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The Quarry

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Kit doesn’t know who his mother is. What he does know, however, is that his father, Guy, is dying of cancer.

Feeling his death is imminent, Guy gathers around him his oldest friends – or at least the friends with the most to lose by his death.

Paul – the rising star in the Labour party who dreads the day a tape they all made at university might come to light; Alison and Robbie, corporate bunnies whose relationship is daily more fractious; Pris and Haze, once an item, now estranged, and finally Hol – friend, mentor, former lover and the only one who seemed to care.

But what will happen to Kit when Guy is gone? And why isn’t Kit’s mother in the picture? As the friends reunite for Guy’s last days, old jealousies, affairs and lies come to light as Kit watches on.

336 pages, Kindle Edition

First published June 20, 2013

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About the author

Iain Banks

30 books4,106 followers
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 Edinburgh and then Fife.

Banks met his wife Annie in London, before the release of his first book. They married in Hawaii in 1982. However, he announced in early 2007 that, after 25 years together, they had separated. He lived most recently in North Queensferry, a town on the north side of the Firth of Forth near the Forth Bridge and the Forth Road Bridge.

As with his friend Ken MacLeod (another Scottish writer of technical and social science fiction) a strong awareness of left-wing history shows in his writings. The argument that an economy of abundance renders anarchy and adhocracy viable (or even inevitable) attracts many as an interesting potential experiment, were it ever to become testable. He was a signatory to the Declaration of Calton Hill, which calls for Scottish independence.

In late 2004, Banks was a prominent member of a group of British politicians and media figures who campaigned to have Prime Minister Tony Blair impeached following the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In protest he cut up his passport and posted it to 10 Downing Street. In an interview in Socialist Review he claimed he did this after he "abandoned the idea of crashing my Land Rover through the gates of Fife dockyard, after spotting the guys armed with machine guns." He related his concerns about the invasion of Iraq in his book Raw Spirit, and the principal protagonist (Alban McGill) in the novel The Steep Approach to Garbadale confronts another character with arguments in a similar vein.

Interviewed on Mark Lawson's BBC Four series, first broadcast in the UK on 14 November 2006, Banks explained why his novels are published under two different names. His parents wished to name him Iain Menzies Banks but his father made a mistake when registering the birth and he was officially registered as Iain Banks. Despite this he continued to use his unofficial middle name and it was as Iain M. Banks that he submitted The Wasp Factory for publication. However, his editor asked if he would mind dropping the 'M' as it appeared "too fussy". The editor was also concerned about possible confusion with Rosie M. Banks, a minor character in some of P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves novels who is a romantic novelist. After his first three mainstream novels his publishers agreed to publish his first SF novel, Consider Phlebas. To distinguish between the mainstream and SF novels, Banks suggested the return of the 'M', although at one stage he considered John B. Macallan as his SF pseudonym, the name deriving from his favourite whiskies: Johnnie Walker Black Label and The Macallan single malt.

His latest book was a science fiction (SF) novel in the Culture series, called The Hydrogen Sonata, published in 2012.

Author Iain M. Banks revealed in April 2013 that he had late-stage cancer. He died the following June.

The Scottish writer posted a message on his official website saying his next novel The Quarry, due to be published later this year*, would be his last.

* The Quarry was published in June 2013.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 551 reviews
Profile Image for Baba.
3,503 reviews726 followers
July 12, 2021
Kit is an 18 year-old genius of sorts, he's also pretty pedantic, ultra-self analytical, as he has some sort of unnamed Asperger's like condition; and his dad, Guy, is dying as he wages a long, seemingly losing fight against cancer. Guy has never revealed to Kit who his mother was, or is! Knowing the end is not to far away, Guy invited his University clique, from over two decades earlier, for a weekend visit as a sort of farewell. Interesting, unorthodox and possible unreliable narrator Kit recounts the events of the long weekend. Kit, an eclectic group of people, who only really have their past in common, a dying man, and a quarry a few metres away from their residence.

I found this an endearing and almost intimate read, built around the clashing of the past and the present; the dreams of youth and the realities of adulthood; the unrelenting speed of progress especially in the 20th and 21st centuries. With Kit as narrator we do end up not really getting under the skin of the rest of the cast, which is a bit of shame as they are definitely integral to the story, and hearing their inner voices might have made this a more compelling, dare I say, more interesting tale! But he dialogue, of conversations in group scenarios is spot-on and a huge lesson to the many writers who fail to catch the timbre of group convos as well as Banks does.

This was Iain Banks' last published book before his untimely passing; a book with obvious biographical elements connected to the Cancerous demise of his own father. A book that I felt was made up of waves, an initial wave that looks at the world from the Asperger type Kit's view; a wave that looks at the reality of their adult world in relation and comparison to the decadence, passion and flightiness of their shared pasts; a wave of looking at how we treat and relate to the dying; and the wave that mattered most to me... that overall looks at how generational change waits for no-one, and that what may have been extremely important in your youth, might not be that relevant as progress rolls over it! 7.5 out of 12.
Profile Image for Reading Corner.
88 reviews104 followers
April 8, 2017
This book was such a disappointment, I've only read one other of Iain Bank's book which was The Wasp Factory which I thought was fantastic but this one is depressingly boring.This book took me ages to read due to my lack of time but even when I had the time it was almost painful picking it back up.I really regret wasting my time trying to enjoy this book when I should have gave up on it ages ago.

The plot is so simplistic and just incredibly boring, barely anything happens.I found all the characters difficult to connect with and I didn't care for any of them.However, Guy relentlessly annoyed me with his constant whining and moaning .Personally, I recommend staying far away from this book.
Profile Image for Ann Rawson.
Author 4 books22 followers
June 25, 2013
"I hate the thought of the world and all the people in it just going merrily on without me after I'm gone. How fucking dare they?"

So speaks Guy, the character in the centre of Banks' last novel, who is dying of cancer. According to his last interview in the Guardian, Banks discovered that he was dying of cancer about ninety percent of the way into the first draft, and poured his initial rage into some of Guy's words. But we also have the much more humane words from Banks writing as himself, when he told us all that he was dying. So it is important to distinguish between the writer and the character.

Several critics have dismissed the novel as slight, or trivial. I think that's only possible in the context of the rest of Banks' work, because he was such a brilliant writer. As well as the mainstream novels - Complicity, The Crow Road, and perhaps his finest novel, Transition, there were also the amazing Culture novels.

This is a novel about life and death, and I think it is anything but trivial - I suspect some of the discomfort it raises is because of its honesty. The narrator, Guy's son Kit, is painfully and dispassionately honest; we soon gather he is a teenager with Asperger's. It's a device that allows Banks to look at the whole business of life and death without flinching. So we see the physical indignities as well as the emotional maelstrom in which everyone including the dying man, all his friends, and his son are shown to be mostly selfish.

So the novel covers a weekend where Guy's oldest friends, the ones he was closest to at University, visit with Guy and Kit in their home, a crumbling wreck near the edge of the Quarry of the title. They were film students, and in the past they made a series of short films - and Banks has great creative fun with the titles. So the McGuffin that drives the plot is that they want to get their hands on one of these films, that may cause problems if it turns up after Guy's death. The search for this film, and the twist when it finally shows up, shows us a lot about loyalty and betrayal, and the nature of friendship itself.

So the novel is about life, as well as death. As an example, Kit notices that some traffic jams are purely random in origin. That one driver changing lanes unexpectedly can alter the flow and cause chaos in his wake, often without noticing the effect his action has had on the people behind him. Kit points out that is a metaphor for life in general -"trivial actions leading to proliferating consequences that can affect hundreds of others, but which we never know about."

There are some wonderful rants too. There's a fair bit of politics. One quote I just love - "I'm not arguing that there are no decent people in the Tory Party," Hol says to Paul, "But they're like bits of sweetcorn in a turd ; technically they have kept their integrity, but they are still embedded in shit."

Another diatribe takes on the cult of positivity - and the whole narrative of the brave battle against cancer. Perhaps best of all there's Guy's rant about the world he won't be sad to leave behind.

"I shall consider myself well rid of this island's pathetic, grovelling population of celebrity-obsessed, superficiality fixated wankers. I shall not miss the institutionalised servility that is the worship of the royals - that bunch of useless, vapid, anti-intellectual pillocks - or the cringing respect accorded to the shitting out of value-bereft Ruritanian "honours" by the government of the fucking day, or the hounding of the poor and disabled and the cossetting of the rich and privileged, or the imperially deluded belief that what we really need is a brace of aircraft-free aircraft carriers and upgraded nuclear weapons we're never going to fucking use and which would condemn us forever in the eyes of the world if we ever fucking did. Not that we can, anyway, because we can't fire the fucking things unless the American let us.

I shall not have to witness the downing or the starvation through mass migration of the destitute of Bangladesh or anywhere else low lying and impoverished, or listen to another fuckwit climate change denier claiming that it's all just part of some natural cycle, or down to sun spots, or watch as our kleptocrat-captured government find new excuses not to shut down tax havens, or tax the rich such that the fuckers actually have to pay more than they themselves or their lickspittle beancounters deem appropriate.
And I shall not miss being part of a species lamentably ready to resort to torture, rape and mass murder just because some other poor fucker or fuckers is or are slightly different from those intent upon doing such harm, be it because they happen to worship a very slightly different set of superstitious idiocies, possess skin occupying a non-identical position on a Pantone racial colour wheel, or had the fucking temerity to pop out of a womb on the other side of a river, ocean, mountain range, other major geographical feature, or indeed just a straight line drawn across the desert by some bored and ignorant bureaucrat umpteen thousand miles away and a century ago.

None of those things shall I miss. Frankly it's a relief to be getting shot of the necessity of watching such bollocks play out. I would still rather have the choice, mark you, but as that would appear to be denied me, I am making the best of a bad job and looking on the bright side. I shall be free at last, of that nagging, persistent sensation that I am, for the most part, surrounded by fucking idiots."

However much this wasn't Banks' own voice, I was left feeling that on June 9th, our collective intelligence plummeted. I'm sad this was the last of his novels; but happy that he left such a legacy.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Barry Cunningham.
Author 1 book179 followers
July 17, 2019
One of his best 'serious' novels (as opposed to Sci-Fi, which I love even more) sadly it was his last , I think, taken from us at the age of 59 after losing his battle with cancer. Again he has a book that successfully delves into the minds and behaviours of a range of central characters. A masterpiece of observation and the written word. I love his books, every single one of them. This is no less wonderful.
Profile Image for Andrew Smith.
1,016 reviews551 followers
November 25, 2014
I'd been hanging on to this novel as, like everyone, I was shocked by the author's recent death, following a short illness. I knew that the book dealt with the death of one of the characters under spookily similar circumstances to that of Banks himself and I wanted a decent interval to pass before I felt comfortable picking this one up. I've loved several of his books, including Dead Air which is one of my all time favourites. But I just couldn't warm to this at all. It felt like a growing group of awful relatives had gathered at house of the dying man to bicker, moan and generally demonstrate how thoroughly unpleasant they were. The conversations were neither interesting or funny. Nor did they seem to be leading to anywhere. I gave up fairly early on. This isn't the way I want to remember the work of Iain Banks!
Profile Image for Liviu.
2,228 reviews625 followers
July 23, 2014
last Iain Banks novel; while not really a fan of his "mainstream" novels, this one is a must read for obvious reasons and starts actually quite engaging and interesting and promises a lot

a little bit to my surprise I found myself getting back to The Quarry and finally reading it twice as it is a seemingly quiet book that really grows on you

while in his last poignant interview - http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/... - Mr. Banks said that were he to know about the cancer, he would have tried to end with a bang with a big Culture novel (and he mentioned Transition - rightly so imho - as his last really complex novel), The Quarry is a wonderful novel who cannot but resonate both through its subject ( coincidentally, narrator Kit's father, Guy, is dying of cancer in his early 40's, though he has known about it for a while now) and through the main hero, the 18 year old, 1.93 m and 100 kilos, almost autistic/genius, Kit for whom 'real life" is a chore to get by, while his true life is the online Hero Space where he is a famous player

taking care of his dying father on whose doorstep was dumped as a newborn, while Guy coming back drunk from pub thought the warm package was takeout he forgot he ordered, so took it to the kitchen where he discovered the baby, hence the name Kitchener he gave to him (later Kit started looking like Guy and then they even had a DNA test proving that he is the father, though Guy always refused to tell who the mother is, embroidering stories about this or that woman from his college years), Kit "presides' over a sort of last weekend reunion with the college gang who shared the big and now quite dilapidated house slated to be bought and demolished by the expanding nearby Quarry of the title, with Guy in college.

A motley cast of whom Hol(ly), the London left wing film reviewer has been almost like a mother for Kit, is the clear lead, though the rest - Paul, corporate layer and MP candidate, Rob and Ali(son) "dot-com" bunnies aka power couple, Pris(cilla), now running an nonprofit and having successive younger, less educated but athletic boyfriends, while her former partner Haze (nicknamed for his deep fondness for drugs of course) still pines for her and kind of drifts through life...

While the ostensible motive is to see Guy one last time together, the real motive is finding a tape who may ruin careers if it is made public by chance after Guy dies - in college they all led wild lives, switched partners often and the tape is rumored to be a collective orgy with all starring...

On the hand Kit is fishing for clues about his mother - strangely all three of the girls (Hol, Pris and Ali) went abroad or in secluded place for about a year or so exactly when Kit was conceived and returned sometime after Kit was left on Guy's doorstep - though with his total social inadequacy, he is far from subtle...

Very engaging stuff - especially due to Kit's voice - and a book that really surprised me. It has moments of humor, moments of sadness, lots of dialogue that is sparkling on the page and very memorable characters.

Here is the first page which already hooked me on the novel:

"Most people are insecure, and with good reason. Not me.
This is probably because I’ve had to think about who I am and who I’m not, which is something your average person generally doesn’t have to do. Your average person has a pair of parents, or at least a mother, or at least knows roughly where they fit into all that family business in a way that I, for better or worse, don’t. Usually I think it’s for the better, though sometimes not.
Also, it helps that I am very clever, if challenged in other ways. Challenged in this context means that I am weird, strange, odd, socially disabled, forever looking at things from an unusual angle, or however you want to put it.
Most things, I’ve come to understand, fit into some sort of spectrum. The descriptions of myself fit into a spectrum that stretches from ‘highly gifted’ at one end to ‘nutter’ at the other, both of which I am comfortable with. One comes from understanding and respect, while the other comes from ignorance and fear. Mrs Willoughby explained the thinking behind both terms. Well, she explained the thinking behind the latter term, the offensive, deliberately hurtful term; the thinking behind the former, respectful judgement seemed perfectly clear and valid to me. (She got that wincing expression on her face when I mentioned this, but didn’t say anything. Hol was more direct.)
‘But I am clever.’
‘I know. It’s not the being clever that’s the problem, Kit. It’s the telling people.’
‘So I ought to lie?’
‘You ought to be less… determined to tell people how clever you are. How much more clever you are than they are.’
‘Even if it’s true?’
‘Especially then.’
‘Plus, you’re missing something.’
I felt myself rock back in my seat. ‘Really?’
‘Yes. There are different types of cleverness.’
‘Hmm,’ I said, which is what I’ve learned to say rather than the things I used to say, like, No there aren’t, or, Are you sure? – in what was, apparently, a sarcastic tone."
Profile Image for Steven Naude.
34 reviews3 followers
July 22, 2013
This was my first Banks encounter and I was expecting a lot and had no knowledge of any of this previous work. It reminded me of one of those 1950s American plays of great intensity by Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller or Eugene O'Neill - a family gathers in one room and over the space of two hours they haul out the dark secrets and through tears, cursing, accusations and several litres of alcohol they leave relationships in tatters and the mother in tears. Banks does the modern version - something like "Peter's Friends" but instead of Aids being the elephant in the room the father of the central character is dying of cancer. Through the familiar haze of alcohol, drugs and sharp tongues the groups of his university friends who have gathered to say goodbye tear through each other's reputations. Told by his son who suffers from Aspergers, the book builds up to a climax that never materialises and then fades into nothingness. I suspect that the dying man's rant echoes Banks's own cry of anger and frustration at his unfortunate disease. He does not manage to recreate the dramatic intensity of the American playwrights and his plot is shallow and rather pointless.
Profile Image for Abigail.
303 reviews15 followers
August 28, 2013
So loved this last book. Kit reminded me a little of Frankie from The Wasp Factory and the relationship between the other characters of The Crow Road.
The reader can almost hear the author's own thoughts via Guy and his comedic rants about life and death. Loved it. The world is a lesser place without you Mr Banks.
Profile Image for Psychophant.
468 reviews19 followers
July 6, 2013
It is impossible to dissociate the book from what happened to Banks himself. How can you, when the narrator's father is dying from runaway cancer, and a good part of the book is getting to term with it, as well as various rants and lists of best things... As such I suppose it may be some kind of last words, though clearly fixed in the present days. As such it is a book firmly set in 2012-2013, set against the author's death in June 2013, of runaway cancer.

As usual the characters are well drawn and compelling, even the less likeable. The descriptions are vivid and terse, showing an author at the top of his craft. The only narrative gimmick lies on the narrator himself, a "special" boy, a functional autist with some similitudes to the narrator of the Wasp Factory, though probably showing what would have happened if he was loved and socialized... In a way it closes a narrative circle.

Some moments are moving, but I cannot be sure they are not due to the parallels with Banks' own situation. Supposedly it was written before he knew about his own condition, but I suspect some parts were revised afterwards. Just my own impression.

What made the book less compelling was the obvious similitude to the film Peter's Friends, even if moved twenty years forward. Not that I do not enjoy the film, it just detracts from the book. As well the resolution of the not one but two McGuffins are a bit hurried and unsatisfactory, and though that may be the moral of the story, it does not make for a fulfilling book.

I really wanted to like it, and I liked it a lot at some points. But other parts are just meh, and the whole suffers because of it.
Profile Image for Nicole.
21 reviews
June 21, 2013
I wanted to give The Quarry 5 stars. Not least because it's Iain Banks' last novel. But it's not a 5 star book. It's a very good 4 star book with the best rant about modern life ever. RIP Mr Banks.
Profile Image for Beatrix.
55 reviews6 followers
February 10, 2014
I had no idea what to expect from this book so I thought I'll be open to whatever it brings me. What I did not expect were meaningless dialogues, characters who are but a bunch of loosers who have nothing of interest to share with me, no plot whatsoever, and no surprises/twists/plot turns or whatever.

There were a couple of characters I thought I might like to follow along. Kit, a young man with a dying father and a mother he never met, does sound interesting. And his dying father could be a source for some interesting lines, too. But even their development didn't go anywhere either. Kit is just a young man, slightly autistic. who struggles along and will make his way eventually. He'll make it, but don't expect any big leaps. His father is just bitter and cursing his way through the book to the impending funeral.

The visiting friends are chatting away ... dribble and no more. None of them very likable.

Everyone is looking for a mysterious video tape. And when it's finally found (sorry mini spoiler), the reveal is rather anti-climatic.

I read to the bitter end in the hopes that something might come out of it. But I guess in a sense this book is just way too close to someone's really boring life to be able to interest me as a book: you live, you die, you have some good, some not so good friends, most days nothing of importance is said or happens. The end.

Profile Image for Lisa Kennedy.
7 reviews1 follower
July 6, 2013
I am a massive Iain Banks fan, however I was very disappointed with his final novel. I really did want to like it, but the characters are unlikeable, the plot is weak and there isn't much insight or depth into the main protagonist/narrator when there was scope for some. I was also dismayed at the amount of political/social/cultural comments which serve only as an aggressive rant from the cancer-stricken character Guy. I know that Bank's politics sat in left, and there is definitely a lot of his own ideals played out in this character.

At the end of the day, the novel is not what it shaped up to be and I can't pretend to like it all because a writer I admire is no longer with us. There is no hint of poignancy in this novel, and I believe this could have been Banks intention.

However I will greatly miss him, and encourage readers to explore his other works which are truly reflective of this man's great gift.
Profile Image for Jonfaith.
1,821 reviews1,321 followers
May 25, 2019
I have good memories of reading Iain Banks. It struck me emotionally when i learned of his illness, and then his death. This was on a clearance shelf a few days ago in a shop in Belgrade, so I grabbed it.

I read it feeling conflicted.

It is a familiar theme, university friends gathering for dying friend: how many films have been devoted to this taking stock of one's life--surrounded by those so dear at such an exciting time? Banks uses a protagonist with Asperger's to avoid the pitfalls of grief. There’s also the benefit of the protagonist employing precise language to describe the slow death of his father. His characters rant and acquiesce. The novel ends with two people staring into "a big fucking hole." It wasn't entirely literary but it did feel appropriate at a time I've been coming to for almost twenty years.
Profile Image for Anna.
208 reviews
March 17, 2019
EDIT: I've just slapped another star on because I've read so much shit in the last year, it has put things back into perspective for me.
It pains me to give the late, great Iain Banks' last novel only two stars but the fact of the matter is: it is an inherently tedious piece about navelgazing, disappointed Guardian readers in their 40s, doing some inherently tedious intense navelgazing and being disappointed, prompted by one of them dying. Kit, the 18 year-old narrating son of the dying man who has Apergers or some such is the cookie cutter version of a mildly autistic person, with the most redeeming feature of the book being that he is allowed sexuality and sexual urges. I really wanted to like this but just didn't. Sad.
Profile Image for Ryandake.
404 reviews51 followers
August 12, 2013
i'm a forever fan of Banks' Culture novels, but i always feel like i'm missing something in his literary fiction.

this novel concerns a group of friends who, years after having been university roommates, gather at the house of one of the group who is dying.

the story is told from the point of view of Kit, the quite oddball son of the dying man. Kit is a wonderful character--definitely weird, but entirely harmless. you gotta love his quirks, though, and his obsessions with things like needing to know exactly how tall people are.

but the thing i don't get is how the adults in the room talk to each other. they are junkyard-dog mean, according to my estimation. forever ripping each other up, insulting each other. Guy, the dying man, is the worst of all, particularly in his relationship to his son.

i don't know whether i as a reader am supposed to understand that they're really ok people and that this is just their way of expressing their undiminished admiration for each other, or what. maybe they're just mostly nasty people and Banks is trying really hard to show us what they are, warts and hand cannons and all? i can find only one of the friends and Kit to be imperfect but still likeable people.

in any event, it is beautifully written. each of these characters' insecurities and foibles and what hides under the veneer is perfectly exposed, in elegantly simple and highly crafted prose. the book could easily be a master class in showing, no telling, and yet still conveying the depth and complexity of your average human heart.

i shall sincerely miss Banks' writing. he was a pro.
Profile Image for Gary.
327 reviews5 followers
August 7, 2014
I'm a big fan and was very sorry to see Mr Banks's light go out so early in his life. His last book is just like the dust jacket probably says - poignant, thought provoking and funny - you may not recognise all the characters from your own experiences but you may reflect on one or two similar ones that have crossed your path in earlier days - I know I did. It's a book about people and relationships - no spoilers - but it superbly captures the best and the worst aspects of University and later life friendships. I couldn't put it down....
Profile Image for Steven Palmer.
9 reviews2 followers
July 19, 2013
I would have loved to give this 5 stars, especially given the poignant time of its publication. But it just falls short of some of his previous works though we have to remember that Iain was working to deadlines he had no control over.
The theme itself is a well worn one; a group of friends gather together over a weekend a couple of decades after they all met at university. However, Banks gives it one of his usual dark twists and has the leader of the little group in the last throes of terminal cancer (more poignancy given Banks's own condition at the time). Throw into the mix his autistic spectrum son who seems more at home in the virtual world than the real one, and a group of under and over achieving dysfunctional friends, and you have all the ingredients for a Banks novel. Added to this is a desperate search for a missing video tape and the mystery (to the son and to the reader) of what might be on it that could threaten careers, and you have a fast paced read that takes the reader on a journey of regrets, recriminations and often bitter observations from the dying man.
As always, Banks's use of language is exemplary, from his sarcastic take on modern internet speak to a passage where he lets fly at all that is rotten in the UK (and this passage should become the most quoted part of The Quarry)
A fantastic journey through a multitude of emotions which sadly, for me, petered out a little in the last section. But still a great read and a fitting epitaph to one of the greatest writers of the modern era.
Profile Image for Ian Banks.
717 reviews2 followers
August 9, 2015
This is like an updated version of The Big Chill or Peter's Friends, in which a group of university friends descend upon the house of a contemporary, sharing all their old and new baggage and changed lives only to discover that their host is dying.

Being a Banks novel, of course, there is a lot more swearing, drugtaking, sex and talk about pop culture, music and politics. Banks usually has a character in each novel he uses as a mouthpiece for his own particular lefty views. At last, tragically, it feels as though these diatribes (that I agree with, just for the record) grow organically from the characters and situations rather than being forced in as a comment from the authorial voice.

The main character here is Kit, the high-functioning autistic son of Guy, the terminally-ill character. He tells the events of the weekend-long party. Kit has no knowledge of who is mother is. He thinks that one of his father's friends may have dropped him off as a newborn on his father's doorstep but he can't be sure. But he's not the only one looking for things this weekend: the entire crew of friends are searching for a tape containing a compromising film they all made while at university. Some have become quite successful in their lives so if it turns up it could be quite embarrassing for them...

This is a great read. It's filled with Banks's trademark wit and gift for imagery as well as more than the usual quota of eyewatering puns. There is the usual cast of vivid characters and situations which carry the story along merrily until you get to the ending.

But I had a few problems with the ending of this book: the story of Kit's mother is not resolved entirely to my satisfaction (poor me); nor are the events of weekend resolved through more than a brief epilogue which almost-but-not-quite spins the reader a "where are they now" scenario.

Thinking on it, though, I seem to have had a problem with the endings of Mr Banks's last few novels. The ride on the way is almost always fantastic but the endings are a letdown, often too fast or and unbelievable.

Which leads to the elephant in the review, namely the fact that this is Mr Banks's last novel due to his untimely death a month ago, which came without much warning after a career of a certain amount of unbelievability itself. And as a reader I am annoyed because it seemed that in the last few years he was entering a new phase of creativity with his writing after a few meagre offerings.

But as a way to end a career, this isn't a bad way to go out.

(This review also appears on my blog: http://stuffianlikes.aussieblogs.com....)

**2015 re-read perspective: I enjoyed this a lot more this time around. It was laugh-out-loud funny and there were bits that I read out to anyone who was near - including a very bored dog - because it is that good. Here endeth the re-read. **
Profile Image for John Braine.
358 reviews38 followers
August 11, 2013
I'm still astonished and saddened that Banksy has been lost to cancer, and so quickly. And that his final book, published days after his death features a man dying of cancer, who bears little resemblance to how Banksy dealt with his terrible news.


I enjoyed all the nods to the Wasp Factory, which adds a symmetry to Bankies' career. Of course, if you're going to remind people of the Wasp Factory (best book ever), the comparison is all too likely to fall short. Particularly as I found the ending of The Quarry to be a bit of a wet blanket compared to The WP. Although the video tape was clearly a MacGuffin from the start, I expected it's discovery to be a bit more exciting.

All that aside I quite enjoyed The Quarry. I enjoyed having Kitt as a narrator, even though narrators with Asperger syndrome almost seems trendy these days. And I enjoyed listening to the squabbling friends whose lives and careers have pushed them further apart. And I enjoyed the cantankerous old dad. Banksie was always at his best when he had some cantankerous old fart to channel his rage at all that is wrong with the world.

So long dear Banksy.
Profile Image for Kats.
663 reviews39 followers
August 31, 2013
Quintessentially (Northern) English, this reminds me of the film "Peter's Friends" but set in a less posh circle up North. Our narrator is 18 year old Kit (socially awkward, or perhaps someone 'on the spectrum') whose father, Guy, is dying of cancer and has arranged a final hurrah with his close pals from Uni days. They are spending a long week-end together, and the entire book is set over the course of these 2-3 days.

It's mostly dialogues and diatribes (courtesy of the angry and resentful dying father) and spot on with regard to the "lost generation" who graduated in the mid 90s, and twenty years later find themselves not only disillusioned with adult life but also more morally corrupt than they'd like to admit.

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Richard.
422 reviews5 followers
February 19, 2021
I loved this. Given added poignancy as Iain Banks was dying when he wrote it. The Quarry describes a weekend where old University friends come to see their old housemate, Guy who is dying of cancer. Guy lives with his son, Kit who is the story's narrator. Kit is a great character, navigating the childishness of the supposed adults, their drinking and drug taking and hangups with beautiful aplomb.

A sad and life affirming book by a sadly missed writer.
Profile Image for Roimata Macgregor.
3 reviews2 followers
September 17, 2013
Loved this book so much, it was sad and funny and even more poignant because, of course, Iain Banks was dying as he was writing it. He sounded pretty pissed off and who can blame him. He certainly did not go out quietly, he raged into the dying of the light alright.
Profile Image for Mike Steven.
421 reviews4 followers
April 7, 2020
After finishing my degree a long time ago, I went through a bit of a Iain Banks phase after a friend had recommended "The Wasp Factory". I even read a lot of his Sci-Fi stuff as Iain M Banks which is a genre I rarely bother with. Eventually I moved on, but I still have a tendency to pick up Iain Banks books I haven't read if I see them reduced or second hand.

There's lots to like about "The Quarry". The narrator, 18 year old Kit, is somewhere on the autistic spectrum which is always interesting as it provides a more unusual voice and allows the narrator to be slightly detached emotionally whilst being involved in the narrative.

The story focuses around Kit and his single-father Guy, who is terminally ill. Additionally, they are facing their home being under a compulsory purchase order for demolition by the neighboring quarry. Prior to Guy's death and the destruction of the house, Guy's university friends all meet up to reminisce, indulge in drugs and alcohol and search for a lost tape that would embarrass them all.

It's well written and easy to read with a couple of surprises along the way. Not his best work, but if you're around my age and have experienced university reunions, then it's very easy to relate to.

(It also left me feeling like I'd enjoy a university reunion when we're finally allowed out of the house again.)
Profile Image for Lee Osborne.
307 reviews4 followers
June 10, 2022
I've become a big fan of Iain Banks since rather belatedly discovering his work. This, of course, was his final novel, written while he was ill, and it makes it particularly poignant - the plot concerns a man, Guy, dying of cancer, and his friends gathering around him in his final days. It's set in a big, rambling old house, and is narrated by Kit, Guy's eighteen-year-old autistic son.

It's a slow burn in which old hopes, dreams, tensions and jealousies pour out. Nothing much actually happens as such, but Kit muses upon the eccentric mixture of people his father shared his life with at university twenty years earlier, and the observations and commentary in the book are fantastic. Kit is a very well-written autistic character, far better than the one in "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time", which seemed like a really shallow stereotype to me. This really did show the thought processes of someone aware of being different, and trying to deal with it as best he can, in difficult circumstances. Kit doesn't know who his mother is, and has a very complicated relationship with his dying father.

The strength of this book is the relationships between Guy's friends, and the way they gradually crumble as the story goes on, with everyone's lives panning out differently to the way they'd hoped and dreamed of when they were younger. Banks was always very good at writing about the influence of technology in an age of rapid change, and he's on top of his game here, especially with Alison and Rob's banal corporate bullshit-speak.

It all wraps up nicely with a moving and satisfyingly open ending, which answers some questions and leaves a few unresolved, with a lot of possibilities. Aware that I was reading Banks' final published words, I found the ending a particularly emotional experience, the final gift of a great writer taken from us too soon.

I still have a few of his books left to read, though, so I look forward to reading them soon. He really was a superb author.
Profile Image for Tarryn.
17 reviews13 followers
May 10, 2021
I didn't hate this book, but it definitely was not my favourite. One of the characters really irked me a lot and just wanted to tell her to get over herself and shut up! I did enjoy that the main character Kit (I did think it was ridiculous that this is short for kitchener) I also think that the scenario of a dying father and having the son have to be his carer is quite relatable so I enjoyed that aspect. I did not enjoy however that the whole book his cancer and the pills he takes are described and talked about a lot and then all of a sudden the death is added as an after thought within the last like 5 pages. There wasn't really any development of characters either.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
116 reviews
May 10, 2020
Great to find an Iain Banks book I hadn’t read. Not the most complex of story lines but well written and kept me interested.
Profile Image for Simon Mcleish.
Author 3 books118 followers
October 17, 2014
This review first appeared on my blog here.

It felt like a significant, sad, occasion when I started to read The Quarry. This is the last time I will be able to read a book by one of my favourite authors for the first time, and it is a book which is infused with the news of his final illness and death in 2013, even though the similarities between the terminal cancer of the major character of Guy and the sudden final illness of his creator are apparently accidental, the book being written before Banks' own diagnosis. The awareness of this makes it tempting to either write about how it feels when a cultural figure of importance in your life dies, or to give the book a good review whether or not it deserves it, more a tribute to the person than an honest look at the quality of this particular work (as happened with Double Fantasy, the album which was released almost coinciding with John Lennon's murder, leading to the retraction of at least one prominent poor notice). I might give in to the first temptation a little (you may notice that in fact I already have), but I will definitely try to avoid the second: I hope that this will be an honest account of what I thought of The Quarry.

The first thing which strikes a reader of The Quarry is the narrative voice. The story is told by Kit, who is Guy's son. That there is something unusual about Kit is immediately obvious - he is autistic, basically, and thus his world view is pervaded by the way his mind works (for instance, the importance of the number of steps taken on the journeys he regularly makes on foot). It immediately reminded me, for obvious reasons, of Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which is narrated in a similar fashion. Another, perhaps more apposite, comparison would be with William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, because the use of a narrator with an unusual way of looking at the world becomes of importance. How the reader feels about Kit's narration will effectively colour their response to the book as a whole.

The plot revolves about the resolution of three questions of importance to Kit and the group of Guy's friends who make up most of the rest of the characters. First, who was Kit's mother? Second, what will happen to him when Guy dies? And third, what has happened to the missing video - one of a series of parodies made by Guy's friends while reading film studies, this particular one has content which is potentially very embarrassing to some of the participants, and they are reluctant to explain why. The story is about these questions to the extent that the answers will pretty much determine the level of satisfaction that a reader feels at the end.

While making the reader wait to find out the answer to these questions (unless they skip to the end), Guy and his friends reminisce, take drugs, argue and rant about the state of the world. I found the rants in particular a little wearing on the patience - Guy's in particular being more similar to those of Ken Nott in Dead Air than perhaps is good for the individuality of the character. Some readers may find the pretty constant bad language hard to take, though Banks is probably not a writer you will read for very long if you are offended by swearing.

The static nature of the setting - almost all of The Quarry is set in a couple of rooms in a single house in a small town - and the nature of the plot - lots of lengthy discussions which go nowhere - makes for a less than engaging read in comparison to some of the more accessible Banks novels which precede it (for instance, Espedair Street, The Crow Road or The Business). Neither does the use of Kit as a narrator match up to the more extreme experimentation of Banks' early career (Walking on Glass, The Bridgee, etc). It's still enjoyable, just not great by Banks' standards.
Profile Image for Bree.
262 reviews42 followers
September 12, 2020
Is there anything more exquisite than a book where nothing happens and yet you stay up until 2am to finish it? Extra points for it being a story with a neurodivergent protagonist where his way of thinking and functioning is totally incidental to the plot. I found Kit’s perspective to be really refreshing and it was a pleasure to accompany him throughout the events of the book.
Profile Image for Gordon.
251 reviews1 follower
July 24, 2013
There is difficulty in writing this review and rating this book given the circumstances of Iain Banks (aka Iain M. Banks) recent passing. So let's play it straight.

It's better than Stonemouth which I rated a 4, but it's not amazing (goodreads "5") so we land soundly in middle 4 (Stonemouth being the bottom of a 4, The Hydrogen Sonata being towards the top of 4, go visit The Player of Games, The Wasp Factory, Consider Phlebas, Use of Weapons, Excession, Look to Windward for 5's).

As Banks said in his final interview (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/...

"let's face it; in the end the real best way to sign off would have been with a great big rollicking Culture novel."

And we don't have it, and that is where Banks shines.

We have a contemporary (but not embarrassingly so much as The Business) novel in the vein of Stonemouth. Those iPhone references will age the book badly although I have never seen as many uses of the word "gilet" in my life and that anachronism will stick with me.

The Quarry is told from the perspective of Kit, who is the outsider looking in on a "Peter's Friends" (with cancer, not AIDS) weekend get together. There is no shocking revelation (see The Crow Road) although there is development of the players. The main character Kit is reminiscent of The Wasp Factory's protagonist and has the same feeling of reality dislocation (also evident in Whit). In the end though this is a slice-of-time-in-an-unusual-and-final-situation story executed with flair and reads quickly, cleanly and appeals to gen-Xers who need to listen to 90's music (i.e. me). Good, solid, not a bad finale.

'Well, Kit,' Hol says, giving the chain-link fence a rattle just for the hell of it, then dusting her hands off, 'in the end we're just standing here looking into a big fucking hole in the ground.'
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