Thursday, February 27, 2020

19. Complicity by Iain Banks

I'm not sure what to make of this book.  I bought it at Chainon for $3 as I was looking for something readable after having slogged through a few duds in February.  Although I haven't loved all of his Iain Banks novels (Whit being the one standout), he is an excellent writer and the brief few lines of the inside cover blurb I read made me think the premise was compelling (and I am glad I only read the first few lines, because I went back and read the whole thing after I had finished the book and it basically gives away almost 80% of the story for fuck's sake).

It takes place in the early 90s.  The main character is a Scottish journalist in Edinburgh, political lefty, does a lot of drugs, plays a lot of videogames and is having an ongoing affair with a married woman while being friends with both her and her husband.  He is a good journalist, though, and works hard.  His main storyline is basically living his life, though getting these anonymous calls that seem to be providing hints to a big conspiracy.  While this story is going on, we get these nasty vignettes in the second person voice, where horrible "justice" is meted out to mostly white collar criminals: a judge who gives a rapist a lenient sentence is tied up and sodomized with a giant vibrator, an industrialist who allowed a factory accident to kill thousands is blown up in his home, etc. "You" do them all tactically, using cat burglary techniques, voice disguise and costumes.  They are pretty rough.  That's the thing about Banks, his sex and violence can be quite graphic. 

I won't go into any more about the storyline, though you can see the various ways these two storylines might start to converge.  It is well-written and the structure is excellently crafted.  Thematically, I couldn't quite get my head around it.  It is a thriller, with a mystery and action, but much of the emphasis is on the main character's backstory and his relationship with his childhood friends.  There is also a really strong theme of the justice of vigilante action against these kind of elites for their crimes.  So I enjoyed the story, but I just am not sure that any of those questions were really answered or explored in that much of an interesting way.  I guess also for the time the character was sort of novel in that he is doing speed and living a pretty dissolute life but this is presented as normal and okay.  I think it may have had more of an impact if you read it when the book came out (1993).  I felt that Banks was trying to make a point.

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