Review – Iain Banks, Transition

02 Oct

Hey there girls and guys, time for another review.

This week I’m bringing you my views on Iain Banks new novel, Transition.

Now I’m not that familiar with Iain’s books but this was truly a difficult read for me, great story, but not the easiest to read.

But I will get to all that in time. 🙂

Let say that not only the universe itself is infinite but alternate dimensions as well, and in everyone there is an earth.

Now what if there was a secret organisation made up of special individuals with the ability to transition from one version of earth to the other.

Put this together, add some conspiracy, a council member mad with power, a rebel, an assassin and a few odds and ends, including a mysterious patient in a psych ward, and you have the premises for a very interesting journey.

Now then, Transition. The story is very interesting and quite captivating, when u get to it.

This book was both very good and tedious at times. 🙂 😦

You have several characters throughout the story to work with, the main one being the transitionary/assassin Mr Oh. Each chapter is divided between several of the characters. Though Iain indicates to you which characters you are busy with, when dealing with Mr Oh he tends to think of previous times and when this happens you are left confused until you figure out that you are actually dealing with a memory and no part of the current story.

This does however help to give you a better understanding of where Mr Oh comes from and what happened in the past to lead to the actions as they are currently unfolding.

Mr Oh’s character in itself is also a very interesting character to follow, most likely the most so of the whole bunch. Well he is after all the main character 🙂

He is already a fully developed character so there is no real character development, instead you find yourself standing right beside him as he works at uncovering the conspiracy that has wrapped itself around the Concern, the organisation he worked for.

The second problem I found in reading this book is that you are left completely confused and in the dark for almost the first 100 pages. There is no explanation of what is going on or any indication of a story line. 😦

This is however is corrected after about 100 pages, and trust me when you find out what the storyline is and what’s really going on, shocking and speechless. Pure genius. 🙂

From there on the story progresses relatively well, despite the amount of clutter which I will get to in a minute.

Once the storyline has been revealed, it starts to flow in a more understandable pattern, events start to make sense, and you can really start to live yourself into the story.

The final problem I had with the story was the amount of distracting information. There would be entire pages discussing theoretical, ethical, and academic concepts. On their own they are truly interesting and worth a read, but placed into the story as they are they form more of a distraction and thus resulting in a very heavy/difficult read. At times I would find myself skipping over pages just to get past all of this information. 😦

Despite all this distracting information you still find a very well written story filled with intrigue, corruption, action, romance and of course the supernatural. 🙂

Iain Banks is a great writer and this is a spectacular story, but due to the fact that I had such difficulty getting through it, it will not be making its way onto my best book list.

If you want to find out more about Iain Banks and his books then you can find his official website here.

Or if you would like to buy the book, it is currently fresh off the presses and should be available in most book stores, as for online our SA readers can find it here,
UK readers can find it here, and US readers can find it here.

Enjoy your reading!


Posted by on October 2, 2009 in Reviews


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8 responses to “Review – Iain Banks, Transition

  1. kim's scrapbook

    October 2, 2009 at 11:40 am

    iain banks is always weird

  2. Gordon

    October 13, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    That was a very measured review – I enjoyed reading your comments. Like you, I thought the book had some terrific ideas, but I found myself skipping the tedious pages of philosophising. Most of the sex seemed designed to break up the lengthy slabs of exposition – I find it hard to believe it’s really an aid to foreplay, but maybe Banks is wired differently to me! I thought it was OK, but a bit disappointing – like listening to a new album by your favourite band, and hearing similarities to the albums you love but knowing in your heart of hearts it’s really not that great…

  3. idavid85

    October 14, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    Yip i have to agree. I decided to keep my review relatively clean, so to speak. I to skiped over quite a few pages, quite a few times. As for the sex, ye i dont see how a debate over such issues can be foreplay, more like downplay. Thanks for the comment

  4. Reynardine

    October 20, 2009 at 5:39 am

    Hey the sex was the best part!

    There are things that left me puzzled about this book. I would appreciate insights on any of the following points:

    1. Is Mrs. Mulverhill an alien? (We got the slitted pupils, the accusation of rascism against Mmme. De’Ortolan…which is later clarified as being human rascism…

    2. Whatever is the deal with sexual molestation stuff in the hospital? (That was not part of the good sex!) What connection did it have with the story line? What’s the deal with the gender ambiguity of the patient? Remember, the first time someone gropes him, that someone seems shocked to find male genitalia. Did that same individual return, or was it someone with different predilections?

    3. What was the deal with the “broad shouldered” woman doctor and the dollies? I take it that the patient used his supernormal powers to do…things…to people that corresponded to what happened with the dolls. What did he do? What is the significance of him blacking out? Did he shift to another world at that point?

    4. After the patient blacks out, he wakes in a weird zombie-ward. He remarks that it’s like a warehouse–no flowers or nice things for the patients. He tries to sneak back in a few times to check out what’s going on there, but is prevented. Then one day he makes it inside, and finds it’s a regular ward–there’s flowers and nice doilies on the bedside tables. Huh?

    5. If the Concern had actually located him, why would they send only ONE assassin against a guy who is himself the most deadly assassin in all the worlds?

    6. In the end, when Madame D’Ortolan is assassinated, the assassin is female. Is that significant, or is it just the body that Oh jumped into?

  5. Reynardine

    October 20, 2009 at 5:41 am

    Oh, item 3a:

    The doctor uses a female doll to represent the patient. She seems quite baffled that he (?) insists on using a male doll.

  6. Gordon

    October 21, 2009 at 7:43 am

    Well, each to their own…

    Those are good questions! I must admit, I skimmed the hospital stuff after a while, as it just didn’t seem to be going anywhere, or making sense. I kind of decided it wasn’t worth the effort of figuring it all out, and in the end it all felt a bit flat. Like all the stuff about Adrian, by the end I was left wondering why Banks had thought it worth while to devote so much of the book to it.

    Couple of points. Yes, I thoughts Mrs Mulverhill was probably an alien. (But that didn’rt explain her back story as presented in the book, how she gradually realised the Concern was evil, etc. So go figure.) I assumed it was she who killed Madame D’Ortolan in the end, as she was the only character in the novel who called her by her first name.

    I also assume the disgusting girl with super-powers who appears at the end is also an alien who’d been captured and perverted by the Concern – hence Mrs M’s obvious empathy for her when she visits her in her captivity if Mrs M is also an alien.

  7. david

    October 21, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    Wow some interesting dilemmas, everyone. Ye would have liked to say I could help with some answers but I’m as confused about some of the stuff as you are. Personally I think that was Iain’s whole mission with this book. To completely and utterly mind…. us. Personally I don’t think they were aliens, just the next evolution in the abilities, else it would mean that Mr. Oh was either altered or has some alien dna himself. As for the racism, I just think she had a very interesting view on humanity; my view of us humans can also sometimes be rather racist. Not the biggest fan of the human condition.
    But overall, this is one of those books that are just meant to baffle us for years to come, until we get the philosopher to come extract the answers form Mr. Banks. The paper and lemon technique sounded rather interesting.

  8. Ian_C

    November 27, 2009 at 11:15 pm

    Whenever you ‘flit’ you are essentially raping another human’s mind and body. And then patient 8243 gets a little bit indignant when someone tries to put their finger up his bum? Just Mr Oh getting a tiny taste of his own medicine.


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