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The Business

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  6,186 ratings  ·  237 reviews
Kate is a senior executive officer in a powerful and massively discreet transglobal organization. The character of The Business seems, even to her, to be vague to the point of invisibility. Her job is to keep abreast of technological developments, but she must let go the assumptions of a lifetime.
Paperback, 393 pages
Published 1999 by Little, Brown and Company
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Average rating 3.48  · 
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 ·  6,186 ratings  ·  237 reviews

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Barbara Rosenblat 11.7 hours.

Description: Kate is a senior executive officer in a powerful and massively discreet transglobal organization. The character of The Business seems, even to her, to be vague to the point of invisibility. Her job is to keep abreast of technological developments, but she must let go the assumptions of a lifetime.

BLURB: From Publishers Weekly: Ever since The Wasp Factory first bent readers' minds in 1984, prolific Scottish author Banks has tantalized and terrified with h
As every conspiracy theorist knows, They control everything. When something unexpected happens, it's because They arranged it. And, needless to say, you don't want to find out too much about Them. It could be bad for your health. Which makes you even more curious - so it's surprising that this is one of the few novels I know that's firmly set in Their world. It turns out that They are actually called The Business, and were already well-established at the time of the Roman Empire.

I see some othe
Robert Dunbar
Apr 17, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews
Imagine if Evelyn Waugh had written “The Firm.” Remember that book? A by-the-numbers thriller from John Grisham, it was effective enough, especially if the reader's expectations weren’t high. But imagine if Waugh had written it. The plot would retain that edge-of-the-seat construction, yet be augmented by a real – and quite dark – artistic sensibility, replete with vicious humor and enhanced by a flair for characterization.

Iain Banks’ THE BUSINESS concerns an insidious secret organization (and
Mar 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, economics
I've had extremely mixed experiences with Iain Banks novels. Some I loved (Transition, The Player of Games), one I absolutely hated (The Wasp Factory), others had clever elements but failed to engage me (Consider Phlebas, Use of Weapons). ‘The Business’ was a different experience again - I enjoyed it and was engaged, but there were certain flaws that prevented me from wholly adoring it. The greatest strength was the narrator, Kate Telman. She is an excellent character: a clever, reticent, ambiti ...more
Aug 20, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
First read it five or six years ago in a single afternoon and was wholly underwhelmed by the experience. Coming after Song of Stone – the only Banks book I genuinely dislike – I felt at the time that maybe his powers were beginning to wane.

But a friend urged me to give it a second chance and told me to read it as a prequel to the Culture books, whereupon it makes much more sense.

And do you know, he’s right. It’s a bloody Culture book in disguise. Or at least, it takes as its premise – how could
Nicky Neko
I feel bad giving this 2 stars -- especially because of how much I love Iain Banks, but this book was pretty poor compared to his other work.

Well, as the Japanese say: even a monkey falls from a tree.
Well not one of Iain Banks' best pieces of contemporary fiction by a long way and coming next in line to A Song of Stone, then it does fade quite spectacularly into insignificance. Why so? It is overlong, and about three-quarters of the way through we get a very lyrically description section on a Himalayan village called Thulan, which 'The Business' wants to modernise the country and end up having control over for 'The Business' to gain a seat on the UN. 'The Business' is this, almost shady orga ...more
Simon Mcleish
Jul 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
Originally published on my blog here in July 2000.

The Business is a shadowy commercial operation which has been in existence for thousands of years, and which now aims to buy itself a country, so its senior executives can gain the privileges which go with a diplomatic passport. Kate Telman, the narrator, is not quite up to that level, but is one of the rising stars in the Business, and it is not particularly surprising when she is asked to become an ambassador of sorts to the Himalayan kingdom o
Sally Melia
Feb 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I have read all of Iain Banks novels and this one is one of my favourites.

The Business from where the book gets its name is a centuries old concern, at one point in the novel it is suggested that its history stretches back as far as the Roman Empire, but the story postulates the compelling conceit that over centuries The Business has been built up with assets and resources that go beyond countries and national powers to influence every part of the world.

Unexpectedly, at the top of The Business i
Apr 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Giving this book 5 stars because of the last 30 pages. Be patient, read to the end, it's worth it!
Mar 03, 2017 rated it liked it
You know those books that you read and enjoy while you're reading them, but when you're finished you struggle - even when it's only days later - to recall much about them?

The Business is one of those books.

I've put off reviewing this for a while largely because I wanted to write something worthwhile, but was finding it difficult to think of anything to say about the work. So now: let's get to it.

It's an airport novel. Let's be frank. It's designed to be inhaled and forgotten, I think, so it's
Oct 01, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The more I read Iain Banks' work, the more I appreciate it. His way with words aside, it's the fact that no two books are exactly alike in tone or style, but they share a common quality that makes me go "yummm".

In The Business, Banks introduces us to Kathryn, a Level Three in The Business, but who knows from personal experience what the hard life actually is - she's from the "schemes" (Scots for "projects") and only by dint of natural cunning and adoption by Mrs. Telman does she get out. The Bus
Sep 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Iain Banks has a most wonderful felicity for plucking ideas out of nowhere and developing them into the magical creations. He would probably object to such a characterisation because I am sure he has to work hard on some of them. This particular idea of a company, a business going back to the beginning of time is superb. Surviving all vicissitudes it survives by plucking management talent from wherever it can find it, developing it and then letting run. Rather like Ian Bank's ideas. Read on.
Aug 19, 2012 rated it liked it
A delightful satire on international finance and investment, rife with high-grade one-liners and a morlaity axis which one hopes could be possible. Not a great effort from Iain but one worth one's time.

I've read that could be considered a proto-Culture novel, that such a qualification adds to the novel. I honestly don't know.
Roman Baiduk
Oct 25, 2018 rated it liked it
A good language and a sufficiently interesting description of the life of an executive of a powerful corporation.
Jun 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
My response to hearing of the passing of Iain Banks was to go out and get another book of his to read. This one lacks the "M." in the author name, so technically, it's not science fiction, though it does dive into alternate history/universe territory.

So, what if there was a powerful multinational corporation that had been in existence since before the Roman Empire (which it actually owned for a brief period of time), which was now interested in acquiring a country in order to have a seat in the
Mitchell Safeway
Feb 15, 2012 rated it it was ok
For years I thought Iain Banks could do no wrong. 'The Wasp Factory', 'The Bridge', 'Complicity' and all the rest, every time I read an Iain Banks book I felt as though my mind had been blown by the guy's genius. And then I ran out to WH Smith and bought 'The Business' as soon as it was released. Ack.

It sounds interesting enough, the whole history of the Business, this huge, shadowy organisation and this woman who works for them. But the book is what I never ever thought Banks could be. Dull. I
Aug 25, 2015 rated it it was ok
I thought I owned this book because it was on one of those 1001 books one should read type lists. The whole time I was reading it, I kept asking myself, "What in the world is so special about this novel that it would make such a list? I'm pretty sure there Banks has better books, and there are certainly better books in the world..." I didn't realize that I'd confused it with The Information by Martin Amis. The names are similar and both authors are British, okay? We all make mistakes. Even if I' ...more
Keith Railton
Sep 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
Boring and, frankly, half-arsed. If this novel were a room, the 'conspiracy', such as it is, would be standing outside at the far end of the garden getting rained on. And you look around and notice the room only has three walls. And all the doors are just drawn on in crayon.

It's boring, the world isn't believable, the characters all seem 2D, the narrator herself is just a sketch even though we're in her head the whole story. I was never invested in her story or her stupid life.

Ultimately, the
Jun 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book. For fans of Gibson's Bigend series who are feeling iffy about Banks, pick this one up (conversely, if you've read this and liked it, but don't read Gibson, you may want to give those books a whirl; they are, in order: Pattern Recognition, Spook Country, and Zero History). Really thoroughly enjoyed this book, and was torn over how it should end, and in the end I can't say I disagreed with how it did. Anyway, given the nature of the plot, I'll leave it at that to avoid spoilers.
Ian Caithness
Oct 24, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An incredible novel on the human condition and the temptation of capitalism in business. Iain Banks writes with a free-flowing and captivating prose that allows people to sink into his books and come out at the end feeling refreshed.
Jan 27, 2009 rated it it was ok
Not one of his best. I've tried to read it twice now and can't get through it.
Aug 30, 2011 rated it did not like it
Gave this up as a bad business.

Review based on the first eighty pages.
Jul 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Business is a thriller that mixes business with lots of international intrigue. We follow the life of Ms. Kathryn (Kate) Telman, who came from an impoverished area of Scotland, but whose street smarts caught the attention of a wealthy woman and this led Kate to be educated at a fine set of schools. She works for "The Business," which has roots going back to the time of the Roman empire. As nations and empires had come and gone, a savvy group of business people found ways to make money from i ...more
Mike Allen
Aug 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: verified, fiction
An interesting tale of manipulation and deceit...

Kathryn Telman is a Level 3 executive in a clandestine, global organization that calls itself The Business, which has survived for thousands of years with its roots in the Roman Empire. Level 1 executives are board members and all of them have personal wealth estimated in the billions.

Kathryn has risen quickly, and is one of the youngest people ever to achieve her current rank (she is in her late 30's). While ambitious and living a luxury, jet-set
Apr 18, 2020 rated it it was ok
Genre: Thriller/ Fiction The TLDR trio for this review:

- Huge potential, no pay-off
- Thriller without the thrill
- Have you ever met a career focused woman?

Summary This story focuses on our lead character Kate, a career-focused woman in her late 30’s, being offered a new position within “The Business”. The Business runs everything, everywhere. They are capitalism and they want to get a foot in international politics. Her offer means a complete lifestyle change, and after probing deeper is l
Feb 12, 2018 rated it liked it
I really wanted to love this book. With its slick dialogue and strong female lead, The Business had great promise in the first few chapters. I thought initially that it was just taking a while to get going, and was looking forward to getting past the slow start and into the gripping narrative beyond.

Unfortunately for me, the whole thing was a slow start. The pithy character exchanges were nestled among endless paragraphs of long-winded exposition of the shadowy and seemingly omnipotent "Busin
Chris Marcatili
Jan 24, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lost
The Business promises intrigue but it doesn't quite deliver.

It's about Kate, a woman in her late 30s and successful in The Business – a secretive organisation that's been around longer than the Catholic Church. While on sabbatical she manages to get embroiled in a seemingly complex series of events, moved around the globe like a pawn piece in schemes beyond her knowledge.

My assumption going into this book was that it would be a high-stakes psychological drama with Banks' characteristic wit. And
Adam Newgas
Aug 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Business isn't really about the titular business, it's about Kate, the protagonist. Kate oozies competence and savoir faire, the perfect power executive, but as you get to know her you understand her inner feelings and vulnerabilities without being so much as told them. It leads to the climax of the book where she is forced to examine her priorities.

A mystery plot and the alt-history expositions about The Business are irregularly woven amongst this personality tale, without them really overl
Ann E. Manns
A big disappointment - a meandering, overlong tale of undefinable genre, filled with inconsequential conversations and soul-searching musings, long on short-notice international globe-trottings, short on plot, but with an ending that would do credit to any fairy-tale. I kept wondering what, exactly, Banks meant this to be: a detective story, a psychological study, a whodunit, a satire on modern business methods and mores? And what a let-down to discover that the great global conspiracy, the secr ...more
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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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