Dan Sandman

28: The Bridge by Iain Banks

In Books, Fiction on 12/07/2013 at 12:00 pm

The Bridge by Iain BanksI’m going to my local book club next week. We’ll be meeting downstairs (I live above a library) to discuss The Bridge by Iain Banks. Sadly, the Scottish author recently passed away, on June the 9th this year, following a long battle with cancer. Banks was an important non-genre and science fiction writer who will be missed by his many worldwide fans.

Written in 1986, The Bridge raises many philosophical questions about life, death and the subconscious mind. The book’s interwoven and shifting narratives artfully explore the inner workings of a man’s mind whilst he is lying in a coma. It is an exciting story that is surreal in terms of both form and content – a masterpiece that showcases Banks’ playful way with words. It’s often laugh out loud funny, at times odd or disturbing, and always a pleasure to read.

However, because of the non-linear form – plus the occasional use of phonetically spelt dialect – it can sometimes be difficult to follow the story. Banks consistently asks more questions than he answers, yet is at his best when diverting the norms and standards of literature; playing with the reader’s expectations; building up contrasting layers of intrigue; varying the storytelling device. The Bridge is like a good symphony:  carefully structured with some good tunes holding together contrasting sections.

I’ll enjoy chatting about this book at the Primrose Hill Community Library Book Club. I think it has the potential to liven up a room full of book lovers. Yes, it can be angry, but it can be light-hearted too; it’s a deep multi-layered fiction. Good writers of fiction – and Banks is certainly an expert – are able to organise their stories in new ways that reveal something about the human condition. By reading this book, I found myself thrown into a fascinating world where experience, time and memory do not necessarily follow predictable patterns. In a universe full of hundreds of billions of galaxies, this fictional hypothesis seems a likely conclusion.

Reminds of a time when I… but that was another story.

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