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A Song Of Stone

3.15  ·  Rating Details ·  3,433 Ratings  ·  177 Reviews
The war is ending. For the castle and its occupants the troubles are just beginning. Armed gangs roam a lawless land, and taking to the roads seems safer than remaining in the ancient keep. But the captain of an outlaw band has other ideas.
Paperback, 280 pages
Published 2003 by Abacus (first published 1997)
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Nov 22, 2008 Manny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A few months ago, I recall there was a discussion in some comment thread about who might be the most unpleasant character in any good mainstream novel. I'm pretty sure that the top contenders were Humbert Humbert from Lolita and John Self from Money.

I think that the antihero of Song of Stone is also competitive. He's a bit like Humbert; he writes elegantly and well (it's another first-person narrative), and you don't immediately realize just how creepy he is. But you will. You will.
Sep 29, 2016 Bettie☯ marked it as to-read
Description: The war is ending. For the castle and its occupants the troubles are just beginning. Armed gangs roam a lawless land, and taking to the roads seems safer than remaining in the ancient keep. But the captain of an outlaw band has other ideas.

Opening: Winter was always my favourite season. Is this yet winter? I do not know. There is some technical definition, something based on calendars and the position of the sun, but I think one simply becomes aware that the tide of the seasons has
Oct 31, 2010 Colin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A truly execrable novel, as if Banks had wanted to see how unpleasant he could make a novel before forcing the reader to give up on it.

It's by Iain Banks, rather than Iain M., so it's mainstream, despite being set in a near-future setting where Britain has lapsed into anarchy.

Abel and wife/sister Morgan flee their ancestral seat but are captured by bandits who periodically humiliate them. Abel is a pontificating fop with whom it's hard to empathize, but even he doesn't deserve to be hurled down
Sep 12, 2012 Breton rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you're going to read this book, it's best to know that it isn't for everyone.

This is more like a novella or a short story than a novel, and the scope is very narrow, including only a handful of named characters and a setting that hardly spans more than a few miles. It is a post-apocalypse world, but the reason for the apocalypse, nor the state of the rest of civilization are ever even brought up. But that's not what most people might have a problem with.

It's very dark. And by that I mean VE
Feb 09, 2013 Alex rated it really liked it
You'd be lucky to find any other author who would take such a risk as to publish a novel as vague and philosophical as this one, and then throw in the dark themes that emerge towards the end. I won't say much to avoid spoilers, but this is one of those novels where the plot is the least important part: the inner dialogue of our narrator is how we move forward. It goes to some dark places and leaves much unsaid, but Banks' prose is beautifully written and thematically dense in a way that never fe ...more
Oct 06, 2013 Brett rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The other reviews here all cover the plot sufficiently well that I have no need to do the same. What I'd like to add is an opinion on what the message of the story is.

To me, this is a tale about the impermanence, the transient nature of all things. We know that life will end; we never admit that love comes to an end, although we should. But above all, even that which seems permanent and impregnable to us will one day cease to be; indeed, once it never even was. This is the castle. This is the so
Dec 12, 2009 Tracy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: other-fiction
Song of Stones has a rather "literary" feel, in that it is more thematically-centered than plot-driven. The story itself is actually quite simple. In fact, the main tug through the story is provided by unraveling the mysterious relationship between the narrator, his lover, and their castle, which functions almost as a character.

Even if the story were completely lacking, though, the language would be compelling. It is rich, poetic, full of striking imagery and intriguing wordplay. Though there
Jun 02, 2013 Nikki rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary
I don't think I'm gonna try reading much more by Iain Banks minus the M. It's well written (perhaps a little florid, in this one), but it just doesn't appeal to me. There's some crossover, even, but... it's just different. The dark moments in his Culture novels just ring differently to the darkness of these books, for me.

It just didn't feel like a story, to me, just unpleasantness for the sake of it.
Ricardo Sueiras
I had been given this book many Christmas' ago, and had sat on the book gathering dust so a holiday in a stone cottage in Normandy gave me the opportunity to finally read this. I did not know much about this book, but as an avid Banks reader, and having read most of the previous books, I was looking forward to it.

I found the book very easy to read, with Banks usual very descriptive style flowing with the story rather than against it. The book is set during the time of war (civil perhaps, but cer
Simon Mcleish
May 17, 2012 Simon Mcleish rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Originally published on my blog here in September 1999.

A Song of Stone is about the relationships between people and places. It starts with the nobleman Abel fleeing with his mistress and some of the servants from the castle which has been his home all his life, fearing its destruction at the hands of one of the bands of soldiers pillaging the country as a result of the anarchy following civil war. Intercepted in their flight by just such a band, they return to the castle, which the lieutenant a

(3.5 stars)

I read this as a Iain Banks-introductory first course before one day tackling his acclaimed first novel "The Wasp Factory". "A Song of Stone" is the only Banks novel our library offers, so (despite many warnings I've read online saying "'A Song of Stone' should not be the first book you read of Banks' work") I chose this book to get my feet wet.

I think maybe I should've heeded the warnings: this is one exasperating novel. The (somewhat thin) apocalyptic story line is all but drowned o
Jun 21, 2013 Dark-Draco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Able takes his partner, Morgan, and their posessions, away from the castle that has been his family's home for generations. They flee into a country torn apart by war, but are caught by the Lietenant and her gang of men. Recognised as the Castle's keepers, they are dragged back and made to participate in the random destruction of their home. Able feels that he should be doing more and uses small things to get his revenge, but all to no avail. Eventually, the war comes to them and he is faced wit ...more
Aug 18, 2014 Alun rated it really liked it
Oh so stylish. How I will miss Iain Banks, one of our greatest, most original and most readable authors.

Song of Stone is another great story, told from the perspective of a man who seems so tolerant and yet in the end, he fails himself because he is, like Banks other characters, flawed and human. I loved the other characters in the tale. Once again, like The Wasp Factory, there is an element of unrestrained, amoral behaviours that we all yearn to be able to indulge. In this case, war allows for
Apr 20, 2012 Jonfaith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My wife read all of the Hitchhikers series by Douglas Adams recently. Afterwards she swallowed Ian McEwan's Cement Garden in practically a single gulp; during her inhalation, she noted, Douglas is a hoot but this - the McEwan - is writing. Likewise my speculative meanders and flanks have been engaging, but Banks can speak of the dystopic with true panache.

There are pervasive odors of Hamlet throughout this powerful fable. Incest and Madness share equal billing as a measure of preamble until all
Nov 21, 2011 Ken rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Abel is the narrator, slightly unreliable, arrogant, and fairly untrustworthy. However, he wasn't interesting enough for me to pay close attention to his story.
Banks has delivered a well written novel, yet I was never enthralled, and I lost interest before the denouement, and skimmed to the end. The plot and the setting were more intriguing than the clever deceptions which Abel was spouting.
Although, I still like Bank's writing(THE WASP FACTORY is a minor classic), I would not recommend this nov
Jul 17, 2011 Hannah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Not sure what to think about this one. It felt very allegorical, and yet I don't know what the allegory is about. It also felt unduly misogynistic--just because you have a flawed narrator, doesn't mean I want to slog through that shit.
Vitaly Dubrovner
Jul 09, 2013 Vitaly Dubrovner rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Ужасная мрачная книга. Не понял, зачем она вообще была написана. И не понял, зачем я её читал.
Kazzy  Stallwood
Apr 27, 2012 Kazzy Stallwood rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: snoozefest
Yawn. Soo boring and tedious. Not impressed.
El Zippo
Aug 11, 2016 El Zippo rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: other
Μείον ένα αστέρι λόγω των αντιπαθεστατων εκδόσεων Οξύ.
Feb 13, 2009 Mari rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: I really don't know
Recommended to Mari by: Don Jones
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Karen Oliffe
Feb 06, 2017 Karen Oliffe rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't get this book at all and gave up after a few chapters. I couldn't place it in time or in any context, and it didn't capture my interest in any way.
Nardinold Traminstrov
Nov 29, 2009 Mandy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2006
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Julie Ashmore
Eloquently disturbing.
Ben Ballin
An intriguing read. There is always something that sticks in your mind with an Iain Banks book, no matter how flawed: a disturbing thought that gnaws away.
In some ways, this is a return to the terrain of 'Canal Dreams' - though more ambitious and less of a genre exercise. Terrible things befall the central protagonist, piling on until the need to act and react becomes almost inevitable. Banks was a laureate of human suffering, and this time it is the turn of Abel, the laird of a Scottish castle
Apr 13, 2013 Jan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british-irish
Má prvotní zkušenost se vyznačovala nemalým nadšením. Velkorysý fikční svět neomezující se nějakým konkrétním časoprostorem, přesto příběh sevřený několika málo dny a vpodstatě jen jedním místem - opuštěným a přesto podivně (násilně) navráceným. Silný poetický jazyk, netradiční perspektiva vypravěče promluvajícího ke své pasivní a mlčící ženě. Přesný smysl pro detaily od pochroumaných pitoreskních starožitností po bojové taktické operace. Retrospektivy nasáklé ponurou erotickou nostalgií. Existe ...more
Christine Mizzi
Nov 17, 2013 Christine Mizzi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Iain Banks' wordsmithing, including the subject matters he chooses, astound me every time. None of my expectations fall short when I open a book written by Banks.

In this book he writes about war where the narrator is not your likely destitute refugee. Rather, he lived with his lover in a castle together with servants and lush possessions. The lover and the reader become one, as Banks takes initiative of merging them without your consent. Thus he shows you who's boss in this world where man can
Mike Franklin
How can such a dark story be written with such hauntingly beautiful poetic prose? This is a dark book, possibly the darkest I have read from Banks, possibly even darker than the Wasp Factory; it is pure tragedy from start to finish and yet it undoubtedly contains the most lyrically poetic writing I have read from Banks. Possibly it is that juxtaposition of brutality of action with beauty of writing that makes this book so striking.

Set in an unnamed country in an undescribed conflict, it could be
Sally Melia
Feb 28, 2014 Sally Melia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Song of Stone is Iain Banks 9th novel published in 1997, but he had already written another 8 Science Fiction novels under the name Iain M Banks, so a consistent output of almost two book a year at least over ten years.

As with most of the non-Science Fiction this book is fairly political in tone, and I read it the year of its publication in paperback. It was clear to all that this novel was speaking of the unimaginable brutality and horror which was the Bosnian war of 1992-1995. Due a split
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 Althea Ann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Set in a contemporary (or recent-past), vaguely Eastern European country, torn by civil (?) war, this is an insular, even claustrophobic tale which mixes philosophy and perversion.
(In it's non-specificity, it almost feels like a fantasy setting, but there are no supernatural elements in the book.)
Stylistically and even thematically, it reminded me very strongly of Hermann Hesse - but much, much nastier. The writing is also, however, just full of hilariously clever, witty turns of phrase.
The book
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Iain Banks / Iain...: A Song of Stone 1 6 Aug 14, 2012 12:59AM  
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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...

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“...and I confess that, like a child, I cry. Ah, self-pity; I think we are at our most honest and sincere when we feel sorry for ourselves.” 9 likes
“Bright morning comes; the bloody-fingered dawn with zealous light sets seas of air ablaze and bends to earth another false beginning. My eyes open like cornflowers, stick, crusted with their own stale dew, then take that light.” 4 likes
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