Man, I love Iain Banks. This is now the third of his novels I’ve read (excluding his sci fi) and he has yet to disappoint me, even slightly.
Whilst The Bridge still doesn’t top Complicity for me (man, THAT is a good book), it is still a truly great book. Banks is, as always, imaginative and involving, skirting the border between fluid prose and wild streams of consciousness. And again, as always, Banks covers some difficult ground, being quite explicit about violence and sex. Banks is not for the faint-hearted: you have been warned. This is far less aggressive than Complicity however, so might be a good way in for Banksian virgins.
The Bridge starts off with a car crash, and we see it from the POV of the victim – in the chaos and confusion, the “narrative” (if it is even that) is punctuated by fear and pain, and the stream of consciousness is a bit hard to follow. But stick with it: the fog lifts (a bit) very shortly.
What follows is our protagonist’s journey through his subsequent memory loss (he is given the name John Orr because he can’t remember his real one) and his recovery from the crash.
The main part of the novel follows Orr around the strange world of the Bridge, a society built on, you guessed it, a huge bridge. It’s a surreal mix of the otherworldly and the profoundly human. However, we do get glimmers of reality intermittently in Orr’s “dream” chapters, and it swiftly becomes very difficult to discern what is real from what is not.
I can’t say much more without divulging huge spoilers, so I will leave it there in the hopes that I have already whetted your appetite enough.
A final note to say that one “dream” mentions Peniel Heugh, or the Waterloo Monument, which I recognised by Banks’ description, before it is even named in the text. And that’s because I’ve been there. Here’s photographic evidence, taken on my mobile back in July this year:
Hope you get a chance to read this book. I stormed through it in a matter of days, despite my impending lab report deadline – it is simply that exciting and engaging. But then, Banks has a good track record in my books.
Yes, that’s me, reading in bed. Shush.