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A Song of Stone


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* Paperback reissue of 'an apocalyptic masterpiece', Iain Banks' A SONG OF STONE * 'His boldest and most ambitious experiment with fiction since THE BRIDGE' - TIME OUT

About the Author

Iain Banks came to widespread and controversial public notice with the publication of his first novel, THE WASP FACTORY, in 1984. He gained enormous popular and critical acclaim for both his mainstream and his science fiction novels. Iain Banks died in June 2013.


"This could be any place or time," observes the narrator of this near-future fable, summing up the universality of its antiwar sentiments. Although vague in the details of geography and history, Banks's latest U.S. release (after Excession) is sharp and perceptive in its philosophical exploration of the dehumanizing potential of armed conflict. Set in a Brechtian landscape of revolution and depleted resources, it follows the tribulations of Abel, an aristocrat forced to billet Lieutenant Lute and her guerrilla army in his castle. Initially, the two treat each other with a strained civility that allows Abel to gloat secretly at the profane hordes who "commonise... what should be free from vulgar threat." As the battle draws threateningly nearer, the pretense of mutual respect dissolves and Abel finds the increasingly barbaric behavior of his captors resonating with a savagery in his own soul. Like J.G. Ballard and Anthony Burgess, Banks is a visionary whose depictions of the strange forms morality, politics and social relationships assume under the pressure of extreme circumstances fall almost by default into the realm of science fiction and horror. His impeccable prose undulates with a poetry and sensuality that transform the most ordinary movements of his tale into resonant images of beauty and terror. In less skilled hands, Abel's reluctant acknowledgment of his class's complicity in the despoliation of the country might have been just another war-is-hell story. Banks makes it the fulcrum of an emotionally intense odyssey of self-revelation. (Sept.) FYI: Simon & Schuster will simultaneously reissue Banks's first novel, The Wasp Factory (1984), in trade paper.

In an unidentified land somewhere in Europe, in the midst of an unidentified but very bloody war, a lord and lady attempt to flee their castle but are turned back by a woman lieutenant and her band of soldiers, who take refuge in the castle and make playthings of their unwilling hosts. Bombardments rain down on the castle, an old servant dies of shock, and soon the soldiers take their vengeance on the castle inmates. The images here are astonishingly grim and forceful: crucified orphans; a ludicrous hunting trip forced on the lord by the lieutenant; soldiers wrecking the castle and then tossing the bound lord into a well, where they urinate on him; the lord placing the bloodied head of the near-dead lieutenant on a millstone; the lady thrown from the parapet, one ankle bound, and drowned in the moat. But grim images aren't enough to make a story, and the lack of details‘where are we, who are these people, and why are they fighting?‘work against the novel's success. We cannot be drawn in as the lord grimly recounts both past and present in a near-monotone, and just when we should be looking, aghast, trying to fathom human nature, we turn our heads. Worthy but nearly unbearable to read, never mind that it was a best seller in Britain. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/98.]‘Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"

His satire is exquisitely poised, his storytelling gripping. INDEPENDENT Entertaining...comically inspired. GUARDIAN A phenomenon! WILLIAM GIBSON An apocalyptic masterpiece FINANCIAL TIMES

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