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The Steep Approach to Garbadale

3.65  ·  Rating Details ·  4,317 Ratings  ·  256 Reviews
Dark family secrets and a long-lost love affair lie at the heart of a fabulous new novel by the author of Matter and The Wasp Factory
 The Wopuld family built its fortune on a board game called Empire!, now a hugely successful computer game. So successful, in fact, that the American Spraint Corp wants to buy the firm out. Young renegade Alban, who has evaded the family clut
Paperback, 390 pages
Published April 1st 2012 by Abacus (Little,Brown) (first published October 1st 2005)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jan 27, 2009 David rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2009
This was basically a considerably inferior version of "The Crow Road".

* Dysfunctional Scottish family, with impossibly large cast of characters, and a healthy dollop of eccentric old folk? Check.
* Some of whom are obscenely rich? Check
* Rich enough to live in a remote, picturesque Scottish castle? Check
* Which the main protagonist will shun for much of the story, as he works through family 'issues'? Check
* Main protagonist is male, single, has issues with family?
* Unrequited infatuation with uns
Ron Henry
May 19, 2008 Ron Henry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a truism that there are two Iain Banks -- Iain the contemporary fiction writer and Iain M. the science fiction writer. But it's also the case that there are two distinct modes of Iain Banks novels -- the grim and nihilistic (Wasp Factory, The Business, Song of Stone, etc.) versus the sweeping Scots epic (Crow Road, Whit, Espadair Street, and now The Steep Approach to Garbadale). I dunno - maybe it's just a matter of comedy versus tragedy (in the classical sense)?

In any case, put Banks' late
Nov 22, 2008 Manny rated it it was ok
I am a huge Iain Banks fan, as you can see from my bookshelf... so this book was seriously disappointing. He's usually so full of energy and wacky ideas, but for once he's on autopilot. As several of the other reviewers point out, he's recycled a lot of material from The Crow Road. Unfortunately, it's in no way an improvement or a further development of those themes.

There is one good sequence - an extended flashback to a tragic affair when he was a teenager - and that's worth reading. The rest
Mar 23, 2009 Veronica rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Well, it's not as bad as the teeth-gnashingly bad Dead Air, but a long way below his best work. One Amazon review even retitled it The Steep Decline Towards Garbage. It revisits a lot of old ground: extensive and eccentric Scottish family ruled by a patriarch (as in both Whit and Complicity), and the growing pains of the usual young male protagonist, torn between two loves (also features in Complicity), what seems now to be an obligatory anti-American rant, as in Dead Air (though it is perfectly ...more
Feb 26, 2011 Vicky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A sprawling family saga set on a picturesque Highland estate, filled with tangled relationships, generational conflicts, unrequited love, and a dark family secret that reverberates through the plot. The central character is Alban, returning to the family fold after several disillusioned years in self-imposed exile, as the clan gather to discuss the future of their investment, a popular board game developed by an ancestor. It's no subtle irony that Empire! is under thread from American capitalism ...more
Dec 12, 2014 Tony rated it liked it
I love Iain Banks, but this did not really strike me as a classic. There were flourishes of excellent writing, but these were not as in evidence as some of his other novels. Maybe it’s just me, I can’t really identify with the super rich. And, the majority of the characters were very affluent. I found the pace of the novel very slow and by the end (which I guessed) I didn’t really give a shit about what happened to any of them. Iain, wherever you are man, sorry but you lost me on this one! Three ...more
Paul Laville
Jan 04, 2015 Paul Laville rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Right through the 1990s Iain Banks, with or without the M, was my number one author - an edgy, blackly humorous writer who wasn't afraid to mess around with his readers' expectations. Banks would offer up, on the one hand, self-assuredly erudite, multi-layered and (dare I say it?) near-literary texts from which could be peeled and revealed the anxieties of the decade; and on the other explosive, politicised rants burning with unbelievable fury. Often the two combined. He was a great storyteller ...more
Mar 12, 2009 Gerund rated it did not like it
Members of a British family that owns and runs a board and computer game empire plan and scheme as they second-guess each others' hands before the extraordinary general meeting where the family decides whether to sell the company to a soulless American conglomerate.

Sounds like a good, meaty novel full of intrigue and strategy, right? Unfortunately, British novelist Iain Banks took his wonderful concept and decided he wanted it to be a love story instead. An unrequited love story. An unrequited l
Jul 21, 2011 Gregory rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
OK, and so this is my review where I reveal that all my ratings are crap. After talking to Ick the last time we got together, we more or less concurred on certain things (kind of in a negative vein) about Simmons (that would be Dan Simmons, by the way), and I'd highly recommended Banks to him as an actual good read (stand by it, absolutely one of my favorite authors). And then, not long after, I noticed how many five star ratings I'd recently given Simmons, but many less to Banks, of whom I'm MU ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 20, 2010 Scott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-fiction
One of my friends dislikes Banks' Dead Air for its perceived rantiness, and in Garbadale he takes Banks to task for "glib bits of politics that come not from the mouths of the characters but feel like the author ranting".

He then quotes one of my fave passages from the book and laments its inclusion.

He's not wrong - the authorial voice does break through sometimes but I like it when that happens. I don't necessarily always want an author to retain a cool distance from his work.

Those of Banks' bo
Feckin' hell, I'm chuffed! Wanted an audiobook to make the tedious work I'm doing more bearable, stumped to the library in search of something that I wouldn't otherwise read (I usually go for trashy beach reads a laBridget Jones or something of that ilk when I'm after a book on tape; don't want to ruin a good read, you know). Saw 'Iain Banks' and confused him with 'Iain M. Banks', figured some space opera would do the trick nicely, but found this hilarious brit-lit romp instead!

J'adore!! I love
Jun 16, 2012 Mandy rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2012
I'm quite disappointed in this book, because I love reading Ian, or Iain Banks. I love the interplay of ideas in his books, the thoughful challenge. This book is about a man, who I think can best be described as an arrogant, self-important, sarcastic little s**t. He takes a walk through memory lane focusing on his lovers, whilst getting very involved in the proposed sale of his family's firm, though peversely professing very little interest in that sale. His Mum killed herself, and he is haunted ...more
Richard Hellen
A holiday impulse buy that i read over a couple of days. I've heard a lot about the author but never read anything by him and chose this one at random...Loved the start, loved the shifts in narrative and the way that the story kicked off. Kind of reminded me of the Crow Road in many ways - young male protagonist, wealthy family and a Scottish Estate - its all there and actually its OK. Banks creates convincing characters here and I felt that they were consistently believable. But somewhere aroun ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Matti Tornio
There's nothing truly wrong with this book, it is simply uninteresting and uninspired. All this has been done better before, including by Banks himself.

None of the characters are likable, the big reveal at the end was not particularly shocking and the book devolves into preaching and ranting on multiple occasions.
Jan 22, 2014 Bachyboy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I almost gave this five as I love this writer and it certainly is a strange and rather glorious novel. Alban is part of a clan who built their fortune on a board game and now the Americans want to buy them out. It is quirky, slips in and out of time periods and would not appeal to everyone!
James Folan
Disappointing. The writing is as good as ever, but the story and characters don't add up to much really.
Andrew McCrae
Feb 17, 2015 Andrew McCrae rated it really liked it
Having read most of Iain Banks's mainstream fiction (though oft a wee bit off-the-wall: The Wasp Factory [1984]; The Bridge [1986], very redolent in its latter third of Titus Alone [1959], Peake's latter third of the Gormenghast trilogy [1946, 50, 59]) - and all of his science fiction - with a great deal of repeated pleasure - I cannie get used to the rather laddish pitch of some of them (Whit [1987]; The Crow Road [1992], a bit; definitely Espedair Street [1987] and later, Stonemouth [2012]). I ...more
Feb 17, 2017 Alan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Tossers and fools
Recommended to Alan by: Other work
The long and lonely road that leads up to the sprawling Scottish estate named Garbadale may very well have a significant incline, but the title of The Steep Approach to Garbadale is really more of a, wossname, metaphor, innit? At any rate, for Alban McGill, wandering scion and dark-grey sheep of the venerable and vastly wealthy Wopuld clan, the steep approach to Garbadale certainly promises to be a most difficult one.

After all, his whole family will be there.

The Wopulds really are incredibly wea
May 14, 2017 Sarahsnl rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
V disappointing stuff, sadly. I'm such a fan of banks, this though, seemed like a poor and pale imitation of Crow Road.

I finished it, just, hoping for some sort of gratification only it didn't come.

It had its moments and some good passages, but largely, this is one I could have done without - it's a shame, as With, Whasp Factory, White Noise and Crow Road are amongst my fav books ever read. Sadly not one for the collection....
Tyler Womack
The Steep Approach to Garbadale is a case where a great writer with an excellent premise makes a terrible book. I picked this novel up after falling in love with Banks' Culture books, which are imaginative, humanist space operas. This is my first foray into Iain Banks' non-SF works, which, by some, are lauded above his speculative fiction novels.

On paper, the Steep Approach to Garbadale has all the makings of a Culture book set in the real-world: It follows Alban, the scion of a the wealthy Wop
Simon Mcleish
Mar 06, 2013 Simon Mcleish rated it liked it
Shelves: owned
Originally published on my blog here in March 2008.

My impression on reading The Steep Approach to Garbadale was that it was more a mixture of elements and ideas from Iain Banks' previous non-Culture novels (that is, those published without a middle initial) than a new story in its own right. The Wopuld family are rich on the back of a Victorian boardgame, now a successful computer game, but they are as dysfunctional as the Simpsons. When the novel opens, the protagonist, Alban, whose mother was
Dec 23, 2008 Andrew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Most people - it's a good read, even though not life-transforming.
Recommended to Andrew by: Newspaper reviews
A book about resistance to change. It starts with everything stuck: the Wopulds still owners of the family board-game business as they have been for a century, Alban still obsessed with his childhood love for his cousin Sophie, still stuck in self-destructive rebellion, and his mother's suicide when he was two years old still a mystery.

As the book progresses, things slowly begin to change, even though most of the characters fight to keep things the way they are. An American company bids to take
William Powell
Garba - dale

Mostly positives here.

It was an audiobook, narrated by the excellent Peter Kenny, which is a good start point. Versatile range of accents, making the characters instantly recognisable, because he's just so consistent.

A nicely convoluted plot around a sprawling wealthy family, the clan Wopuld, complete with black sheep, set against the background of a bid by a US games corporation to buy out the family firm. A powerful (but aging) matriarch, devious and unscrupulous. Skulduggery. Some
Stephen Durrant
Apr 02, 2009 Stephen Durrant rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I continue my foray into modern Scottish literature with Iain Banks' 2007 novel "The Steep Approach to Garbadale." I am ashamed to admit that of the large number of Banks' books, I have only read "Raw Spirit," which I consider the ultimate book about drinking Scotch and driving the narrow roads of Scotland (not to done in that sequence). "The Steep Approach to Garbadale" is both a page-turner and a story of great human richness. This is about a likeable man, Alban Wopuld, and his relationship wi ...more
May 02, 2013 Marius rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of Banks' non sci-fiction books tells a story of a wealthy family. The family's business is a board game called Empire!, but although it has spanned a few generations, it is at the brink of being sold to an American corporation. The younger family members organise a meeting with the family in order to find out whether the family wants to sell the company and if so at what price.

But what seems to be a clear story line is riddled with family affairs. Alban, the protagonist of the story, is ca
Feb 16, 2011 Lloyd rated it liked it
An enjoyable short read, even if it felt as though Banks maybe churned this one out rather quickly. Failed to live up to the heights of The Crow Road for me, but I actually preferred this to The Wasp Factory, the other Banks that I've read. Really enjoyed his portrayal of adolescent yearning and a teenage boy's first heart break.

Also, I thought that the following quotes were worth reproducing. The first comes at a point where Alban, the protaganist, suddenly realises that his corporate job is a
Oct 18, 2010 Chris rated it liked it
So, having read A Song of Stone: A Novel, I am beginning to feel that Banks' recurrent theme of incest is becoming a bit over-played.

This is certainly not Banks' best novel ever. There are redeeming elements - a very pleasing descriptive quality, a certain kind of perspective on adulthood and what one wants and needs from life, and one of the more realistic depictions of family I can recall... however, the novel doesn't seem to accomplish anything. The whole proposal of the novel seems to have b
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Iain Banks / Iain...: The Steep Approach to Garbadale 1 7 Aug 14, 2012 01:02AM  
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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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“What do I really want? he thinks. This is, of course, an extremely good question. It was just such a pity that, life being as it tended to be, it so rarely came as part of a matched pair, with an extremely good answer.” 5 likes
“We got talking about how some people were selfish and some weren’t, and the difference between right-wing people and left-wing people. You said it all came down to imagination. Conversative people don’t usually have very much, so they find it hard to imagine what life is like for people who aren’t just like them. They can only empathise with people just like they are: the same sex, the same age, the same class, the same golf club or nation or race or whatever. Liberals can pretty much empathise with anybody else, no matter how different they are. It’s all to do with imagination, empathy and imagination are almost the same thing, and it’s why artists, creative people, are almost all liberals, left-leaning." a character in The Steep Approach to Garbadale: Iain Banks.” 0 likes
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