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It is bleak. Really bleak.
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.