Hello there! Today I am having a day of mischief on the internet as it has been a while since I’ve been able to sit and get stuck in some eternal scroll. It has also been a while since I’ve crossed off one of those books from my reading challenge list, so finally I have stopped procrastinating and gotten around to reading Walking on Glass by Iain Banks.
Iain Banks is one of those authors I always feel like I should read more of and often when I walk into a charity shop he is one of those authors I am always delighted to find. I want to pay attention to him. He is a masterful storyteller, his writing style is easy, but in my case I feel as if I need patience for him. If I lack patience for a slow burning book that twists suddenly just before end I will go and find myself something else to read. You want to give Banks time, not because he is boring, but because he enjoys messing with how long he can keep your curiosity.
Walking on Glass is no exception. It is quite an odd novel actually that plays with how closely or far apart characters can be from one another to impact one another’s story. It’s an enjoyable comment actually on how little we know about other people we come into contact with. It is a novel that does require you to pay attention, even if it’s little details such as rubbish left on the canal side path, however if it is an important detail Banks makes sure it is interesting enough for you to remember it. Banks almost litters his novel with clues actually, trying to encourage you to work out how these characters fit in around each other. It’s not a murder mystery but it is almost a game of can you guess the ending.
Firstly there is Graham Park. Graham is in love with a girl and on his way to tell the odd Sara ffitch how he feels. On his walk to her apartment he relives in detail how he meets Sara, the relationship he has with his best friend Slater, and his general daily life as an Art Student. He is a character who is surprisingly in control of the outward appearance of his emotion while being hopelessly besotted with the aloof Sara. However this is a very different boy meets girl story than the one you are expecting and I promise you, you will not see it.
Secondly there is Steven Grout. Grout is a very odd character who is very paranoid. He is convinced the Tormentors, are watching him most of the time and using their microwave ray on him in regular intervals in his day to day. This is the day that Grout resigns from his job and decides to get drunk as it is also his Birthday. Grout is also a character who fits out of socially accepted ideas of behaviour, he wears a hardhat everywhere, and enjoys pouring sugar into the fuel tanks of cars and motorbikes. The irony of this character is that the one moment his hardhat is gone he has an accident.
Thirdly, there is Quiss. Quiss is stuck in what appears to be a Castle Aquarium in a frozen wasteland. He is tormented by a talking, cigar smoking, red crow who frequently tells him to kill himself. Time is warped depending on where he and the woman, Ajayi, sit in the room, both remember being somewhere else and being the cause of terrible accidents. They have worked out why they are there though, they must play boardgames until they are given a chance to give an answer to a riddle. However they continually arrive at incorrect answers and Quiss has a rather bad temper and is prone to fits of violence. Quiss works out that they are part of an examination of a planet called ‘dirt’ and that there are some very unusual rooms in the lower levels.
They are very different characters and in some sense almost belong to different genres until the big twist – which I’m not going to spoil. It’s a really good twist. It’s one of those ‘OHHHHHHHHH’ moments. It’s a bright and vibrant book, it didn’t make me fall in love or want to shout about it to everyone I meet, but I enjoyed it. As usual, it was wonderful story telling from Banks.