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A Song Of Stone

3.19  ·  Rating details ·  4,445 ratings  ·  241 reviews
The war is ending. For the castle and its occupants the troubles are just beginning. Armed gangs roam a lawless land, and taking to the roads seems safer than remaining in the ancient keep. But the captain of an outlaw band has other ideas.
Paperback, 280 pages
Published 2003 by Abacus (first published 1997)
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Average rating 3.19  · 
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Description: The war is ending. For the castle and its occupants the troubles are just beginning. Armed gangs roam a lawless land, and taking to the roads seems safer than remaining in the ancient keep. But the captain of an outlaw band has other ideas.

Opening: Winter was always my favourite season. Is this yet winter? I do not know. There is some technical definition, something based on calendars and the position of the sun, but I think one simply becomes aware that the tide of the seasons has
Sep 12, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you're going to read this book, it's best to know that it isn't for everyone.

This is more like a novella or a short story than a novel, and the scope is very narrow, including only a handful of named characters and a setting that hardly spans more than a few miles. It is a post-apocalypse world, but the reason for the apocalypse, nor the state of the rest of civilization are ever even brought up. But that's not what most people might have a problem with.

It's very dark. And by that I mean VE
Oct 31, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A truly execrable novel, as if Banks had wanted to see how unpleasant he could make a novel before forcing the reader to give up on it.

It's by Iain Banks, rather than Iain M., so it's mainstream, despite being set in a near-future setting where Britain has lapsed into anarchy.

Abel and wife/sister Morgan flee their ancestral seat but are captured by bandits who periodically humiliate them. Abel is a pontificating fop with whom it's hard to empathize, but even he doesn't deserve to be hurled down
Nov 22, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A few months ago, I recall there was a discussion in some comment thread about who might be the most unpleasant character in any good mainstream novel. I'm pretty sure that the top contenders were Humbert Humbert from Lolita and John Self from Money.

I think that the antihero of Song of Stone is also competitive. He's a bit like Humbert; he writes elegantly and well (it's another first-person narrative), and you don't immediately realize just how creepy he is. But you will. You will.
Feb 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
You'd be lucky to find any other author who would take such a risk as to publish a novel as vague and philosophical as this one, and then throw in the dark themes that emerge towards the end. I won't say much to avoid spoilers, but this is one of those novels where the plot is the least important part: the inner dialogue of our narrator is how we move forward. It goes to some dark places and leaves much unsaid, but Banks' prose is beautifully written and thematically dense in a way that never fe ...more
This is phenomenal. A Song of Stone returns to the bleak and quite perverse 'The Wasp Factory', but with a much more distressing story. Of all the Iain Banks novels I have read (I have read a lot, and still have a lot more to read), this is so heavy, deep, philosophical and, yes, quite ugly of the ones I have read. It is a post-apocalyptic future; think Mad Max, think Children of Men, think of a fallen society and there is the gist of the book. A Song of Stone deals with a landowner who owned a ...more
Jun 02, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary
I don't think I'm gonna try reading much more by Iain Banks minus the M. It's well written (perhaps a little florid, in this one), but it just doesn't appeal to me. There's some crossover, even, but... it's just different. The dark moments in his Culture novels just ring differently to the darkness of these books, for me.

It just didn't feel like a story, to me, just unpleasantness for the sake of it.
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Set in a contemporary (or recent-past), vaguely Eastern European country, torn by civil (?) war, this is an insular, even claustrophobic tale which mixes philosophy and perversion.
(In it's non-specificity, it almost feels like a fantasy setting, but there are no supernatural elements in the book.)
Stylistically and even thematically, it reminded me very strongly of Hermann Hesse - but much, much nastier. The writing is also, however, just full of hilariously clever, witty turns of phrase.
The book
Jul 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 06, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The other reviews here all cover the plot sufficiently well that I have no need to do the same. What I'd like to add is an opinion on what the message of the story is.

To me, this is a tale about the impermanence, the transient nature of all things. We know that life will end; we never admit that love comes to an end, although we should. But above all, even that which seems permanent and impregnable to us will one day cease to be; indeed, once it never even was. This is the castle. This is the so
Dec 12, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: other-fiction
Song of Stones has a rather "literary" feel, in that it is more thematically-centered than plot-driven. The story itself is actually quite simple. In fact, the main tug through the story is provided by unraveling the mysterious relationship between the narrator, his lover, and their castle, which functions almost as a character.

Even if the story were completely lacking, though, the language would be compelling. It is rich, poetic, full of striking imagery and intriguing wordplay. Though there
T.S. S. Fulk
Feb 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
If I had read this before IS and Boko Haram, I would have felt that the cruelty and utter lack of decency/empathy was exaggerated. Now I am not so sure. Humans are the cruelest animals on this planet. Read the last few chapters of this book to get Iain Bank’s take on that.

The slow start makes it feel like we humans aren’t so bad, but that was just a warm up.
While I have read a dozen SF novels by Iain M. Banks, this is the first literary, non SF, one I have read.

My overall impression is that it's really, really hard to believe this is the same author. Bank's literary prose is amazing and often reads like more poetry. My only real criticism of the book in fact, is that sometimes the prose seems to be over indulgent and you can't see the story for the words. And speaking of the story, it's very dark and brutal so I would not read this unless you are o
Kevin Kelsey
Jun 15, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-2021
I'm going with two stars, because there are some wonderful paragraphs in here, but the book isn't anywhere as good as its parts. ...more
Sally Melia
Feb 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Song of Stone is Iain Banks 9th novel published in 1997, but he had already written another 8 Science Fiction novels under the name Iain M Banks, so a consistent output of almost two book a year at least over ten years.

As with most of the non-Science Fiction this book is fairly political in tone, and I read it the year of its publication in paperback. It was clear to all that this novel was speaking of the unimaginable brutality and horror which was the Bosnian war of 1992-1995. Due a split
Dec 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People who like Kafka, Beckett, Kosinski, J.G. Ballard etc.
This book is for true connoisseurs of misery...such as myself. Well I like Beckett, Kafka and Lautremont and the music of Nick Cave, Swans and Smog so it may apply to me. In short, if you're looking for a jolly read then turn away'd be better off pouring yourself a G&T, going into the garden and reading some more P.G. Wodehouse.

Although I was prepared for this being a dystopian, post-apocalyptic type of novel I was a bit surprised by the way it was written. The narrator is at times unb
Ricardo Sueiras
I had been given this book many Christmas' ago, and had sat on the book gathering dust so a holiday in a stone cottage in Normandy gave me the opportunity to finally read this. I did not know much about this book, but as an avid Banks reader, and having read most of the previous books, I was looking forward to it.

I found the book very easy to read, with Banks usual very descriptive style flowing with the story rather than against it. The book is set during the time of war (civil perhaps, but cer
Jul 17, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Not sure what to think about this one. It felt very allegorical, and yet I don't know what the allegory is about. It also felt unduly misogynistic--just because you have a flawed narrator, doesn't mean I want to slog through that shit. ...more
Stuart Coombe
Probably a 3.5

I liked large parts of the book but could have done without some of the reminiscing in particular regarding the narrators sexual relationship with his wife. I liked that there wasn’t a great explanation and the castles rich history and the class dynamics played out in a time of no dignity and no social structure
Dec 30, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
A.M. Steiner
Dec 19, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A spectacularly unsuccessful exercise in miserablism, about a sadistic nobleman caught up in an endless civil war.

2019's been my year of reading terrible books by some of my favourite authors, and this one was probably the worst. Nothing works in this book. The protagonist is a boring, passive, parody of a DeSade ripoff. None of the attempted "twists" are even surprising, let alone shocking. The author's voice is so loud and florid that it drowns any possibility of nuance or emotional connection
Simon Mcleish
May 17, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Originally published on my blog here in September 1999.

A Song of Stone is about the relationships between people and places. It starts with the nobleman Abel fleeing with his mistress and some of the servants from the castle which has been his home all his life, fearing its destruction at the hands of one of the bands of soldiers pillaging the country as a result of the anarchy following civil war. Intercepted in their flight by just such a band, they return to the castle, which the lieutenant a

(3.5 stars)

I read this as a Iain Banks-introductory first course before one day tackling his acclaimed first novel "The Wasp Factory". "A Song of Stone" is the only Banks novel our library offers, so (despite many warnings I've read online saying "'A Song of Stone' should not be the first book you read of Banks' work") I chose this book to get my feet wet.

I think maybe I should've heeded the warnings: this is one exasperating novel. The (somewhat thin) apocalyptic story line is all but drowned o
James Tucker
A Song of Stone is one of the last novels that I had left to read from the library of Iain Banks. It was first published in 1997 but has a old or rather timeless feel to it. I thought it published earlier due to its almost complete lack of technology other than vehicles, guns and radios. In my mind it takes place in England after some apocalyptic event that we are never told about, although it could be some eastern European state, nothing is clear. It is a sad and gloomy story told in the first ...more
Jun 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Able takes his partner, Morgan, and their posessions, away from the castle that has been his family's home for generations. They flee into a country torn apart by war, but are caught by the Lietenant and her gang of men. Recognised as the Castle's keepers, they are dragged back and made to participate in the random destruction of their home. Able feels that he should be doing more and uses small things to get his revenge, but all to no avail. Eventually, the war comes to them and he is faced wit ...more
Alan Newman
Sep 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A dark beautifully written novel about war, class struggle, passivity vs action, the depravity to which Man so easily descends, sexual exploitation. Abel, the narrator, is a fascinating mix of effeteness, cluelessness and sardonic self awareness but of a class whose demise was inevitable. The "Loot" is even more fascinating, a ruthless, powerful woman, a leader of men, covetous of while hating everything Abel stands for. Morgan, Abel's wife tries to survive by her passivism and beauty; the Lieut ...more
Aug 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Oh so stylish. How I will miss Iain Banks, one of our greatest, most original and most readable authors.

Song of Stone is another great story, told from the perspective of a man who seems so tolerant and yet in the end, he fails himself because he is, like Banks other characters, flawed and human. I loved the other characters in the tale. Once again, like The Wasp Factory, there is an element of unrestrained, amoral behaviours that we all yearn to be able to indulge. In this case, war allows for
Apr 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My wife read all of the Hitchhikers series by Douglas Adams recently. Afterwards she swallowed Ian McEwan's Cement Garden in practically a single gulp; during her inhalation, she noted, Douglas is a hoot but this - the McEwan - is writing. Likewise my speculative meanders and flanks have been engaging, but Banks can speak of the dystopic with true panache.

There are pervasive odors of Hamlet throughout this powerful fable. Incest and Madness share equal billing as a measure of preamble until all
Nicole Dragos
Mar 31, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I want to throw this book out the window. I'm just being honest here. Sorry if this isn't the book review you wanted.

It began okay, I guess, quite liked it. Well, all appear from those sexual connotations which were just so out of place and uncomfortable. But by the time I reached the middle and near the end of the book , I genuinely wanted to throw it out the window. Burn it. I don't think I could exactly pin point why, but it's just how I felt.

I need to compare this book to the Road by Cormac
Nov 21, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Abel is the narrator, slightly unreliable, arrogant, and fairly untrustworthy. However, he wasn't interesting enough for me to pay close attention to his story.
Banks has delivered a well written novel, yet I was never enthralled, and I lost interest before the denouement, and skimmed to the end. The plot and the setting were more intriguing than the clever deceptions which Abel was spouting.
Although, I still like Bank's writing(THE WASP FACTORY is a minor classic), I would not recommend this nov
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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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