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Thread: Stomemouth review

  1. #1
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    Default Stomemouth review

    My Stonemouth review:

    Stonemouth kicks off in grim style with a bridge and thoughts about suicide. Stewart Gilmore (don't call him Stewie) is back to attend a friends funeral, after being run out of town some years previously. The novel is set over the weekend of his return and we gradually get a picture of the things that happened in the past leading up to Stewarts less than triumphant home coming. Stonemouth (the place) is run primarily by two small time gangsters, to whom the police turn a blind eye as long as they keep things in order. It was to one of these, big fish in a small pond, that Stewart fell foul of & it's this relationship that leads to the main tension throughout the book.

    Whilst the story is set in the present day, much of the book is carried along with flashback scenes which - whilst mostly entertaining within themselves & could almost be looked at as separate short stories - often don't seem all that relevant to that "main" story of Stewarts return. This made the book seem somewhat lacking for a central plot, with the whole "back for the funeral" thing coming over as a bit thin to me.

    There seem to be more contemporary references sprinkled through the story than I can recall from Iain's other works. Much of the conversations during the story are written using Scottish phonetic speech, which could make it hard going for anyone not too clued up on strong Scottish accents. I found the advice Stewart was given for a long and happy marriage particularly amusing.

    I shan't give anything away here, but don't expect it to be a mind blower. In the end it's all a bit too nice, sure there is a bubbling sense of threat just under the surface but it never really rises. When the big climax finally arrives, it perhaps seems all the more dramatic because of this, but even then we are left with few repercussions. The novel is well written, of course (& I learned two new words: Sommelier and Unctuous), but it seems that Iain is just treading water here before the next "M" novel. Whilst Transition was a nice break from the more recent norm, I wonder if Iain will ever stop writing the non"M"s?
    "Just have fun"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Deep Black View Post
    My Stonemouth review:
    Much of the conversations during the story are written using Scottish phonetic speech, which could make it hard going for anyone not too clued up on strong Scottish accents.
    Feersum Endjin style then
    I want to be Cultured

  3. #3
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    He he, not quite to that level, but I can see that may have been where Iain got the idea for Feersum
    "Just have fun"

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    Why not come and ask him about this at the event he's doing at Lochgelly Centre on the 21st June?

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    Hi there YMelville.

    I'm off to see him in Nottingham on 26th April.

    Tell us about the Lochgelly event here:
    http://www.iainbanksforum.net/forumd...ks-Appearances
    "Just have fun"

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Deep Black View Post
    My Stonemouth review:

    I shan't give anything away here, but don't expect it to be a mind blower. In the end it's all a bit too nice, sure there is a bubbling sense of threat just under the surface but it never really rises.
    I've just finished the book and the phrase "just a bit too nice" hits the spot. I kept on thinking that there would be twists and revelations and plotting behing the main narrative, but nothing (on a quick first read) came to light.

    All this middle class witty banter stuff is entertaining enough, but it feels these days like he's just scripting pub conversations and pasting them into whatever book he's writing. They add a good timey feel to the books but don't really take the plot anywhere. He should maybe just sit in a pub with Brookmyre and put the results on youtube, or put a bletherblog on to this website.

    Anyway, a good read, well written but a shockingly rose-tinted view of the good denizens of Peterburgh (or is it Fraserhead).

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by santaci View Post
    He should maybe just sit in a pub with Brookmyre and put the results on youtube, or put a bletherblog on to this website.
    I would love to see the results of a Brookmyre/Banks pub visit. I think Deep Black's review is dead on. In parts it's really dark, but the ending feels like something is missing.

    Thoroughly enjoyed it anyway. Iain has a way of writing that makes it all too easy to spend an entire day stuck in a book.

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    I think Deep Black's review is dead on
    Why thank you ***Smug mode***

    Come & tell us a bit about yourself:
    http://www.iainbanksforum.net/showth...uot-Hello-quot
    Last edited by Deep Black; 04-04-2012 at 07:15 PM.
    "Just have fun"

  10. #10
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    It's good to have another Iain Banks book in the form of Stonemouth, but my reaction is very much modified rapture. Having read The Crow Road for the 3rd time recently, I can't see that there's a similar depth in Stonemouth that would become apparent on a re-read. I suppose I prefer the complexity of his earlier books, and miss the "What the hell is going on here?" reaction I got in the past - this one is disappointingly straightfoward in comparison. The inclusion of a prominent local gangster family seems to take us into Ian Rankin territory at times ("Compare and contrast the influence of R L Stevenson on the novels of Ian Rankin and Iain Banks"), but it does more-or-less tick a lot of the familiar Banks boxes:

    * Semi-fictional Scottish location - Yep, with a blend of bits that seem vaguely familiar, like Tentsmuir forest/beach, though not in quite the same spots as in our universe.

    * Eccentric extended Scottish family - Not really, as Gilmore's family is disappointingly ordinary with nothing of of the father-son clash that enlivens The Crow Road; the Murstons come closer to the mark but they're not so much eccentric as deranged.

    * Horrific incident in childhood played in flashback - Yep, there's one of these but it seems a bit detached from the rest of the plot as the Ancraimes don't re-appear in the present-day narrative. Maybe we're supposed to see parallels between the flashback and the event near the end of the book (I'm trying not to give the plot away).

    * Guilt about a stupid / cowardly mistake in the past - Yes, lots of guilt, though on the scale of the crimes carried out by some of the characters in other books by Banks, the social faux pas committed in Stonemouth is a pretty low level one.

    * Funerals and weddings - Both.

    * Entertaining rants about religion - Yes, and it's hard not to suspect that the views attributed to Gilmore (e.g. about life-after-death) are pretty close to the author's own.

    The confrontational scene in the pool hall I particularly enjoyed - it's like something out of a Western (What's the Scottish equivalent of a Spaghetti Western?). There's a lot of rather wishy-washy stuff along the lines of "I don't know what my feelings are" towards the end of the book that seem more like Rosie M. Banks than Iain Banks. You can't imagine Horza and friends being that slushy.

    Don't be put off by the comments about bits of Scots dialect. They're very easy compared to the monologues of the Rab C Nesbitt character in The Bridge.
    Last edited by RobD; 14-04-2012 at 12:03 PM.
    Why don't you go away and read some books?

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