Posts Tagged ‘books’

A “Transition” for Iain Banks

Banks unites himself with himself in this science fiction satire, moving seamlessly from a world like ours through many varied and unusual equivalents. Not quite Sci-Fi, not quite fiction, ‘Transition’ is a book that was incredibly hard to put down. Banks explores the many-worlds theory of reality by using a variety of characters, set in a multiverse where some have the power to move between realities. These ‘transitioners’ work for an organisation called the ‘Concern’ which is meant to be looking after the realities by interfering with specific people’s fates to bring about a very consequentialist outcome, but for whom? One transitionary, Temudjin Oh, finds himself caught in a web between the apparent head of the Concern, Madame d’Ortolan, and her break-away protege, Mrs Mulverhall, who believes that Madame d’Ortolan is using the transitioners for her own ends, complete control of the Concern, for ever.

Banks will hardly disappoint his old fans, ‘Transition’ not only has a plot that will have you dying to read more, it explores many issues. Is the possibility that there are many realities, close enough to touch and effect each other, yet unreachable, so unusual? Many authors work takes up this issue with different results, but Banks brings in the Concern, which judges the rightness of the future through a consequentialist model, so that if one had the ability to move between realities and interfere, then one should do so to create the best outcome. This exploration is epitomised by Adrian, a London trader. Adrian is the closest character to Banks’ previous fiction, reminiscing strongly of Cameron from ‘Complicity’, a high-flying, drug-taking hedonist, typical of of our own epoch. Whilst usually supplying the comic relief, Banks uses Adrian to pick a bit of fun at our own society, whilst exploring ideas around a character that we all can empathise with.

Like most of Banks’ work, ‘Transition’ is not for the faint hearted. As usual Banks writes graphically about whatever takes his fancy, from torture, to inter-reality sex. The Philosopher, a torturer for a state in a reality unknown ( maybe ours ), is an enigmatic character, We hear how he tortures his first girlfriends Dad for the abuse he gave her, yet his character is very professional in his business, and seems to represent our own tendencies to hold down a job, no matter how morally reprehensible, if we are told we excel at it. Whilst all the time continuing to torture, the Philosopher continues to question his role and place in some of Banks’ most thoughtful narratives.

‘Transition’ flows effortlessly between myriad characters and realities, drawing the reader into a multiverse where realities collide and cross-reference. It is not always forthcoming with answers – we never find out how Oh flitted without septus – but Banks creates a world where travel between realities is accepted and taught, which is as intricate and deep as the world of ours that he satires and pokes fun at. Well worth the effort.


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