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The Bridge

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  10,713 ratings  ·  342 reviews
A darkly brilliant novel of self-discovery the cutting edge of experimental fiction. It leads from nowhere to nowhere, the mysterious world-spanning structure on which everyone seems to live. Rescued from the sea, devoid of personality or memory, all John Orr knows is the Bridge, his persistent dreams of war, and his desire for Chief Engineer Arrol's provocative daughter, ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published July 5th 2001 by Little, Brown (first published 1986)
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Average rating 3.85  · 
Rating details
 ·  10,713 ratings  ·  342 reviews

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Dec 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, favourites
Iain Banks was a genius and The Bridge is one of his greatest works. Few would disagree with the first statement, but some might disagree with the last.

Why? Because this novel utilizes a pretty cheesy central plot device – that the events occurring are the dreams of a man in a coma.

If this puts you off I understand - usually any novel using the 'It was all a dream' premise sounds as appealing to me as Days of our Lives in book form - but trust me: this novel is worth your time. If you can look
Ivana - Diary of Difference
I was watching Grey's Anatomy, Season 13, Episode 4. At 35 minutes in, Owen Hunt was lying in bed and reading a book. I have paused this scene and kept going backwards and forwards - trying to figure out what book he was reading.

And now - half an hour later - here I am, knowing the book and adding it to my TBR pile. I may never get to it, but the satisfaction of actually finding this book is too big!

It makes me realise - we spend so much time choosing books in today's fast world. And sometimes
Feb 06, 2014 rated it it was ok
This review contains a mild spoiler. I don't know if you can call it a spoiler, because the Amazon book description as well as the Publishers Weekly review both give it away. I think that's a crying shame, although it's not really a spoiler that would take a lot of brain cells to figure out on your own. Anyway, I wouldn't mention it in my review if it weren't a key reason why I disliked the novel. Are you ready? Here it is:

It's all a dream.

Sigh. This book was written 25 years ago, but even then
Nov 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
A curious, unsettling and mesmeric journey through the mind of a man lying comatose in hospital after a terrible accident. I was particularly intrigued and amused by the man's dreams within dreams (which at least conceptually brought to mind the film Inception) and the lengths he went to in order to fabricate them to appease his psychologist. There are likely many deeper meanings and allusions at work here, which I think are likely quite personal and only really meaningful to Banks himself. Yet ...more
Ade Bailey
Feb 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I love bridges, I spent much of my childhood designing them and building models. I love pictures and photographs of, and books about bridges, and I love the engineering aspects. I sit on bridges, under bridges, and looking at bridges, and feel complete. I love the Forth Bridge in Scotland, from when I first saw it on The 39 Steps (Hitchcock) to when my Dad took me up there when I was 10. And I like Iain Banks who was brought up on the Fife side of the Forth Bridge. So when I read this knockout f ...more

Banks apparently thinks this is his best novel, and I agree. A very fine interleaving of dream and reality, without making the connections overly clear. Kafka meets the Wizard of Oz.
Leo Robertson
What the hell this is so boring and aimless, and just not very well crafted either. I have to return to Murakami's rule from 1Q84: if the reader hasn't seen something before, you should take extra time to describe it.

And I knew it. I knew if I even caught a sniff of criticism of this book they would call it 'Kafka-esque', everyone's favourite shorthand for weird and depressing*. People praise Murakami for his true understanding of Kafka, and I have to praise him too because I don't get Kafka, bu
Feb 07, 2009 rated it did not like it
Considering my affection for Banks, it's remarkable how this book was about as enjoyable as a two-by-four across the forehead. I found it tedious and depressing. ...more
Jul 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
When I first read The Bridge in my late teens, it had a huge impact on me. I'd never really read anything quite like it before: the blending of social realism and the science-fiction/fantasy world of 'The Bridge' itself. Returning to it nearly twenty years later, I found it an enjoyable enough read, but couldn't help noticing its flaws. It isn't either quite as original or as clever as I had remembered it.

At the risk of a very minor spoiler (I think it's reasonably apparent to anyone who reads t
Nick Wellings
Feb 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Hypnagogic, mesmerising, hallucinatory: the melding of the real with the vanished, the imaginary, the may-never-have-been. A bridge becomes the whole architectonic world of a mind, and vice versa. As experiment in stretching a formal conceit to an aesthetic project, Bank's saran-wrap of metal over narrative succeeds grandly.

In the Bridge, the usual Banksian tropes plonk into Being: the requisite names which suggest familiarity but which maintain an air of oddity serve only to estrange, to make t
Feb 02, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Cineastes
Recommended to Alan by: Alternative work
"Just one more thing." I nod at the bodies littering the ground like fallen leaves. "What happened here? What happened to all these people?"
He shrugs. "They didn't listen to their dreams," he says, then turns back to his task.
Like skywriting in Braille... the late Iain Banks' early novel The Bridge is hard to get a grip on. The comparisons that spring to my mind are mostly cinematic... think David Lynch's Mulholland Drive, or perhaps Adrian Lyne's Jacob's Ladder.

Feverish and multilaye
A fantastic experience that's clearly a dream yet the story is reminiscent of everything we all have to deal with in the real world every day.

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

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

Read it. You may regret it. But you won't forget it.
May 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone who expects to find meaning, connection or even a direct plot. Except for what is obvious, there is not much going for the book, plot-wise. Man goes into coma. Man must come out of it. Everything else, in between, is engaging, yet deeply un-meaningful. People who want to analyse and interpret the world of dreams might just have a field day with this book. But someone more astute to practical reasoning might just not be. There is nothing - I feel - deeply
Shawn Davies
Mar 31, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the one that the literary circles like to applaud, the one that Melvyn Bragg spent half of a South Bank Show special talking about, at the expense of Iain M Banks obviously! Yet this is the book which perhaps melds the two Iains together the best, the contemporary chronicler of Scotland and the foibles and machinations of modern protagonists from Complicity to the Crowd Road, with the wild imagination and sex and gore and shock of the Culture novels.

Here is a mans life, lived and loved i
Feb 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, favorites
This is, first and foremost, a love story. As a confessed Romantic, this is my favorite Iain M. Banks book. But it is much more than a love story, even if it is one that resonates very powerfully on me. It is also a vision on the wonders and depths of human fantasy, and how everyone of us holds the potential for wonder. In a way it is Whitman's quote given form:

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

And I love Bridges, and have a special spot
Mar 18, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wasn't sure whether I enjoyed this book, or whether I got anything out of it. I had high expectations, because I usually enjoy Iain Banks' books and find them thought provoking.

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

The central theme
Jack Lanigan
Dec 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Well good gosh golly dang.

I don't know if I want to spoil too much about the story here so I'll get this out of the way and say that you should probably read this book. It's just so... weird. And wonderful. And kinda in that slow plodding kind of book that I like but at the same time so full of little things and such a fast pace that it makes it hard not to like it. There's a bunch of different writing styles that come up at seemingly random that all manage to work their way into the plot and it
Lisabet Sarai
Mar 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Surrealistic, disturbing and funny by turns, The Bridge offers a window into the wandering mind of a man lying in a coma after a car accident. The scenes in the first half of the book, set in the world of the endless Bridge, read like some steampunk vision, but as the book continues it becomes a bit incoherent. I had the feeling I missed some important allusions. Why, for instance, are the sections of the book titled based on geological epochs?

If you enjoy works brimming with dark imagination, g
Jun 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Reading this book is a difficult but worthy enterprise. In many ways this has to be Banks' best non-SF effort though there are elements of his SF writing here. It's set in two planes of existence and that's very hard to get off the ground but the rich detail, the worrying quality of the story and indeed the worries of the main character himself become our own. Good. Trippy. And the Forth Rail Bridge is such a rocking piece of architecture it deserved this immortalization in fiction. ...more
The Usual
Mar 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This isn't a review, it's a love letter. Sorry.

In the large and disparate family of Iain Banks novels this is the funny looking kid whom you're sure must be adopted. Yes, it has its daddy's eyes and a wicked grin, but it's... Different. It's not one of the truly creatively nasty ones (The Wasp Factory; Complicity). It's not one of the warm(ish)-hearted ones (The Crow Road; Whit; The Quarry). It's not one of the dark, bleak, mildly baffling ones (Canal Dreams; A Song of Stone), or a love story w
Henrikas Kuryla
Jun 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing

This review contains spoilers.

The book is a journey through visions of a man in a coma. A central piece of those visions is The Bridge. In different fragments of dreams it reveals its different aspects: what it is bridging is unknown; is it a passage from life to death? or vice versa?; a passage through a high clear space between two shores teaming with aggressive life; it's a passage on which you carry out unclear mission which becomes even more unclear when you meet a mirror reflection of your
Aug 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-borrows
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
The Bridge: Lucid dreams with a Scottish flair
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature
Iain M. Banks is a versatile Scottish writer, equally skilled in far-future space opera (the CULTURE series), dark contemporary novels (The Crow Road, The Wasp Factory, Walking on Glass), and a host of novels in between. The Bridge is one of his earlier books, and the late author’s personal favorite according to an interview. It was also selected by David Pringle in his Modern Fantasy: The 100 Best Novels. I’ve
Prem Sylvester
Aug 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was quite a strange read - structurally, it reminded me of Calvino's If On Winter's Night a Traveler. But where the latter had more fun with the narrative, this is much darker. It is a speculation on consciousness, on the overlap of dreamworlds with our waking dreams. The implications are intelligently hinted at, and well-drawn.
A lot of the story threads - especially in the 'dream' sequences - however, don't tie into each other until late into the book, so the seeming incoherence of the plo
Nicky Neko
Jul 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. What a crazy, ambitious book. Definitely not the kind of book an author could write as a debut. It seems to me that there are a ton of books and films that spin off from this work, and it's indicative of Banks's wild and creative imagination that he was coming up with this kind of stuff before anyone else. I could find all sorts of elements of things to come: tinges of Inception, The Matrix, Alex Garland's The Coma, even the transcription of Scottish dialect that would turn up in Irvine Wel ...more
Jan 23, 2011 rated it liked it
Having read The Wasp Factory and Against a Dark Background I expected a lot from this book that had been sitting on my shelf for somewhere around 10 years. In someways I was disappointed but it was still a fairly enjoyable experience.

The sections on the bridge reminded me a lot of Kafka's The Castle but better. The modern sections bored me (as most non-fantastic fiction does - with Philip Roth being the exception). The dreams were very cool, especially the trip to hell. Without the dreams the bo
Aug 09, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Banks fans
Recommended to Stevelvis by: Iain M. Banks
The first half of this book was a good 4-5 stars as the strange surroundings, characters and events were weaving into a mysterious dystopic surreality. Half way through as the weave tightens the mystery and strangeness slowly fades into a reflection of everyday reality and a sort of biography of a Scots life through the 1970s-1980s.

I've already read all of Mr. Banks' more challenging novels of science fiction, all of which I've greatly enjoyed. The author has said that this is his favorite book
Gregor Xane
Mar 16, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2010
Mostly very good. The problem I had with it was that there were several chapters told from a barbarian's veiwpoint and these pieces were all written in thick dialect. This slowed down the pace of the book to a crawl. (The only way he could have made it less enjoyable would be to have the dialect printed in italics.) I skipped every one of these chapters after slogging through the first and felt like I missed very little. There were some great set pieces and inventions in this book and it had som ...more
Roz Morris
One of my perennial favourites. I love the parallel world of the bridge and the way its details are seeded from the hero's life. Unfortunately there's a rough patch with some barbarians - why do most alternate-headworld novels seem to have a tedious section with a barbarian? The real-world strand hasn't stayed with me as much as the imaginative bravado of the bridge world, perhaps because I didn't have the feeling that the character had anything major to address. But I reread every few years for ...more
Thomas Edmund
Jan 10, 2014 rated it it was ok
The bridge - a surrealist alternative sci-fi(ish) dreamy exploration of culture life and death.

Or for me a disorganised mess of varying prose unclear settings and unattachable a characters. I'm very aware of The Bridge intending to be something different, really just expressing that it was not for me
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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

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