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am 28. Juli 2000
It seems that with every novel Mr.Banks produces, his stories become less and less acessible. A large, large part of "A Song of Stone" is left up to interpretation. This is not at all a bad thing, but it does mean that you'll want to read the book with someone, preferably aloud, so that the two of you can argue out the exact relationship of the main characters, debate the meaningfullness (or lack thereof) of their names, decide where exactly the story is set and then try to agree on the importance of some symbols and the intentional lack of meaning inherent in others.
The story itself is terribly self-absorbed and very much, in this manner, unlike anything else of Banks' that I've read. The narrator is a relic of old money and landed gentry slowly being divested of his belongings, home, history and happily snug little world. As it all shreds away, he becomes quite the dislikable character wallowing in his self-pity, pain and disenchantment, but his deconstruction is instructive. Banks demonstrates that nobly sallying forth with a stiff upper lip and the mantle of your history wrapped about your shoulders just doesn't work anymore. This point more than anything else is what defines the book as bleak. The violence, death and incest occur with the same languid remove and jaded inevitability as if the events were unfolding on TV. None of it is particularly horrifying, and that's the most horrifying aspect. Not many stories have morals anymore, and this one certainly doesn't. In fact, I was rooting for the deaths of certain characters by the end, and I do believe that this was the point Mr. Banks was trying to make.
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am 8. Februar 2000
It's been a while since I've read a book that made me feel the story, not visualize them. Wine was tasted, not drank. Coldness of rain drops was felt, not seen. Everything was there for my senses, not for my brain to take in the words and compute out a vision. And as the story went on, they prepared me for the climax, the most exquisite of all sensations, the one felt by the heart. A beautifully tragic tale.
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am 4. Mai 2003
A lot of people have criticised 'A Song of Stone' for its one-sided bleakness and seeming pointlessness. The novel is doubtlessly the least accessible of Iain Banks' books (maybe with the exception of 'The Bridge') and I understand it was also his first, even though it was published later than 'The Wasp Factory'. Nonetheless, and IMHO, it is his best.
'A Song of Stone' is a story about war, about fear, betrayal and complicity, and therefore it is not a 'beautiful' story; it is grim, brutal and pessimistic. It tells the tale of Abel and his wife, who, fleeing their aristocratic home in times of a nameless war, are taken and forced back to their castle by a marauding band of soldiers. As Abel's history and the soldiers' 'historilessness' as well as their mute sexualities collide, all their character traits are magnified and coarsened, and everything heads 'for some slight undoing'.
'A Song of Stone' is not Banks' best book because of its plot but because of its language; it is complex, philosophical and poetic, Abel's monologues creating an oppressive silence in the incessant roar of war.
If you want to get a taste of and for Iain Banks, you should read 'Complicity' or 'The Crow Road' - this, on the other hand, is just a perfect read.
"I've said my piece, refused to make it"
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am 24. April 2000
It seems to be generally agreed upon that this is not one of Iain Banks' finest works. In Song of Stone, Banks has plucked some successful elements from previous works and placed them in a new novel. It's not, however, a retread of ideas but some of the imagery might be familiar to Banks fans. Normally, Banks could make something like this work, however the story that he developed in A Song of Stone is not all that gripping.
That being said, this is still a piece of Banks' fiction. I don't blindly praise favorite authors' works but there is something inherent in Banks' fiction that exists here as well. Banks is wonderful at making the reader uncomfortable. If for nothing else, this book is a perfect example of Banks' darkness and the quiet horror he can cause readers - something he has in common with J.G. Ballard.
My advice - read all the Banks stuff you can get your hands on. Some are better than others but all are worth a read.
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am 9. Februar 1999
While Ian Banks is one of the most interesting writers I've come across in the last few years, unfortunately "A Song of Stone" is one of the least engaging novels I've ever finished. Muted, yet overwrought, this tale of dissolution is less shocking than turgid. The extended and tedious stretches of "purple prose" in this disappointing book, which were apparently consciously intended to embody the self-absorbed and effete mental state of the protagonist and narrator, did little but lose my flagging interest repeatedly. Coyly lurid, and basically quite unsatisfying, this dim variation on an apocalyptic, Road Warrior-ish theme goes nowhere and then dies...Read anything else by Banks before or instead of "A Song of Stone". Though I do rather enthusiastically recommend Banks as an author, I can't in good conscience give thumbs up to this book.
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am 11. Januar 1999
As a long-time fan of Iain Banks' novels (particularly The Wasp Factory, The Crow Road, and Espedair Street), I was left with mixed feelings about A Song of Stone. While it is very well written, and was an easy and quick read, it ultimately seemed, to me, to have little real point. Unlike some of the other reviewers I didn`t find this book all that shocking or gruesome but sort of by the numbers in its hinting at the horribleness of his postapocalyptic future. I never really felt the horror that I think he wanted us to feel. Ultimately, I was left with a feeling about the banality of Banks' vision. Still, the totally self-absorbed and cynical narrator was, for the most part, a successful creation--the best part of the novel.
A Song of Stone is worth reading, but ultimately seemed to have a void at is centre.
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am 15. Juli 2000
Iain went too far with this book. If you read this, it's good at first (especially with the Lt.'s introduction killing Half-Caste) but when you keep going it gets horribly one-toned.
Too many scenes are ruined by its consistently bleak nature. Abel always seems to be the underdog; the loser. When he gets his moment, he ruins it again and the story gets worse and worse. Way too much angst and way too much extremities simply adds up to a bad novel.
It's too bad really, because it makes an excellent first impression. However, it has too many flaws as a novel so overall I wouldn't reccomend it to anyone.
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Let me start by saying that I'm normally a fairly big fan of author Banks stuff, both SF and mainstream. So I brought some expectations to this book. Rarely have I been so miserably disappointed. ? Overall this seemed like a dumbed-down version of "Canal Dreams", a war story by someone who has never been in a war, but thinks it's A Bad Thing, but "Dreams" was vastly the better book. Why? Well, for starters, there is not a single remotely sympathetic character in the book... well, okay, I could live with that. Banks indulges in his usual wholesale torture and slaughter, with characters being dropped down wells and then p***d on, gang-raped and then dangled into a moat to drown, and decapitated by millstones; well, okay, I'm not squeamish. If Banks wants to show us a bleak war scene, where ugly decadence meets uglier barbarism, all right; ugly can be interesting. But what broke me, what made this book an utter chore to read, was that it *wasn't* interesting. One dislikes the characters and so feels no sympathy for the various nasty things that happen to them. Worse yet, Banks writes in the first person, and the protagonist's narrative voice is almost unbearably tedious. I know Banks can write crisp, clever, interesting prose, but in this book he has chosen not to. He seems to have been trying to write a Kafkaesque parable of war and decadence (all geographical and temporal references are quite pointedly omitted; the story could be taking place anywhere in Europe in the present or near future), but the unnecessarily convoluted language destroys any chance of success. Another problem is that Banks seems to have written a war story without bothering to learn about war. In one scene, an artillery piece shells the castle to no great effect; the next day, the soldiers in the castle sortie out to where the shots came from, ambush the artillery crew, and capture the piece. Right... the crew, having fired a few shots to announce their presence (but not enough to do any real! damage), and having no air support or other protection, just sat there for a day? Uh huh. Oh, and there are some minor irritants -- a villain who talks American English while everyone else seems to be speaking English English; flashbacks to the narrator's misspent youth that have no relevance at all to the rest of the book; a female character who almost never talks but is inexplicably the object of much desire... oh, I could go on, but why bother? I can deal with Banks writing an ugly book -- hey, I loved "The Wasp Factory" -- but an ugly, boring, and stupid book, no. Do yourself a favor, and don't waste your time with this one.
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am 20. Mai 1999
Doomed by turgid and overwrought prose, this story dies unborn. Banks seems more intrigued by his ability to present the reader with both decadent and debauched imagery than with a functional storyline, or characters that assume any more qualities than cardboard cutouts. Overall, this book comes off as being unfortunately amateurish; Banks is more enamoured with utilising his vast vocabulary than with writing a story.
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am 23. September 1998
As well-written as ever -- and a stark contrast with the relative lightheartedness of Banks' latest SF volume, "Inversions". I've had it ever since it came out in the UK, and I haven't been able to bring myself to reread it. "Walking on Glass" was more disturbing -- I couldn't finish it -- but only by a hair, and "Song of Stone" has none of the absurdist, existentialist interludes that made me *want* to finish "Walking on Glass." "Song of Stone" uses blood, sex, and cruelty to paint a complete picture of despair -- a world where the future extends only as far as the next meal, the world only as far as the horizon, and the past as far as your oldest bad memory.
If you can read about atrocities without taking them personally, you should read "Song of Stone." It's brilliantly written and extremely powerful. But if you have a weak stomach, like this reviewer, go with something more upbeat, like "Use of Weapons" or "The Wasp Factory<".
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