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?