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The Steep Approach to Garbadale

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  4,755 ratings  ·  277 reviews
Dark family secrets, a long-lost love affair and a multi-million pound gaming business lie at the heart of Iain Banks's fabulous new novel. The Wopuld family built its fortune on a board game called Empire!, now a hugely successful computer game. So successful, the American Spraint Corp wants to buy the firm out. Young renegade Alban, who has been evading the family clutch ...more
Hardcover, 390 pages
Published March 1st 2007 by Little Brown and Company (first published October 1st 2005)
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3.66  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,755 ratings  ·  277 reviews

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Jan 27, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2009
This was basically a considerably inferior version of "The Crow Road".

* Dysfunctional Scottish family, with impossibly large cast of characters, and a healthy dollop of eccentric old folk? Check.
* Some of whom are obscenely rich? Check
* Rich enough to live in a remote, picturesque Scottish castle? Check
* Which the main protagonist will shun for much of the story, as he works through family 'issues'? Check
* Main protagonist is male, single, has issues with family?
* Unrequited infatuation with uns
Ron Henry
May 19, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a truism that there are two Iain Banks -- Iain the contemporary fiction writer and Iain M. the science fiction writer. But it's also the case that there are two distinct modes of Iain Banks novels -- the grim and nihilistic (Wasp Factory, The Business, Song of Stone, etc.) versus the sweeping Scots epic (Crow Road, Whit, Espadair Street, and now The Steep Approach to Garbadale). I dunno - maybe it's just a matter of comedy versus tragedy (in the classical sense)?

In any case, put Banks' late
I am a huge Iain Banks fan, as you can see from my bookshelf... so this book was seriously disappointing. He's usually so full of energy and wacky ideas, but for once he's on autopilot. As several of the other reviewers point out, he's recycled a lot of material from The Crow Road. Unfortunately, it's in no way an improvement or a further development of those themes.

There is one good sequence - an extended flashback to a tragic affair when he was a teenager - and that's worth reading. The rest
Mar 23, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Well, it's not as bad as the teeth-gnashingly bad Dead Air, but a long way below his best work. One Amazon review even retitled it The Steep Decline Towards Garbage. It revisits a lot of old ground: extensive and eccentric Scottish family ruled by a patriarch (as in both Whit and Complicity), and the growing pains of the usual young male protagonist, torn between two loves (also features in Complicity), what seems now to be an obligatory anti-American rant, as in Dead Air (though it is perfectly ...more
Feb 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
A sprawling family saga set on a picturesque Highland estate, filled with tangled relationships, generational conflicts, unrequited love, and a dark family secret that reverberates through the plot. The central character is Alban, returning to the family fold after several disillusioned years in self-imposed exile, as the clan gather to discuss the future of their investment, a popular board game developed by an ancestor. It's no subtle irony that Empire! is under thread from American capitalism ...more
Dec 12, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Iain Banks, but this did not really strike me as a classic. There were flourishes of excellent writing, but these were not as in evidence as some of his other novels. Maybe it’s just me, I can’t really identify with the super rich. And, the majority of the characters were very affluent. I found the pace of the novel very slow and by the end (which I guessed) I didn’t really give a shit about what happened to any of them. Iain, wherever you are man, sorry but you lost me on this one! Three ...more
Paul Laville
Jan 04, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Right through the 1990s Iain Banks, with or without the M, was my number one author - an edgy, blackly humorous writer who wasn't afraid to mess around with his readers' expectations. Banks would offer up, on the one hand, self-assuredly erudite, multi-layered and (dare I say it?) near-literary texts from which could be peeled and revealed the anxieties of the decade; and on the other explosive, politicised rants burning with unbelievable fury. Often the two combined. He was a great storyteller ...more
Aug 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Iain Banks is my man. I've enjoyed pretty much everything I've ever read by him, and honestly wish he was still around to be hitting us with his stunning Culture sci-fi novels.

This one was a bit of a challenge. His writing, brilliant and engaging as always. His characters, subtly wrought and realistic. But the core narrative...of Alban and his very very sexual obsession/relation with his cousin Sophie? It was, well, a little ick.

And given that Banks doesn't shy away from moistly graphic depictio
Artem Huletski
May 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Хороший роман для экранизации. А главное, правда оказалась на стороне автора, что очень важно для художественного произведения.
Michael Battaglia
Five years on, its still somewhat sobering to open to the copyright page of an Iain Banks book and read the part that says "Iain Banks 1954-". Part of me wants to take a pen and fill in the date of his death so it reads like it should. Being that in life he seemed to be possessed with a morbid sense of humor, I like to think he'd get a chuckle out of that.

For those just coming in, Banks was a decently prolific Scottish author notable for quite a few things but perhaps one of the most interesting
Jul 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
OK, and so this is my review where I reveal that all my ratings are crap. After talking to Ick the last time we got together, we more or less concurred on certain things (kind of in a negative vein) about Simmons (that would be Dan Simmons, by the way), and I'd highly recommended Banks to him as an actual good read (stand by it, absolutely one of my favorite authors). And then, not long after, I noticed how many five star ratings I'd recently given Simmons, but many less to Banks, of whom I'm MU ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
One of my friends dislikes Banks' Dead Air for its perceived rantiness, and in Garbadale he takes Banks to task for "glib bits of politics that come not from the mouths of the characters but feel like the author ranting".

He then quotes one of my fave passages from the book and laments its inclusion.

He's not wrong - the authorial voice does break through sometimes but I like it when that happens. I don't necessarily always want an author to retain a cool distance from his work.

Those of Banks' bo
Feckin' hell, I'm chuffed! Wanted an audiobook to make the tedious work I'm doing more bearable, stumped to the library in search of something that I wouldn't otherwise read (I usually go for trashy beach reads a laBridget Jones or something of that ilk when I'm after a book on tape; don't want to ruin a good read, you know). Saw 'Iain Banks' and confused him with 'Iain M. Banks', figured some space opera would do the trick nicely, but found this hilarious brit-lit romp instead!

J'adore!! I love
Jun 16, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
I'm quite disappointed in this book, because I love reading Ian, or Iain Banks. I love the interplay of ideas in his books, the thoughful challenge. This book is about a man, who I think can best be described as an arrogant, self-important, sarcastic little s**t. He takes a walk through memory lane focusing on his lovers, whilst getting very involved in the proposed sale of his family's firm, though peversely professing very little interest in that sale. His Mum killed herself, and he is haunted ...more
Ade Bailey
Mar 03, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
A bit of a shaggy beast of a novel. Full of good things, the usual dry Banks wit, clear cut (I am being complimentary) characters, fumbling adolescent sex and adolescent lovelorn lollopings, some neat observations on the business world, a few great and memorbale scenes, a highly unusual use of the first person narrator (which is worth considering if you move a bit deeper), a focus on the specific dysfunctionality of one family standing in for all families, and a real page turner, easygoing confe ...more
Richard Hellen
Sep 09, 2014 rated it liked it
A holiday impulse buy that i read over a couple of days. I've heard a lot about the author but never read anything by him and chose this one at random...Loved the start, loved the shifts in narrative and the way that the story kicked off. Kind of reminded me of the Crow Road in many ways - young male protagonist, wealthy family and a Scottish Estate - its all there and actually its OK. Banks creates convincing characters here and I felt that they were consistently believable. But somewhere aroun ...more
Jul 04, 2008 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Matti Tornio
Oct 14, 2014 rated it it was ok
There's nothing truly wrong with this book, it is simply uninteresting and uninspired. All this has been done better before, including by Banks himself.

None of the characters are likable, the big reveal at the end was not particularly shocking and the book devolves into preaching and ranting on multiple occasions.
Jan 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
I almost gave this five as I love this writer and it certainly is a strange and rather glorious novel. Alban is part of a clan who built their fortune on a board game and now the Americans want to buy them out. It is quirky, slips in and out of time periods and would not appeal to everyone!
James Folan
Mar 23, 2015 rated it it was ok
Disappointing. The writing is as good as ever, but the story and characters don't add up to much really.
Feb 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having read most of Iain Banks's mainstream fiction (though oft a wee bit off-the-wall: The Wasp Factory [1984]; The Bridge [1986], very redolent in its latter third of Titus Alone [1959], Peake's latter third of the Gormenghast trilogy [1946, 50, 59]) - and all of his science fiction - with a great deal of repeated pleasure - I cannie get used to the rather laddish pitch of some of them (Whit [1987]; The Crow Road [1992], a bit; definitely Espedair Street [1987] and later, Stonemouth [2012]). I ...more
Feb 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Tossers and fools
Recommended to Alan by: Other work
The long and lonely road that leads up to the sprawling Scottish estate named Garbadale may very well have a significant incline, but the title of The Steep Approach to Garbadale is really more of a, wossname, metaphor, innit? At any rate, for Alban McGill, wandering scion and dark-grey sheep of the venerable and vastly wealthy Wopuld clan, the steep approach to Garbadale certainly promises to be a most difficult one.

After all, his whole family will be there.

The Wopulds really are incredibly wea
Nick Milinazzo
Mar 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Alban has taken steps to remove himself from his wealthy family -- a family that built its fortune on a board game that has become so popular an American company wants to buy it. But some members aren't ready to give up the familial legacy. As Alban returns to the Scotland estate for business discussions and his grandmother's 80th birthday, he reminisces on what led him to leave the business in the first place. He's also concerned about reconnecting with his cousin, whom he still describes as hi ...more
Feb 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2008
(Dug review out of the depths of LiveJournal.)

Anyway, this is the only book by Banks that I've liked other than Player of Games.

It's well-crafted (with the exception of the recipe in the middle). Not much else to say, other than the fact that he seems to write best when he's not trying to cover huge grey areas in as few words as possible or putting in stomach-twisting things just for the shock value. Which is as it should be, but it definitely isn't true of all the books of his that I've read.
Jul 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another great story by Banks. This covers the protagonists way to a family party just weeks away, and flashes back to explain how he got her.
There are 2 of Banks' trademarks here, a twist that's more horrifying than surprising, and a majority of minor characters being fleshed out enough to feel real, even if they only feature in 20 pages, like pen sketches by a skilled artist.
This story will put some people off, but if you enjoy Banks' split timeline, flashback heavy stories you should love this
May 14, 2017 rated it it was ok
V disappointing stuff, sadly. I'm such a fan of banks, this though, seemed like a poor and pale imitation of Crow Road.

I finished it, just, hoping for some sort of gratification only it didn't come.

It had its moments and some good passages, but largely, this is one I could have done without - it's a shame, as With, Whasp Factory, White Noise and Crow Road are amongst my fav books ever read. Sadly not one for the collection....
Mark Richard
Mar 09, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: general-fiction
Ok, firstly I love books like this - to a certain extent. The slow pace, the delicate building of characters and the slowly unfolding plot..... but that's all that seems to happen, its as though Banks got slightly confused as to where the story was going and thought it would be a good idea to slow down a little more and turn everyones intrigue into agony. About half way through I, like many other readers of this book couldn't care less what happened to any of the characters.
Alan Newman
Nov 20, 2018 rated it liked it
A good read, not my favorite of Baink’s non-scifi novels—Still full of good writing, interesting characters and amusing set pieces. Though I am used to this postmodern technique, I felt the nonlinear structure and frequency flash backs and flashforths a little confusing at times. There was great artistry in Bainks’ ability to make the members of the highly dysfunctional Wopuld family oddly likable.
Mar 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Summary: First Iain Banks without the M I have read. It was OK, great writing, huge cast of characters, but the premise was rather sad and the ending predictable

Plotline: At its heart, simple but complex throughout, well thought out, but predictable.

Premise: Subject matter not very chearful

Writing: Excellent, simple

Ending: Predictable and rather a let down

Pace: Never a dull moment!
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Iain Banks / Iain...: The Steep Approach to Garbadale 1 8 Aug 14, 2012 01:02AM  
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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
“What do I really want? he thinks. This is, of course, an extremely good question. It was just such a pity that, life being as it tended to be, it so rarely came as part of a matched pair, with an extremely good answer.” 6 likes
“We got talking about how some people were selfish and some weren’t, and the difference between right-wing people and left-wing people. You said it all came down to imagination. Conversative people don’t usually have very much, so they find it hard to imagine what life is like for people who aren’t just like them. They can only empathise with people just like they are: the same sex, the same age, the same class, the same golf club or nation or race or whatever. Liberals can pretty much empathise with anybody else, no matter how different they are. It’s all to do with imagination, empathy and imagination are almost the same thing, and it’s why artists, creative people, are almost all liberals, left-leaning." a character in The Steep Approach to Garbadale: Iain Banks.” 0 likes
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