by Iain Banks
Timing, huh? Ever since my GCSE English teacher put beautiful posters of Banks’ book Whit on the classroom wall I have intended to read his books and just not got round to it. When planning my Easter read-a-thon Tim picked this book out from my TBR and I finally became a legitimate Iain Banks fan just a couple of days before learning the very sad news of his terribly ill health.
Ken Nott is a London DJ, an extreme liberal who likes to shock. He’s a good guy, except when it comes to relationships because he is major cheatypants.
The story opens with a hedonistic party. Drugs, scandal, bitching and bad behaviour are cranked up high and then news filters through that a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center. In the aftermath of 9/11, Nott’s brand of humour is right on the edge of uncomfortable, using liberalism as a form of attack. He says a lot of things any left-wing person might say now, 11+ years later, but few would have dared to say in those heightened days.
“That day, sitting in the ruins of the abandoned party…we kept going out onto the terrace to look at the Canary Wharf towers, tall against the skyline less than a mile away, half expecting to see them hit by a plane and crumble with the same awful grandeur as the first tower. ‘It’s Pearl Harbor II,’ we said. ‘They’ll fucking nuke Baghdad.’…’The barbarians have seized the narrative.’ ‘Fuck, the bad guys are re-writing the scripts…this is a disaster movie directed by Satan.'”
Between saying crazy things to the wrong people and being an ass when it comes to women, Nott gets himself into trouble in various ways, so when his life comes under threat, there are all sorts of possible reasons for it, most of which are red herrings.
I must admit I came to like Nott and even found myself thinking he talked a lot of sense. But the story definitely got better when it became a thriller, albeit a literary one. And it was funny. Gotta love a book that’s both literary and funny.
“Liberals…They’re my kind of people. Liberals want niceness. What the hell is wrong with that? And, bless them, they do it in the teeth of such adversity! The world, people, are disappointing them all the time, constantly throwing up examples of what total shites human beings can be, but liberals just take it all…and they keep on going…sending cheques to good causes, turning up at marches, getting politely embarrassed by working-class oafism and just generally getting all hot under the collar…I’m telling you, it’s a sick, sick nation that turned the word ‘liberal’ into an expletive.”
Published 2002 by Little, Brown.
Source: I’m pretty sure I bought it from a real live bookshop but a long time ago now. Too long ago.