Thursday, 8 August 2013

You Are The Quarry.

It was earlier in the year 2013 that the author Ian M Banks let it be known through a statement that he had an inoperable cancer and the chances were not good that he would see out the year. This sadly proved to be true and he passed away on Sunday 9th June. It was such a short time between the wider world becoming aware of the seriousness of his condition, gall bladder cancer, and him succumbing to the disease. I can not imagine how hard this must have been for his loved ones and those close to him. Friday past I finished reading his last completed work The Quarry, released the month of his passing. I did not know what to expect from that book. I Certainly not the smallness of the world it takes place in. The quiet, and at times not so quiet, intimacy of the enclosed world of Willoughtree House, decaying and crumbling, perched on the edge of a quarry readying to swallow it whole. In that house a group of old friends gather about a friend dying of cancer. They are also looking for a mysterious video tape from their shared past that throws a shadow over all their futures. This is not the whole story. This is an Ian Banks novel after all. The dying man Guy and his young son Kit rail against the fate their lives together has brought them to. Their situation feels heart achingly real, like two candle flames flickering in a wind that threatens to extinguish them both.
             I read The Wasp factory ,his first published work so very long ago. Probably around '85 or '86. I remember how even in my know it all youthful arrogance I was a bit taken aback by some of its content. How I was even a little shocked by this artsy looking paperback I picked up in Harry Halls Bookshop in Gresham street. A couple of years later I read Consider Phlebas  for the first time. It sort of became the yardstick by which I measured my enjoyment of epic science fiction writing. You know IT WAS GOOD BUT NOT AS GOOD AS CONSIDER PHLEBAS. That lasted a good wee while. Until I read Use Of Weapons. Which then became my new favorite Ian M Banks. I think I was a shallow reader lacking wider references or sophisticated tastes. I just knew what I liked and The Culture books were so damned good. I even got to meet him a couple of times. At the readings he did at Waterstones Bookshop in Royal Avenue, Belfast. He was very personable and always chose interesting and entertaining excerts to read for the amusement of those attending. This was off course many years before there was even a glimmer of the purple hues of geek chic so the whole evening may have appeared terminally dull to the cooler eye. Yet we were more than happy in the cloistered trappings of the freshly published Banks. We were not friends. I was just a fan who would attend his readings given a chance. Just the Face From Space in the back row looking with utter admiration at this worldly wise whisky lover with a brilliant mind gifted to the world for a short time. All twenty seven of the books he had published in his lifetime are scattered about my house in different places. All of his books are worth seeking out. All of them worth keeping and sharing. The Quarry is a worthy addition to that remarkable body of work. The twenty eighth book is about to join them.
               There will be no more.