The Quarry is Iain Banks’ final novel and is the story of Kit, an autistic teenager and his father Guy, who is dying of cancer. There are echoes of Frank Cauldhame (The Wasp Factory) in Kit, who provides the narrative voice for what reads like a rather rushed final chapter in the Banks canon and the bitter, anti-capitalist, anti-royalist, anti-British-society invective of Guy may be a vehicle for Banks own reflections on where we are. The bitterness seems very much at odds with the Banks persona, but there you are – perhaps the private, dying Banks felt he needed to rail against everything he saw as being wrong while he still had the chance.
I rather enjoyed it, despite it getting panned in the press. For sure, it reads a little like a first, or second draft, with dialogue dominating the proceedings, and with very little of the dramatic narrative for which Banks is rightly famed in evidence. In fact there are so few of the twists and turns I’ve come to expect from a Banks novel, that I could quite easily believe this was a good piece of fan fiction.
The story itself concerns the relationship between Kit and Guy, set over a long weekend during which Guy’s old university friends arrive at his crumbling home, ostensibly for one last bash with their old mate, but the sub-plot of a finding video tape they’d made of an orgy, which was supposedly in the possession of guy, and their motivations for wanting it destroyed is the unifying force and motivation for their actions.
There are some great moments, some touching scenes and some great black humour, but this will always be viewed as Banks going out with a whimper rather than a bang… He really doesn’t do himself justice. If you’re fan, as I am, you will read this with sadness, then pick up the Wasp Factory and start again, but read it you must.