English: Iain Banks, author, at the Edinburgh ...

Sadly The Quarry is the last book Iain Banks ever wrote, and it is certainly a very poignant read. You can imagine him going through the same turmoil as Guy, one of the main characters who is dying of cancer.

It certainly isn’t my most favourite book by Iain (M) Banks, but it works better than some of the other non-SF books that I have read of his.

The basic premise is one of a bunch of university friends gathering for a long weekend at the house they all lived in as students, which backs onto a Quarry – hence the book title. One of their number, Guy, still lives there with his son (who is the POV character for the whole story). Guy is dying from cancer and is nearing his final stages when the gang all arrive for the weekend. The house is similarly falling apart and scheduled for demolition.

Book Review

Kit, the son, is slightly non-functional socially, although coaches well from Hol, one of the uni friends that still visits regularly. Each of those present have their own failures, weaknesses and foibles. As the weekend progresses the clues to these get more obvious. A side plot is the search for a missing tape from when the students (in the film and media studies group) made their own pastiches of well known movies on a hand held video camera almost 20 years ago.

To begin with it is barely mentioned, although there are oblique references that Kit doesn’t quite get. A couple of one to one meetings though begin to shed light on it, and it is clear that it is potentially quite embarrassing. However still low key. The tension builds and more and more is revealed until a full scale hunt for the tape is being made by everyone present.

I thought that The Quarry was fresher than his previous non-SF book Stonemouth. I enjoyed that one too, but it seemed sort of similar in many ways to The Steep Approach to Garbadale and perhaps also to Complicity. There are similarities to some of these in The Quarry also, but I thought that the characters were well worked out. Even though I know that he wrote most of it before he knew he too was dying there is still something about the way Guy is written that comes across as very much how I imagine Iain Banks would have taken it himself. This is especially true of the rants near the end of the book, which I suspect were the bit that was written after Iain Banks knew that he was dying.