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The Bridge

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  6,862 ratings  ·  204 reviews
A darkly brilliant novel of self-discovery the cutting edge of experimental fiction. It leads from nowhere to nowhere, the mysterious world-spanning structure on which everyone seems to live. Rescued from the sea, devoid of personality or memory, all John Orr knows is the Bridge, his persistent dreams of war, and his desire for Chief Engineer Arrol's provocative daughter, ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published July 5th 2001 by Little, Brown (first published 1986)
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Community Reviews

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Con Banks se cumple una máxima: nunca escribe dos veces la misma historia. Y esto no es nada sencillo, ya que en un momento u otro todos los escritores caen en el autoplagio.

La historia es apasionante. John Orr, nuestro protagonista, vive en una ciudad que no es tal. Se trata de un puente de unas dimensiones enormes en el que hay trenes, tranvías, ciudades, aviones que sobrevuelan el puente sin razón aparente, dirigibles... y todo dentro del puente. John sufre amnesia y visita periódicamente la
I love bridges, I spent much of my childhood designing them and building models. I love pictures and photographs of, and books about bridges, and I love the engineering aspects. I sit on bridges, under bridges, and looking at bridges, and feel complete. I love the Forth Bridge in Scotland, from when I first saw it on The 39 Steps (Hitchcock) to when my Dad took me up there when I was 10. And I like Iain Banks who was brought up on the Fife side of the Forth Bridge. So when I read this knockout f ...more
Considering my affection for Banks, it's remarkable how this book was about as enjoyable as a two-by-four across the forehead. I found it tedious and depressing.
Leo Robertson
What the hell this is so boring and aimless, and just not very well crafted either. I have to return to Murakami's rule from 1Q84: if the reader hasn't seen something before, you should take extra time to describe it.

And I knew it. I knew if I even caught a sniff of criticism of this book they would call it 'Kafka-esque', everyone's favourite shorthand for weird and depressing*. People praise Murakami for his true understanding of Kafka, and I have to praise him too because I don't get Kafka, bu
Nick Wellings
Hypnagogic, mesmerising, hallucinatory: the melding of the real with the vanished, the imaginary, the may-never-have-been. A bridge becomes the whole architectonic world of a mind, and vice versa. As experiment in stretching a formal conceit to an aesthetic project, Bank's saran-wrap of metal over narrative succeeds grandly.

In the Bridge, the usual Banksian tropes plonk into Being: the requisite names which suggest familiarity but which maintain an air of oddity serve only to estrange, to make t
A fantastic experience that's clearly a dream yet the story is reminiscent of everything we all have to deal with in the real world every day.

A dream that's clearly the real world yet the story is too lovely to be real, and too painful not to be.

Dreams that are dreams within dreams that may hold meaning but it's hidden from me.

Read it. You may regret it. But you won't forget it.
Feb 02, 2014 Alan rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Cineastes
Recommended to Alan by: Alternative work
"Just one more thing." I nod at the bodies littering the ground like fallen leaves. "What happened here? What happened to all these people?"
He shrugs. "They didn't listen to their dreams," he says, then turns back to his task.
Like skywriting in Braille... the late Iain Banks' early novel The Bridge is hard to get a grip on. The comparisons that spring to my mind are mostly cinematic... think David Lynch's Mulholland Drive, or perhaps Adrian Lyne's Jacob's Ladder.

Feverish and multilaye
I wasn't sure whether I enjoyed this book, or whether I got anything out of it. I had high expectations, because I usually enjoy Iain Banks' books and find them thought provoking.

This one is rather Kafkaesque, though without the overlong sentences of the real Kafka. This is not an action-packed book. In fact the whole plot can be described in about half a page of A4. It's rather a study of the relationship between dreams and reality, and about the fragility of cause and effect.

The central theme
Shawn Davies
This is the one that the literary circles like to applaud, the one that Melvyn Bragg spent half of a South Bank Show special talking about, at the expense of Iain M Banks obviously! Yet this is the book which perhaps melds the two Iains together the best, the contemporary chronicler of Scotland and the foibles and machinations of modern protagonists from Complicity to the Crowd Road, with the wild imagination and sex and gore and shock of the Culture novels.

Here is a mans life, lived and loved i
This is, first and foremost, a love story. As a confessed Romantic, this is my favorite Iain M. Banks book. But it is much more than a love story, even if it is one that resonates very powerfully on me. It is also a vision on the wonders and depths of human fantasy, and how everyone of us holds the potential for wonder. In a way it is Whitman's quote given form:

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

And I love Bridges, and have a special spot
When I first read The Bridge in my late teens, it had a huge impact on me. I'd never really read anything quite like it before: the blending of social realism and the science-fiction/fantasy world of 'The Bridge' itself. Returning to it nearly twenty years later, I found it an enjoyable enough read, but couldn't help noticing its flaws. It isn't either quite as original or as clever as I had remembered it.

At the risk of a very minor spoiler (I think it's reasonably apparent to anyone who reads t

I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone who expects to find meaning, connection or even a direct plot. Except for what is obvious, there is not much going for the book, plot-wise. Man goes into coma. Man must come out of it. Everything else, in between, is engaging, yet deeply un-meaningful. People who want to analyse and interpret the world of dreams might just have a field day with this book. But someone more astute to practical reasoning might just not be. There is nothing - I feel - deeply
Reading this book is a difficult but worthy enterprise. In many ways this has to be Banks' best non-SF effort though there are elements of his SF writing here. It's set in two planes of existence and that's very hard to get off the ground but the rich detail, the worrying quality of the story and indeed the worries of the main character himself become our own. Good. Trippy. And the Forth Rail Bridge is such a rocking piece of architecture it deserved this immortalization in fiction.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
While I was burying myself in this book, I was vacillating between 4 and 3 STARS. Every chapter left me to twist in the wind.


Iain Banks is immortal for how he begins his novel just the like of his famous one, THE CROW ROAD. In THE BRIDGE, I liked its opening, describing the bridge with beautiful sentences- something savory, something musical to my ears when I read it aloud, something that is imagined in awe.

"The road cleared the cutting through the hills. He could see South Queensferry,
This review contains a mild spoiler. I don't know if you can call it a spoiler, because the Amazon book description as well as the Publishers Weekly review both give it away. I think that's a crying shame, although it's not really a spoiler that would take a lot of brain cells to figure out on your own. Anyway, I wouldn't mention it in my review if it weren't a key reason why I disliked the novel. Are you ready? Here it is:

It's all a dream.

Sigh. This book was written 25 years ago, but even then
Having read The Wasp Factory and Against a Dark Background I expected a lot from this book that had been sitting on my shelf for somewhere around 10 years. In someways I was disappointed but it was still a fairly enjoyable experience.

The sections on the bridge reminded me a lot of Kafka's The Castle but better. The modern sections bored me (as most non-fantastic fiction does - with Philip Roth being the exception). The dreams were very cool, especially the trip to hell. Without the dreams the bo
Aug 31, 2010 Stevelvis rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Banks fans
Recommended to Stevelvis by: Iain M. Banks
The first half of this book was a good 4-5 stars as the strange surroundings, characters and events were weaving into a mysterious dystopic surreality. Half way through as the weave tightens the mystery and strangeness slowly fades into a reflection of everyday reality and a sort of biography of a Scots life through the 1970s-1980s.

I've already read all of Mr. Banks' more challenging novels of science fiction, all of which I've greatly enjoyed. The author has said that this is his favorite book
Lisabet Sarai
Surrealistic, disturbing and funny by turns, The Bridge offers a window into the wandering mind of a man lying in a coma after a car accident. The scenes in the first half of the book, set in the world of the endless Bridge, read like some steampunk vision, but as the book continues it becomes a bit incoherent. I had the feeling I missed some important allusions. Why, for instance, are the sections of the book titled based on geological epochs?

If you enjoy works brimming with dark imagination, g
Gregor Xane
Mostly very good. The problem I had with it was that there were several chapters told from a barbarian's veiwpoint and these pieces were all written in thick dialect. This slowed down the pace of the book to a crawl. (The only way he could have made it less enjoyable would be to have the dialect printed in italics.) I skipped every one of these chapters after slogging through the first and felt like I missed very little. There were some great set pieces and inventions in this book and it had som ...more
Roz Morris
One of my perennial favourites. I love the parallel world of the bridge and the way its details are seeded from the hero's life. Unfortunately there's a rough patch with some barbarians - why do most alternate-headworld novels seem to have a tedious section with a barbarian? The real-world strand hasn't stayed with me as much as the imaginative bravado of the bridge world, perhaps because I didn't have the feeling that the character had anything major to address. But I reread every few years for ...more
When I read Iain banks travel book about his journey around the whisky distilleries he referenced this book and also in his culture show interview just before he died. Whilst I didn't get on with the one sci fi 'Iain M Banks' book of his I have read I have always enjoyed the few of his Iain Banks books I've picked up including the wonderful 'Crow Road' (and has there been a better tv adaptation of a book), the exceedingly black but brilliant 'The Wasp Factory', and recently I enjoyed 'Stonemouth ...more
Simon Fletcher
A book that's taken me quite literally 25 years to read.
I have been a fan of Banks' writing since his first book The Wasp Factory and have had The Bridge on my book shelf ever since it came out in paperback. I have never been able to read it though. I have started it a least a dozen times but never got further than the second chapter. Now having finally read it I can't seem to see why I had such a problem with it.
The story revolves around a John Orr, a man in a coma who weaves together the vari
Probably Banks' most accomplished book. It's about a chap in a coma reassessing his hedonistic life. Does the whole dual narrative thing where there's a realist strand telling you about his life, and a fantasy strand about this funny wee bridge world. As a Fifer in Edinburgh, I like the fact that it's all set around the Forth Bridges.
This book is... complex. Bits are amazing. Bits are boring. Bits are downright curious. The eventual fate of Prometheus enlightens.

I think I've been permanently put off this sort of storytelling by Philip K. Dick, though, and while it was still good I'd probably have enjoyed it more as several entirely separate tales.
Kathryn Born
In writing the novel, one of my editors made this required reading. It took two years to get to it, but this is my kind of novel. They're on this vast bridge and there is no world they can find, outside of the bridge. The main character is a guy with amnesia who is making up crazy dreams for his therapist, etc.
Overall I found this book confusing and hard to understand at times, especially the occassional chapter written in Scottish dialect. However, it did all became clear within the last 50 pages of the book. Wouldn't necessarily read Iain Banks again, perhaps Iain M. Banks for his sci-fi collection.
Curly Sue
Jun 19, 2015 Curly Sue is currently reading it
just a few pages in and I already know this is going to be an amazing book. I can't tell you how good it is to find a book in the horror/thriller genre that uses words beyond the common grade-school drivel so easily within reach.

Yes, the writing is a bit more complex than the conventional works littered before us, but this does nothing to take away from the gravity of the story and its character - it, in fact, enhances them in every way!

take this excerpt: "In some strange inversion of physiology

I've read it twice now and found it better the second time around. Knowing the outcome and looking for the reasons behind his life on the bridge made it even more interesting and there are some clever images and thoughts in he book. I recommend it.

Banks apparently thinks this is his best novel, and I agree. A very fine interleaving of dream and reality, without making the connections overly clear. Kafka meets the Wizard of Oz.
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Iain Banks / Iain...: The Bridge 3 35 Jun 28, 2013 04:15AM  
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This author also published science fiction under the pseudonym Iain M. Banks.

Banks's father was an officer in the Admiralty and his mother was once a professional ice skater. Iain Banks was educated at the University of Stirling where he studied English Literature, Philosophy and Psychology. He moved to London and lived in the south of England until 1988 when he returned to Scotland, living in Edi
More about Iain Banks...
The Wasp Factory The Crow Road Complicity Whit Espedair Street

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“I think the easiest people to fool are ourselves. Fooling ourselves may even be a necessary precondition for fooling others.” 15 likes
“It was as if some magnetic repulsion, which before had kept our two carriages from meeting and passing, had now been reversed, and so sucked me inexorably forward, drawing me towards something my heart made clear I feared - or should fear - utterly, in the way some people are fatally attracted towards an abyss while standing on its very edge.” 2 likes
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