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The Bridge - Iain Banks
Member Name: little_pandora
The Bridge - Iain Banks
Date: 21/03/05, updated on 02/04/05 (1054 review reads)
Iain Banks is my favourite author. I have never encountered any other writer with such a diverse talent, whose novels chnage in genre from out and out science fiction, to romance, to thriller, and in the case of 'The Bridge', psychological science fiction.
Published in 1984, 'The Bridge' was written by Banks as a homage to the great Scottish author and painter Alasdair Gray. The novel is, in fact, based loosely upon Gray's monumental work 'Lanark', a book that is heralded as the greatest Scottish novel of all time (arguably!).
Now, 'The Bridge' is admittedly a difficult and complex novel to grasp. Without giving too much away, although if you read the blurb unbder 'description' you may find the plot twist spoiled, I'll give you a brief plot rundown;
The opening section of the novel describes what you think is a crash. Thereafter, we are fascinated and confused with several different sections. One details the life of John Orr, a man washed up at the foot of the majestic Bridge. Orr is suffering from amnesia, and can't quite grasp the fact that he has woken up in a place that seems to be a never-ending bridge. Amongst this we are introduced to a set of Orr's dreams, some his own fabrication, some real. Then there is the life story of an unknown man peppered throughout the novel. It is indeed complex, but incredibly compelling and very unusual.
Banks has always excelled in story-telling that requires the piecing together of a mystery. His technique of very gradually revealing past events from the life of the protagonist is one that works extremely well in this case. As the life of the man in the hospital bed is slwoly revealed, the reader comes tantalisingly close to the truth, whilst in contrast Orr's past remains frustratingly elusive, which makes turning the pages a very compelling act.
The narrative itself is, as always in Banks' case, really quite diverse. Ranging from utterly confusing (see the opening page), to your bog standard English, base Scots and Glaswegian, the language is a fascinating study (what Gray would call 'critic fodder'). Once you've reached the end of the novel and understand who the barbarian and the man in the hospital bed are, the narrative takes on a whole deeper meaning. The barabarian, with his slang and ridiculously spelled language, represents the deepest part of Orr, a part that he is deeply ashamed of.
This novel is truly unique. Not quite science fiction, not quite a psychological thriller, 'The Bridge' would not fit comfortably into any category. The story is incredibly compelling; I can guarantee you'll be itching to discover the truth behind Orr's past, as well as the identity of the man in the hospital bed, as he is known throughout the novel. The gradual unravelling of the story is masterfully woven by Banks, and I'm sure Gray would be quite flattered and impressed with his homage.
I'd advise you to read this novel if:
(a) you're an Iain Banks fan
(b) you like an interesting read that doesn't patronise or insult your intelligence
(c) you like 'Lanark'
(d) you're breathing
I'm sure we'd all fit into one of the above categories ;-p
However, if you have little patience and like things to be spelled out for you, avoid this novel at all costs. Banks leaves it up to you do pick at the elusive clues and make your own conclusions, so lazy readers beware. This is a fascinating, complex book, and I'd rate it as one of Banks' best to date. So go read it, now!!!
P.S. did any of you smarty pants work out the 'man in the hospital bed's ' name? Well there's two clues, if I give you the name, see if you can work out where I found it...Alexander Lennox.
Thanks for reading :-)