OK, I’ll readily admit that I have been horrendously AWOL lately. I’m sorry. Life has been very busy, in good and bad ways. Good: one of my school friends is getting married in a month’s time. Bad: I have no money. Good: I got engaged. Bad: I’m struggling to see where I’m headed. And so forth.
But, in amongst all this, I’ve been reading. And I felt the urge to revisit a book I’ve read before, namely “Complicity” by Iain Banks. I don’t know what compelled me to pick it up again, but needless to say I couldn’t find my copy. Dagnabbit. So I bought it on my Kindle (you know, with the money I don’t have).
Anyway. I’ve mentioned Complicity before (back when I briefly reviewed The Bridge a couple of years ago) but I’ve never reviewed it before. I say “reviewed”: I mean rambled incoherently whilst giving across my sheer love of this book.
OK, it’s not a lovely book. I’ll be blunt: it’s the most vile and vicious book I’ve read. Ever. Those of you who have been exposed to Banks before have most likely read The Wasp Factory, and thought that was pretty heavy. Well, Banks himself said in interview that Complicity is ”[a] bit like The Wasp Factory except without the happy ending and redeeming air of cheerfulness”. So, try and think positive.
Complicity is based mainly in and around Edinburgh (a plus for me, already), following the strange and brutal murders of a series of capitalist, right-wing figures. But it’s not just as simple as all that, is it? No, the murders are ingenious, the murderer has the whole thing thoroughly planned out, and the reader is rapidly pulled into the depths of confusion and despair along with our narrator.
The majority of the plot of Complicity revolves around the life of Cameron Colley, a disillusioned left-wing journalist, who is a bit down on life. He is strangely lovable – I say strangely, because he is a bit sad, lonely, has many casual drug habits, has regular sex with a married woman, etc. One might say he is “a good man with bad habits”. My other half once described himself like this, so maybe that’s another reason I find Cameron strangely lovable.
The sections of plot involving Cameron are written in first person – some people call this the “unreliable narrator”, and yes, he probably is a bit, because he does ramble on. But it gives the reader a real sense of being WITH the action, in the thick of it. We feel his boredom, we sense his excitement, and finally, when he is arrested, falsely accused of the murders of those right-wing figures I mentioned, we sense his desperation, and we slip into the confusion and paranoia that interrogation and sleep deprivation brings.
There are a lot of moral questions in this book: questions about crime and punishment, war (huh, what is it good for), and the darker side of human nature. And of course, where do our loyalties lie? Would YOU be complicit?
The descriptions of the murders themselves are brutal and very uncomfortable to read in a public place. But to make matters worse (and even more effective) these sections of the novel are written in second person – yes, YOU, ”You hear the first faint distant screams just as you take the bike’s key from your pocket. You feel suddenly elated”. Shudder.
Like with all crime thrillers, I can’t divulge too much plot without spoiling the experience for you. But needless to say, this remains one of my favourite books of all time (so far). Even if I have to read some of it through my fingers. Seriously. It’s gruesome.
Oh, and a humorous tit-bit: Cameron is heavily into computer games, particularly a fictitious game called “Despot” which is curiously similar to Civilisation (which my dad used to play). Cameron loses many hours due to playing this game. In fact, he’s often playing the game when he should be writing. And you know what? So was Iain Banks. Happy sigh. Art mirrors life mirrors art.
On Thursday, Bubble stopped eating.
She had been struggling with myco complications for a good few weeks now, and the antibiotics seemed to be having only a limited positive effect.
Rats often have respiratory problems, especially as they get older (my girls are about 2 now). Sometimes they get by on baytril long term, and Bubble put up a good fight, but ultimately, she needed a rest.
I can feel myself welling up now.
Ben phoned me up a few weeks ago, whilst I was up here in Suffolk and he and the rats were still in London, sounding worried – Bubble’s breathing was really bad, he said. Very wheezey, sneezey. She had bad porphyrin build up around her eyes too, a sign that she was seriously stressed out.
The vet gave her jabs, and gave us some baytril to administer at home (via oral syringe – she hated that). Then there was the corvental-D, and the powdered steroids, and I think it was all a bit much, and optimism got the better of us.
Bubble has always been a bit of a sickly rat. She had an abscess in January, and she’s been a bit sniffy since we first got her. But she’s also been very highly spirited, ok quite highly strung, but cheeky and loads of fun. Never a dull moment, even if the chewed wires were a pain (rare, but ultimately inconvenient).
Rats are tricky. They are incredibly affectionate, intelligent, inquisitive, and ultimately very easy to get attached to. But they are also small, and therefore quite short lived. Most rats manage 2-4 years. Short but sweet. I loved having Bubble in my life, which has made the last few days all the more difficult.
With the move to Suffolk and my new job starting, I’ve been up and down to London. Unfortunately, when things turned the bad corner on Thursday, I was up here, not down there. But I didn’t want her to wait, suffering unnecessarily, until I got home. A difficult decision, but we think the right one, Ben took her, alone, to the vet. I’m sorry that I couldn’t say goodbye. It hurts to think about that.
But she can get some rest now. I worry that her sister, Squeak (who moved up to Suffolk with me this morning) will be lonely. She seems mostly ok for now, but rats are sociable creatures, and I think she enjoyed being bullied by Bubble. We’ll have to keep each other company for now.
Two posts in one day. I know, I spoil you.
Really, I just wanted to share with you something that I feel is a beautiful homage, well put-together, and strangely enchanting. It is essentially a mash-up of documentary and lecture clips, auto-tuned to produce a flowing melody, on an electronic backing track, but the end result is, frankly, brilliant. Includes some of my true heroes, some more well-known faces of science, and also Bill Nye (the Science Guy) who taught me science via my telly when I was only 6 years old. Squee.
EDIT: If you enjoy this, you can watch Jill Bolte Taylor’s moving, inspiring TED talk (sampled here) in full here
It’s amazing to consider that I’m holding in my hands
The place where someone once felt, thought, and loved
For centuries, scientists have been battling to understand
What this unappealing object is all about
Here is this mass of jelly
You can hold in the palm of your hands
And it can contemplate the vastness of interstellar space
The brain has evolved from the inside out
Its structure reflects all the stages through which it has passed
[Jill Bolte Taylor]
Information in the form of energy
Streams in simultaneously
Through all of our sensory systems
And then it explodes into this enormous collage
Of what this present moment looks like
What it feels like
And what it sounds like
And then it explodes into this enormous collage
And in this moment we are perfect
We are whole and we are beautiful
It appears rather gruesome
Wrinkled like a walnut, and with the consistency of mushroom
What we know is encoded in cells called neurons
And there are something like a hundred trillion neural connections
This intricate and marvelous network of neurons has been called
An enchanted loom
The neurons store sounds too, and snatches of music
Whole orchestras play inside our heads
20 million volumes worth of information
Is inside the heads of every one of us
The brain is a very big place
In a very small space
No longer at the mercy of the reptile brain
We can change ourselves
Think of the possibilities
Think of your brain as a newspaper
Think of all the information it can store
But it doesn’t take up too much room
Because it’s folded
We see with the eyes
But we see with the brain as well
And seeing with the brain
Is often called imagination
It is the most mysterious part of the human body
And yet it dominates the way we live our adult lives
It is the brain
I’m still here! Promise.
Just a bit hectic here (as always). I still don’t have an oven or washing machine (anyone in Waveney with a spare, working washing machine that they want to donate?) but I now have a fridge and a DOUBLE inflatable mattress.
Lots still to bring up from London, but we’re getting there, slowly. Ben has, just today, sold his big red Capri for breaking, and was only offered £500 for it. I think he is very sad, but he’s not letting on much, and it’s hard to tell when I’m 3 hours away. I feel bad for him, because I know he loved that car and, given the time, space and money, he would have reconditioned it and made it beautiful.
However, we don’t have the time, space or money for it. In some ways, this is a good thing: our time, space and money is being developed towards our future, home and (eventually) family. It’s an exciting time, but also scary, lots of change and lots of sacrifice.
My major sacrifice at the moment is probably my sanity: trying to juggle training for three jobs is starting to do my head in, with one employer giving me a bunch of night shifts for a few week’s time. But never mind – I expected this. And hopefully, it means first paycheck soon…
I’m a bit in love with ol’ Flo and her machine. This and “Howl” are particularly good. Remember, you must become the lion-hearted girl, ready for a fight.