Iain Banks’ Swan song: The Quarry

banks-quarry-lst114743IT WAS with a mixture of excitement and sadness that I opened the cover of  The Quarry. I have been an Iain Banks fan for as  long as I can remember.  I was about 14 when I first read The Wasp Factory and promptly devoured The Crow Road shortly afterwards.  So when Banks announced that he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer I knew that I would be unable to write an objective review of the novel.  Even more poignant is the fact that the novel is written from the perspective of 18 year old Kit, whose father Guy is dying from cancer, a story begun prior to Banks’ own diagnosis.  It would seem that The Quarry is almost prophetic.  With all this in mind then, how good is The Quarry?

The answer, for me, is very.  Its main theme centres, inevitably, around death and the effect it has on those surrounding a dying person. Banks was a master at the use of dialogue within his novels and The Quarry highlights this very well.  It is just that – a dialogue of  drunken ramblings, political rants and crucial moments of pure honesty.  Guy is the epitome of the grumpy old man.  Couple that with the fact that he is well aware of his impending fate and you are presented with a very real situation, one that anyone who has been unfortunate enough to  witness a dying cancer patient will relate to.

As with all of Banks’ novels, there is humour amongst the heartbreak.  Guy’s friends who surround him are searching for a videotape that apparently holds some kind of incriminating evidence pertaining to their youth. The quarry of the title is a huge hole at the end of the garden.  After Guy dies, the house will be demolished and the land it stands on will become part of the expanding quarry.

Guy is a monstrous creation who is vile to his son – raging about everything in life but mainly about how unfair it is that he has to die too young.  And in essence, that is what The Quarry is about.  It is a rant about the unfairness of such a situation.  And it is unfair. The literary world has lost one of it’s shining stars.  If you have never picked up a Banks novel then I urge you to do so and I guarantee that you will not be disappointed!