the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘fiction

the quarryThe Quarry, by Iain Banks

published June 2013

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher

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I’m supposed to be reviewing Hugo stuff, you say?

Don’t you worry, I got plenty of that sweet stuff right around the corner for you, but when an Iain Banks shows up on your doorstep, everything else gets brushed aside. It’s like getting a Lynch, or a Rothfuss, you know?

The Quarry was Iain Banks’ final novel. It’s tough for me to even type that without getting a lump in my throat. He wrote somewhere that had he known this was going to be his last, he would have written a better book, something more epic. Personally, I think he chose a damn good one to go out on. No “M” in the name means this is plain old contemporary fiction. No spaceships, no aliens, no artificial intelligences, no galaxy spanning cultures.  It’s been ages since I read a good old novel. If they were all this good, I’d read ‘em more often.

Eighteen year old Kit lives with his dying father Guy in an old house that’s falling apart. In the final stages of terminal cancer, Guy grudgingly depends on Kit for everything, often lashing out at him in frustration. It’s never explicitly stated, but Kit is definitely on the high functioning end of the Autism spectrum.

The entire story is told in present tense from Kit’s point of view, and it’s his voice that really pulls you in.  He has so much to say, he just doesn’t quite know how to say it, or who to say it to, or why in fact, things like that even need to be said. He doesn’t understand rhetorical questions or why people just can’t say what they are thinking or feeling. Guy obviously loves his son very much, but it’s unfortunate that there are very few places where Kit is accepted for who he is. Had the story been from anyone else’s point of view, he would have been a quiet kid who faded into the background, and the reader would have missed out on an incredible character.

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I recently reviewed Robert Jackson Bennett’s newest novel, The Troupe, and it was absolutely incredible. Seriously, go read my review.  I’ll wait.

Mr. Bennett’s debut novel, Mr. Shivers was published in 2010, and while that novel was winning  literary awards left  and right, he was busy publishing his second novel, The Company Man.  His fourth novel, American Elsewhere is scheduled to hit store shelves this coming winter.   And beyond all of that wonderfulness, he agreed to let me ask him a bunch of strange questions. What a gentleman!

Everyone, please give a big round of applause to Robert Jackson Bennett!

LRR: The Troupe focuses around Vaudeville performers and troupes that traveled the country in the early 1900’s from theater to theater. Did you spend any time in the theater when you were younger? Are you a fan of music and theater of the early 1900’s?

RJB: I was a musician, actually – a classically trained violist. So I know a fair bit about prodigies like George, having met a few in my time. Some were hilariously self-involved, like George, and others were like the little circus dogs who only know how to perform, and haven’t ever done anything else. It could be a bit sad, in a way.

I’m a huge fan of early 20th century comedy – the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton… I still haven’t seen that many comedians who can do so much with so little.

Some people don’t get the Marx Brothers. Personally, I don’t get people who don’t get the Marx Brothers.

LRR: Did you always want to be a writer? If not, what got you started down the path to “Hi, I’m an author!”

RJB: I kind of think so. I think my parents might have raised me to be a writer without knowing it. My first word was “Melville,” if that gives you any idea, because that was our dog’s name. They were always giving me books and discussing them with me. It was expected of you to be culturally informed. And at some point in time I started thinking up variations of the things they were showing me or books I read on my own, trying to make them better and make them the sort of story I wanted to read, and eventually this just translated into writing.

LRR: What authors and books have inspired you over the years?

RJB: Oh, geez. A bunch. I grew up reading Stephen King, Madeleine L’Engel, Roald Dahl; then it translated into Neil Gaiman, John le Carre, Susana Clarke, David Foster Wallace; and lately I’ve been reading a lot of David Mitchell and Katherine Ann Porter.

I’m chiefly fascinated by work that examines one idea or a set of ideas. I still think of a novel as the most fun kind of thought experiment, trying to glean truths from fabulous lies, setting things in motion and smashing them together and seeing what’s left and what isn’t. I’d say most of my novels fall under this category.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.