badinage: "I've asked my partner Adele if she will do me the honour of becoming my widow." I came to Banks' oeuvre late, on the recommendation of The Boy and haven't gotten half way through yet. He wrote in two separate voices. "Iain Banks" for his earthbound stories about dark families and young heroes. The covers of these paperbacks are austerely black and white. "Iain M. Banks" is used for his 'science' fiction including a multology about the utopian galactic elite The Culture who have solved the quotidian problems (sickness, rage, jealousy, mortality, gender) that consume and eventually kill us. They then have to decide how to live. These books, more essentially optimistic, have brightly colored covers. Last year when I was largely idle and had unlimited access to Ireland's only copyright library, I resolved that I would read all of these The Culture books chronologically. I hadn't knocked off more than two when I started at The Institute and was for months far too busy to read a cornflake packet let alone a rake of books.
So I will now have to complete my reading assignment with a heavier heart but a lighter reading list because there's only one book left unpublished. I really liked The Business, Inversions, Walking on Glass and Espedair Street but your mileage will certainly vary. I can't put it better than Neil Gaiman who ended his blogobituary of his friend "If you've never read any of his books, read one of his books. Then read
another. Even the bad ones were good, and the good ones were
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