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“Complicity” by Iain Banks


exciting novel

a lots of graphic sex and violence

Recommendable Yes:

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How does it compare to similar books?Excellent

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Surprise surprise! This is what I get, among the rest, to translate by my publisher. "Complicity" by Iain Banks, you can imagine my surprise...

Iain Banks has a cult status in UK, and his fan club is having fanatic proportions. Bank’s writing career has been both popular and experimental. Cleverly inventive mega-selling Scotsman never suffered for his art. His latest work is slightly less staggering, considered its SF context - since his first, million-selling novel “The Wasp Factory” in 1984. Now he has settled into a routine of a three months writing per year and taking the rest of the year for his interests in fast cars and fancy technology. Indeed, Bank’s book “Complicity” is currently being made into a film starring Trainspotting's Sick Boy, Jonny Lee Miller. Banks’ only art form is literature. But, as someone who deeply understands society where he lives, he made a guest appearance both as an extra in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” and on the Then Jericho comeback album, “Orgasmaphobia”.

Reading and translating his best-selling title from 90s, I get to this conclusion. Banks is a social subjects storyteller, a modern Dickens. And, “Complicity" is an honest, erotic story about violence, true love and modern living. But you know, male story, if you get what I mean. Journalist-under-stress, Cameron Colley, is investigating a series of extremely violent murders, something that Banks graphically describes. Revealing the identity of a serial killer, he reveals tragic events from his childhood and true motives of the killer. Poetically, serial killer is a “kick ass angel”, “avenging angel”, a product of a cruel modern society, which doesn’t justifies what he does, but brings a natural balance in a genuine meaning of justice. But Cameron is not an angel himself. He’s not an innocent righteous member of society. Au no! He lives with full capacity, taking advantage of every single opportunity he gets along to. And by that, I’m talking about drug abuse, SM sex with married woman, cigarette abuse…I’m talking about motto that goes like: I’m a sinner and only God has a right to judge me, so let someone who is pure cast the first stone! And who can blame him; he’s a hero and anti-hero at the same time! The plot is compelling and very well written. Although, the extreme sex and violence of the novel may not suit everyone, this is exactly what makes him a best-selling author, the graphic sex and violence descriptions.

“...Trapped there watching this sit and after five minutes even my cock is giving up, just starting to droop but then she turns and gives it a quick flicking lick with her tongue and I beg her to suck me off but she just turns away and watches the TV on the other side of the room again, and I struggle and strain but she's tied me too tight and my knees are really sore now and I try to reason with her, and say «Look, this really is starting to hurt,» but she ignores me apart from checking on the state of my erection every few minutes and giving me quick, incredibly hot and frustrating half-licks, half-sucks every now and again, or a single saliva- moistened finger and thumb flick and I'm roaring in frustration and desire and pain in about equal and immense amounts and finally, finally, thank fuck the Anglo-Spanish crap ends and the tune tinkles and the credits roll and she clicks the box to MTV and it's still not over! The teasing, tantalizing bitch.... “
[Taken from “Complicity” novel]

Iain Banks is simply a marvelous storyteller. His style is unique. In the “Complicity” he uses a tricky technique, two narratives and two realities alongside each other: he writes in the first person from Cameron's point of view, and in the second person from the murderer's point of view, which puts reader in the position of being the murderer, dwelling on every single graphic detail. Cameron’s character is masterfully drawn and reflects a lot of what is dark about modern living: constant substance abuse, sado-masochistic sex and an obsession with a computer game. Nevertheless, this is humorous story:

“Meanwhile, I'm talking about 486s and clock-doublers and the up-coming P5 chip and CD-ROM and there are at least three things going on in my head, because part of my brain's busy handling my conversation with William, another part is reveling in the sensations being produced by his wife's foot sliding up to my knee, giving me a monstrous erection under my napkin, and a third part is sort of sitting back listening to me talk to this cheery, affable man I'm cuckolding and it's thinking what a cool bastard I am, and how chatty, informed and charming I'm being while suffering this delicious, hidden, public prick-engorging distraction. We're talking about multi-tasking and I almost want to say to him, "You want to know about multi-tasking? I'm doing it right now, pal.”
«Never mind. God, you look fuckable.»
«Want to meet up the day he goes?»
«Da.» I gulp.
«Yes, yes, yes.»
«Take off your shoe and get your foot up between my legs,» she said quietly.
«I'm not wearing any knickers.» «Oh, Christ.» [Taken from “Complicity” novel]

But in all this self-centrism Cameron also suffers which is a brilliant way for writer Banks to show how brilliantly masterful writer he is. In this novel Banks clearly & cleverly connects and relates sex and fear, which are one of the main characteristic of a modern world.

“...I can hear the dead men, hear their flayed souls, wailing on the wind to no ear save mine and no understanding at all. The view behind my eyelids goes from pink to red ten purple into black, and is suffused with a rumbling shift into a terrible, tearing roaring noise, shaking the ground, filling the air, pounding my bones, dark going dark, black stinking hell o mum o dad o no no please don't take me back there...

“...And I'm there, in the one place I've hidden from myself: not that cold day by the hole in the ice or the other day in the sunlit woods near the hole in the hill-days deniable because I was then not yet the me I have become-but just 18 months ago: the time time of my failure and my simple, shaming incapacity to reap and work the obvious power of what I was observing: the place that exposed my incompetence, my hopeless inability to witness...”

“...I crouched on the tar-black grainy stickiness of the plundered sands, within scorching distance of one of the wrecked wells, watching the way the fractured black metal stub in the center of the crater gouted a compressed froth of oil and gas in quick, shuddering, instantly dispersing bursts and bubbles of brown-black spray into the furious, screaming tower of flame above: a filthy hundered-metre Cypress of fire, shading the ground like a never-ending earthquake and bellowing madly in a strident jet-engine shriek, shuddering my bones and jarring my teeth and making my eyes tremble in their socket...”

“...My body shook, my ears rang, my eyes burned, my throat was raw with the acid-bitter stench of the evaporating crude, but it was as though the very ferocity of the experience unmanned me, unmade me and rendered me incapable of telling it...”
[Taken from “Complicity” novel]

Brilliant, original and ironic, this contemporary fable of society goes right into the twisted mind of a killer, so well, using imagination, wit and complexity. And his cyber world only reflects and conveys his own sexual drive, highlighting a general sexual drive of a modern society as well.
“...I was so tired that even though I was just dying to get the new lap-top going and make sure Despot runs all right, portable at least. The screaming orgasmic joy of it!”
[Taken from “Complicity” novel]

Bank's handling of his material separates “Complicity” from the usual genre crime fiction, and transforms it into a masterpiece. The book is hard to read. However it is one of those unique books that convey a powerful message to the reader. Despite the darker aspects of his main character, Colley remains at the same time intelligent, sensitive and educated, proud on his own cultural background, and very well aware of a contemporary culture and it’s dark side. He reflects at one point,

“...Mary King's Close was abandoned and covered over in the 16th century, left just as it was, untouched, because so many people had died of the plaque in that part of the old town's swarming tenement-warrens. The bodies consigned to the shared grave that their homes had become were simply left to rot, and the bones only removed much later...

...So, in the glacier-scoured debris east of the castle-craig's volcanic plug, deep underneath the civic core of this dormant capital, that old, cold utter darkness sits to this day...

...But in those moments of blackness you stood there, as though you yourself were made of stone like the stunted, buried buildings around you, and for all your educated cynicism, for all your late 20th century materialist Western maleness and your fierce disposal of all things superstitious, you felt a touch of true and absolute terror, a consummately feral dread of the dark: a fear rooted back somewhere before your species had truly become human and came to know itself, and in that primeval mirror of the soul, that shaft of self-conscious understanding which sounded both the depths of your collective history and your own individual being, you glimpsed-during that extended, petrified moment-something that was you and was not you, was a threat and not a threat, an enemy and not an enemy, but possessed of a final, expediently functional indifference more horrifying than evil...

And so you sit on Salisbury Crags, remembering that still present darkness and looking out over the city, feeling sorry for yourself and cursing your own stupidity and the institutionalized thoughtlessness, the sanctioned legal, lethal greed of the companies, the governments, the share-holders: all of them...”
[Taken from “Complicity” novel]

This is not the book for children or teenagers, though teenagers might find it interesting. “Complicity” is available via Internet. You can check Mr. Banks’ official site, just as well.

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Comments about this review »

MAFARRIMOND 30.01.2005 23:10

I'd enjoy this. Great review. Maureen

DarkMark 30.01.2005 21:30

sounds decent, I have a friend who'd probably enjoy this <darkmark

purplelynne 30.01.2005 19:41

I've never read any of his before. Lynne x

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Manufacturer's product description

COMPLICITY n. 1. the fact of being an accomplice, esp. in a criminal act A few spliffs, a spot of mild S&M, phone t...

Product details

Author Iain Banks
Title Complicity
Genre Thriller


Listed on Ciao since 15/06/2000

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