Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Business” as Want to Read:
The Business
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Business

3.46  ·  Rating details ·  5,828 ratings  ·  224 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
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Business, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Business

The Da Vinci Code by Dan BrownAngels & Demons by Dan BrownThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson1984 by George OrwellThe Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
Conspiracy Fiction
1,094 books — 1,194 voters
Outlander by Diana GabaldonThe Viking's Apprentice by Kevin McLeodMacbeth by William ShakespeareThe Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis StevensonTrainspotting by Irvine Welsh
Best Scottish Fiction
345 books — 242 voters


More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.46  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,828 ratings  ·  224 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Start your review of The Business
Bettie

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.


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 his eerily accurate representations of humanity at its twisted best and worst.

Lighter in mood than some of his previous novels, The Business, a bestseller in Great Britain, is still shot through with sinister undertones.

In a recognizable but slightly tilted 1998, Kathryn Telman works for the Business, a mysterious corporation that predates the Christian church and at one point owned the Roman Empire. Plucked from poverty in West Scotland at the age of eight, she has been groomed for the fast track ever since.

Thirty years later, despite her power, money and success, she is finally beginning to wonder just what the Business is all about. Why was she pulled out of Scotland just as she noticed something amiss at a subsidiary chip factory? Why has she been summoned by a munitions-collecting higher-up to talk his nephew out of writing an incendiary anti-Islamic screenplay? Why has the Business's sinister head of security sent her a dirty DVD showing the wife of Kathryn's colleague and secret love in an illicit tryst? And why suddenly appoint her "ambassador" to Thulahn, a remote Himalayan principality the Business is buying in order to gain its own seat in the U.N.?

Banks offers a hilarious look at international corporate culture and the insatiable avarice that drives it, but he suggests the positive potential of globalization, too. Less overtly eccentric and sensationalistic than favorites like The Wasp Factory and A Song of Stone, the novel is a clever, genre-bending pleasure.


Am not a fan of that ending - I can't believe Banks went for the fairytale and this lost a star because of it.

4* The Wasp Factory
3* The Business
1* The Deep Approach to Garbadale (aka The Dire Descent into Garbage)
2* Stonemouth

As Iain M Banks:

TR Consider Phlebas (Culture, #1)
TR The Player of Games (Culture, #2)
TR Use of Weapons (Culture, #3)
3* Matter (Culture, #8)
TR Surface Detail (Culture, #9)
4* Look to Windward (Culture, #7)
4* The Algebraist
3* The State of the Art (Culture, #4)
...more
Manny
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
...more
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
...more
Anna
Mar 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics, fiction
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 (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, ambitious woman dealing adroitly with annoying men on a daily basis. In fact, I’m impressed that Banks got me to sympathise and identify with such a jet-setting 0.1% hyper-capitalist. He managed it, I think, by demonstrating that all her money and power do not prevent Kate from being hit on by drunk arseholes. Not that she didn’t also interact with a variety of interesting women, but I did appreciate her running conversational rings around level one men. She has a great turn of phrase: ‘I did my impression of the Roman Empire, and declined.’ Moreover, I liked the emphasis on how the power of money can be brittle. It can’t protect you from car accidents, or the FBI confiscating your weapons, or your grand gestures falling flat. If anything, the overconfidence it brings makes such events more likely.

The characters and dialogue were, to my mind, stronger than the plot. I would happily have followed Kate about her typical work days. (view spoiler)

In summary, a smart and nuanced depiction of how privileged people justify their wealth and power to themselves under globalised capitalism. The plot doesn’t explain itself as well as it might and I take issue with certain aspects of the ending, however the main character is excellent and there are some truly wonderful scenes and fantastic bits of dialogue.
...more
Scott
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
...more
Kevin
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
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.
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 k
...more
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 t
...more
Luke
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 fitting I b
...more
Laura
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
...more
Morgan
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'd figured o ...more
Lysergius
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.
Jonfaith
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.
Chris
Jun 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
I lump this with "Dead Air" in the category of "Iain (M) Banks' not-very-good novels." Everyone's allowed a clunker, and I've enjoyed (if that's the right word) most of his books. This one gave all the signs of having been rushed and spinning out a weak premise.
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.
bookczuk
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
...more
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
...more
Gregory
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.
reed
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.
notgettingenough
Aug 30, 2011 rated it did not like it
Gave this up as a bad business.

Review based on the first eighty pages.
James
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,
...more
Liz
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
...more
Chris Marcatili
Jan 24, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
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' characteris
...more
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
...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
...more
Robin
A tad too long for what it was, and a tad too pert and controlled. Kate Telman needs some flaws, other than the one where she is totally surprised by the fairly obvious plot turn that readers see coming a mile off, despite constant proof of how otherwise clever she is. This reminded me a bit of reading a Jeffrey Archer novel, which is fine, I guess. It was well done, overall, and I was entertained. But I couldn't shake the feeling that Iain Banks devised this entire novel around two (unrelated) ...more
Alex Vrettos
Nov 28, 2016 rated it liked it
Reading Iain (M.) Banks for me is always like a warm bath for the mind with plenty of bubbles with some energetic music rather than whale song in the background and a bottle of aged rum rather than a mug of coco. The Business did not quite meet this for me but it was a good story with some fantastic characters and had enough twists and turns to keep me interested. It gives the reader a glimpse of a lifestyle most will never know which is compelling, but on the whole I felt it just lacked a littl ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Feersum Endjinn
  • The Algebraist
  • Matter (Culture, #8)
  • Excession (Culture, #5)
  • The Hydrogen Sonata (Culture #10)
  • Look to Windward (Culture, #7)
  • Against a Dark Background
  • Transition
  • The State of the Art (Culture, #4)
  • Inversions (Culture, #6)
  • Surface Detail (Culture #9)
  • The Science of Discworld (The Science of Discworld, #1)
  • Use of Weapons
  • Mystery Man (Mystery Man #1)
  • Light (Kefahuchi Tract, #1)
  • The Player of Games (Culture, #2)
  • Spares
  • Consider Phlebas
See similar books…
3,948 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
...more
“One of your American professors said that to study religion was merely to know the mind of man, but if one truly wanted to know the mind of God, you must study physics.” 20 likes
“Hair on a man's head is like the opposite of salt in a dish; you can take it away but you can't add it in.” 18 likes
More quotes…