Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Garbadale The Steep Approach To Garbadale
by Iain Banks
Abacus (Little, Brown)

Supplied for review by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed By: Simon Litten

For those that don’t know, Iain Banks is the pen name Iain M. Banks uses when he is slumming it in the non-SF literary world; and from the list of titles credited to this version of his nom de plume, he has done a fair degree of slumming.

The Steep Approach to Garbadale is a peculiar book to try to describe because it is one part a love story another part coming of age story; both parts told in the here and now and in retrospect from the central character’s perspective, but with other viewpoints dragged in along the way. I’m not entirely sure that that structure worked, for as a reader I never knew whether a new chapter subsection was going to be a continuation of the present time or one of various transects from the past, a new point of view or a continuation of the current. All I can say is we got there in the end.

Mr Banks does a grand job with the inter-family relationships and Alban’s coming to terms with his family and personal history – but the ending left me feeling cheated, as though the author had run out of ideas for resolving a crisis and didn’t want to leave it hanging as a loose end. So given the themes explored I rather wish the author had shown more bottle and gone for a braver ending; as that would have suited the characters more.

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