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A Song Of Stone
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A Song Of Stone

3.13 of 5 stars 3.13  ·  rating details  ·  2,852 ratings  ·  147 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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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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.

(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
Simon Mcleish
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
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
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
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
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
Joey Brockert
I was lost reading this story – there was no place or time given, nor any reason for the fighting. They were using horse drawn carts, but had access to gasoline driven vehicles; he was Lord of the Manor with peasants and servants, yet they were using guns and cannons. This ambiguity did not bother my enjoyment of the story.
The story is strictly told from the Lord's point of view, him memories and understanding of what all is going on, and he is strictly telling it to his wife. He was not conce
Ed Martin
I'd been intrigued by the premise of this book for some time, but wasn't prepared for what I'd find within. As others have noted, this is definitely a very dark book - comparisons with McCarthy's "The Road" are very apt. That said, while both books are described as "post-apocalyptic", the particular forms this takes are rather different in each.

The setting is an unspecified country in the midst of a long and bitter (most likely civil, though no background is ever given) war. The narrator is the
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
Rosemarie Short
Iain Banks has always had a particular brand of fiction. His books do not shy away from the grotesque and the disturbing, embracing the harsh reality of life and unbalanced nature of humanity wholeheartedly. A Song of Stone runs in that same vein. A male protagonist (though in Banks novels protagonist does not always mean good guy) who is clearly a little mentally disturbed, a little depraved and yet, nevertheless, is our guide. His relationship differs with the accepted social norm, he lies dow ...more
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.
This is my first Iain Banks novel. It is dark, deeply philosophical and addresses the baser aspects of human nature. It gets under the skin and Banks dares to speak the unspeakable which has a disturbing after taste. This book is not everyone's cup of tea. His lyrical prose, some sentences demanding a second or third read in order to digest the subtle message are delightful. A second read may be necessary to catch the subtleties and hooks that are interwoven, this is one of the few books I have ...more
Teena Evans
I think this is a very well written book. His use of the english language is phenomenal. Although, sometimes very difficult to read for me with words I didn't understand. (and sometimes googled!)

It was all very vague. The story didn't progress much. Even at the end, we didn't find out what the war was over.

I felt that it really lacked in the gruesome department. Iain tried to push the boundaries with some dark moments, but they weren't anything to rave about.

The main character was a little lac
With great apologies to Mitch Hendrickson, who has one of the best ear for good books of anyone I know, I nearly hated this book. I'm not sure what attraction the English have for apocalypse, but this book is all over the idea. It's Mad Max on the grounds of a rehabbed country castle. Add to apocalypse an annoying vagueness of place and time and an unspoken but obviously implied sibling love affair underneath everything else that happened in the book and, if it weren't for being stuck on airplan ...more
Kazzy  Stallwood
Yawn. Soo boring and tedious. Not impressed.
I liked the book, the writing was wonderful, although the style of the writing threw me, it did add something to the book. But, while I enjoyed the book, I didn't exactly love it, and I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would.

One of the things that through me was that the castle and setting has this old gothic feel to it, but technologies including cars, trucks and modern guns have a big presence in the book. Even with conflicting pieces of the setting, the author made it work, and I reall
Sally Ann Melia
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
A song of stone is extremely dark. Abel is the epitome of the Banks protagonist/narrator; unpleasant, unreliable, controlling. While his recollections of his relationship with (half-sister?) Morgan are consensual, his unreliability and her silence suggest something altogether less savoury: in many ways Morgan seems to loom over his fate in echoes of her Arthurian namesake, although ultimately her fate is tied more closely to that of the lieutenant.

Loot is the only character that comes through wi
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Nov 09, 2009 Mari rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: I really don't know
Recommended to Mari by: Don Jones
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Christine Mizzi
I continue to discover Iain Banks's work as I progress in my life journey. The versatility he applies on the subject matters he chooses, and the way he works with them and around astounds me every time. None of my expectations fall short when I open a book written by Banks.

In this book he writes about war, which happens to be a likely circumstantial co-incidence in my case, at a time when I was doing background reading on human rights for an essay, and when the issue of illegal immigrants has n
Althea Ann
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.
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Iain Banks / Iain...: A Song of Stone 1 5 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...
The Wasp Factory The Crow Road Complicity The Bridge Whit

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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
“Oh dear. I do believe this is self-pity. I am imagining myself dramatically dead, tragically taken from you and even more lamentably forgotten. What dreadful clichés war and social strife reduces us to, and how powerful the effect must be, if even I am so infected. I think I must pull myself together.” 3 likes
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