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Canal Dreams

3.25  ·  Rating details ·  3,494 ratings  ·  145 reviews
Hisako Onoda, world famous cellist, refuses to fly. And so she travels to Europe as a passenger on a tanker bound through the Panama Canal. By the end of her journey she had ignited one soldier with an oxy-acetylene torch, stabbed another through the chest with the spike of her cello, clobbered a guard with the butt of a rifle and raked terrorists with machine-gun fire bef ...more
Paperback, 198 pages
Published 1990 by Abacus (first published 1989)
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Average rating 3.25  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,494 ratings  ·  145 reviews

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Nov 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: It's complicated
I was thinking this book might be a good present for a cellist - my brother is a cellist, and suddenly the Christmas decorations are out in all the shops. But really, it's a better present for a cellist who has a thing for Japanese women and weird dreams. And ideally, also for martial arts, extreme violence and gang rape. And oil tankers. And the Panama Canal.

Okay, now that I've thought about it a bit, it's probably not a very good Christmas present for most people. But if you know someone who a
Chris Ward
Jun 18, 2012 rated it liked it
The second time I've tried to read this book and this time I finished it.

It was good. Not the best book I've ever read, but certainly not the worst. It was easier to read this time around because the central character is Japanese and since I live in Japan I could understand the extend of research Banks had done. I actually made a game of trying to catch him out - probably the closest I got was when Hisako was remembering an incident in her childhood when her hands were pushed against the radiato
May 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Rape. Ultra-violence. Outdated dystopia. Cold War prophecy gone awry. Cello. Obnoxious Americans. Anti-US Foreign Policy and its crimes. Panama Canal. SCUBA. History lessons. Imaginings of Japan. Hisako Onoda. Fire. Blood.

This is one bloody tale, one of Iain Banks bloodier tales, which is saying a lot, yet it is also a tale with many moments of profound beauty. I found myself surprisingly moved from time to time, both from the emotional connection I found myself developing with Hisako Onoda, the
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
Due to her fear of flying, famous Japanese cellist Hisako Onoda opted to travel to Europe by ship for her European debut tour. However, at a stop in Panama, the ship is held up and caught in the middle of a civil war. At first it seems that the delay will be no more than an inconvenience, possibly necessitating the rescheduling of a few concert dates. But the situation rapidly declines, going from bad to worse...
The story is interspersed with surreal and ominous dream sequences, and flashbacks t
Iain Banks was taken from us far too soon, but regardless of his untimely passing several years ago, he has left us with quite a substantial body of literature, both his contemporary works such as Canal Dreams, as well as his Culture Science Fiction works. I thought I had read a lot of his books, but I am still wading through them, even after starting with The Wasp Factory back in the very early 1990's. Still several to get through, and that is no bad thing, so will take my time in reading the r ...more
This book was weird. I mean, it had elements that I like in a book generally; like a very well-fleshed out and likable protagonist, a pretty solid, albeit predictable story line, and sublime writing. But something didn't click; something I can't exactly put my finger on.

A symphony cellist braves the consequences of a political nightmare at the Panama Canal, as the ship she is on is attacked by, for lack of a better word, terrorists. Pretty straightforward, right? Right? WRONG! How about you add
Feb 01, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers who like violence more than I do
Another 1 Euro book that I bought because of the cover and because I cannot resist bargain books.

I practically inhaled the first half of this book, marveling at the excellent story-telling and the intelligent writing, happy that I had found such a gem for 1 Euro.

I also inhaled the second half, but only because I wanted to get it over with. The writing was too good to stop reading, but I can't say that I enjoyed it. When the story first turns violent, it's part of the plot. When it becomes more b
Mar 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is Banks trying to be Murakami.

He doesn't really pull it off, but it kinda worked.

It's a little weird, a bit confusing at times, and really rather depressing.

Not the sort of thing I usually read, or that I'll want to read again anytime soon, but it's still quite good.

Do not read if you are opposed to violence.
Jayden McComiskie
Second read. I really wanted to like it. Banks himself was meh about it. So am I. Damn it.
Jul 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
More or less tore through it. Brutal and atmospheric with enough variety between the present action and the flashbacks (not to mention the dream sequences and darkly comic moments) to keep me engaged with the linear plot. Still love u Iain
Robert Ronsson
Jan 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A stunning read in which Iain Banks weaves together the violent happenings in the Panama Canal with Hisako Onoda's backstory to bleed information into the narrative at just the right pace to make her incredible behaviour credible.
It's called Canal Dreams. I get it. But I found Onoda's dreams a distraction that didn't add weight to what was a brilliant piece of story-telling.
I haven't read any of the other reviews but it would surprise me if Iain Banks is not accused of misogyny because of the t
Nic Margett
Mar 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: iain-banks
So, my penultimate read in the complete works of Iain (M) Banks, and his self-professed "runt of the litter", I really wasn't expecting that much from this book and it's probably for that reason i quite enjoyed it. My only real problem with the book was that he spent far too much time describing dreams, I just don't know why authors do that so much, it's really boring and it has nothing to do with the story. With only Whit left to read now, i'm of the firm opinion that A Song Of Stone should def ...more
Jul 06, 2014 rated it liked it
Hisako Onoda: Cello Ninja.
In the first half of the book, celebrated cellist Hisako whiles away her days diving, dining and fooling about with her toyboy while her ship is stuck in the Panama Canal due to US-Panamanian tensions. In the second half. she turns into Lady Vengeance. Great writing, awesome character, it was just that both halves seemed to drag on a bit too long.
Feb 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
don't mess with a cellist
Sep 06, 2018 rated it did not like it
Part 1 Boring, perhaps meant to be boring to convey the boredom of being marooned.
Part 2. A bit more interesting.
Part 3. Codswallop. Banks has seen too many American garbage movies. Cellist to one man SAS platoon? Just a bit far-fetched for me.
Dream On.
Won't worry about reading anything more by Iain Banks.
Alan Smith
Aug 23, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned, fiction, uk, europe
So, what to say about Canal Dreams?

Well, this was always going to be the most problematic of Banks' work, especially since he himself saw this as perhaps his weakest work. And in many ways I can see why. It rather feels like 2 novels put together - the first half reads like a diary; a travelog and a mildly politicised commentary on the world in 1989 (when the book was published). The second half reads like an action movie, with added flashbacks, strange dreams and a (un)healthy dose of nihilism
Sally Melia
Feb 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I have read all of Iain Banks Books, and unusually perhaps this one I have always enjoyed.

Canal Dreams tells the story of Hisako Onoda a Japanese Cello super star prodigy who when invited to play the major capitals of Europe refuses to fly, and instead chooses to take a ship from Japan. She travels as a passenger aboard across the Pacific, through the Panama canal then to the Atlantic and Europe. In the early chapters there is some mention of guerilla in Costa Rica, but this in no way prepares u
Leila Anani
Although fully engaging, this is probably my least favourite Iain Banks novel to date. Japanese Cellist Hisako is terrified of flying so she opts to travel to her European tour by boat. Her boat is taken hostage at the Panama Canal, she is raped and her fellow captives are murdered. She takes bloody revenge on her captors.

I had little connection with either the characters or setting - I know virtually nothing about the Panama Canal or the world of Japanese Cellists - So Kudos to the strength of
Jun 14, 2012 rated it liked it
As usual Banks' writing is sharp, eloquent and imaginative. The main character is likeable and fairly easy to empathise with and Banks does a good job of introducing her past into the story - sometimes very aptly as we switch back to what's going on in the main story.

It's easy to see that Hisako is not some pampered, soft artist but has been through tremendous struggle in her life and come through strong as granite.

However I did find her transformation from middle-aged concert cellist to an ass-
Jan 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book, particularly as it was a bit 'different'. Hisako Onada is a renowned Japanese cellist who is going on a concert and teaching tour of Europe - but she is petrified of flying so goes as a passenger on a cargo ship, travelling via the Panama Canal. However, due to civil unrest in the region, her ship and two others are delayed and, when they eventually continue their journey, are attacked by insurgents who take all the passengers and crew hostage. Initially all is calm b ...more
Oct 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
When I set out to read all of Banks' books again, following the announcement of his illness, this was probably the one that I was dreading reading the most (closely followed by Feersum Enjin). My recollection of having read it first time round, 15+ years ago, was not positive - I remembered it being dull and aimless.

I don't know what book that was, but this time round I found Canal Dreams to be far from dull or aimless. Sure, it takes a little while to get going, and I've never been a fan of dre
Alex Sarll
Aug 21, 2013 marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
The first Banks book I've attempted since even hearing he was ill, and I feel a little bad for ditching it a quarter of the way through, but it simply wasn't doing anything for me. It wasn't *bad* or anything - I just didn't feel any compulsion to continue. It may not help that the set-up was so reminiscent of The Hydrogen Sonata - someone who would really rather be playing her unwieldy stringed instrument gets caught up in the violent eruption of world politics. And if the Panama Canal is a lon ...more
Richard Palmer
Feb 12, 2017 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Yuta Tamberg
Dec 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Just how much a humble, quiet, kind person can take? Just how much strength is there, and how unexpected is it? Do not come to this book looking for dashing plot twists. It is not about those. It is pretty straightforward. It is about strength, power, deep as the bones of the Earth. Terrible, beautiful power. Observe, admire, get angry.
Jamie Murphy
Nov 26, 2016 rated it it was ok
Started off promising, but the author took fiction to a new extreme. How a person who is part of an orchestra at the start of a book and then transcends into a one person army is beyond me. The author probably had a great time writing this. But not my cup of tea. I like my fantasy to have a bit of reality in it.
Katrina Evans
Dec 21, 2016 rated it did not like it
Iain Banks said this was the worst thing he'd ever written and I'm inclined to agree with him. I thought it was utter crap. Definitely a book published because of who wrote it rather than how good the book is.

2 dimensional characters and a non existent plot.

Aug 30, 2009 rated it liked it
Rejected title for Gynecologist Monthly.
May 09, 2012 rated it did not like it
Mike Franklin
Jun 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“Canal Dreams was my first attempt at a political thriller - an action book. As a political thriller it's not very good and a sign that it's not so good at what it's supposed to be doing is that it would be so easy to take the politics out and make a pro-CIA propaganda movie. If it's that easy to strip out, the political element, I haven't done my job properly.”

So says Iain Banks and maybe he’s right since it didn’t really come across to me as a political thriller but rather a psychological thri
Dec 18, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
For any Iain Banks supporters out there, please note as a foreword that I think The Wasp Factory is one of the greatest novels out there - both for writing and story impact. For Canal Dreams however, my best summation would be I couldn't care less!

Iain Banks is a good writer, which is still a given here. However I have a number of issues with this book that I will happily share the blame on, with my failing energy and commitment as a reader (Christmas is a sniff of Bailey's away and I'm currentl
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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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