I have been reading Iain Banks and Iain M Banks books since his brilliant debut novels ‘The Wasp Factory’ and ‘Consider Phlebas’ and so it is with a rather sad frame of mind that I concluded reading ‘The Quarry’ his last non science fiction novel. The Quarry in question is set to eventually engulf the house of the narrator, Kit – an eighteen year old boy with something like mild Asperger’s syndrome, where he lives with his father Guy who is dying of cancer. As such the quarry sits as a brooding metaphor in the background of the rest of the story which revolves around Kit trying to find out who his mother is before his father dies (he was left on Guy’s doorstep as a baby) and Guy’s group of old university chums coming to the dilapidated house to say farewell to their old friend but also wanting to find an embarrassing video tape that could ruin their careers if made public.
Set as it is mostly in the old leaking house (another metaphor for Guy’s illness) it could easily be converted to a stage play in which the old university friend’s devour copious amounts of alcohol, curry, drugs, bacon butties and cups of tea while discussing politics, religion, death and the state of the world. Banks is one of the few writers who as a reader I really click with- it feels almost like some form of telepathy where the words I read on the page correspond almost identically with my feelings on the various subjects put under the spotlight of Banks’s ranting Guy and the various baggage carrying characters orbiting this deathly black hole.
Much better than ‘Stonemouth’, which I found a little lightweight, this novel is a fitting final bow at the curtain by this player of games who voice has been in my life since my teenage years and will be sadly missed by me and countless other dedicated readers.