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The Steep Approach to Garbadale (2007)

– tekijä: Iain Banks

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioMaininnat
1,2413711,540 (3.43)40
Dark family secrets and a long-lost love affair lie at the heart of Iain Banks's fabulous new novel. The Wopuld family built its fortune on a board game called Empire! - now a hugely successful computer game. So successful, the American Spraint Corp wants to buy the firm out. Young renegade Alban, who has been evading the family clutches for years, is run to ground and persuded to attend the forthcoming family gathering - part birthday party, part Extraordinary General Meeting - convened by Win, Wopuld matriarch and most powerful member of the board, at Garbadale, the family's highland castle. Being drawn back into the bosom of the clan brings a disconcerting confrontation with Alban's past. What drove his mother to take her own life? And is he ready to see Sophie, his beautiful cousin and teenage love? Grandmother Win's revelations wll radically alter Alban's perspective for ever.… (lisätietoja)
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Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 37) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
This mainstream novel from Iain (no-'M') Banks rather divides opinion. A significant number of reviewers had a low opinion of the book; and indeed, looking at the (badly-written) blurb on my copy, I did wonder what I was getting myself into. Another Scottish family saga, with a business empire - in more ways than one - at stake, seen from the point of view of one of the black sheep of the family. For such a fervent socialist, Banks spent a lot of time writing about capitalists, and not (always) painting them in lurid tones, though the family matriarch, Win, is given an acid tongue; I kept hearing the voice of veteran British actor Stephanie Cole, and knowing Banks I suspect that this was deliberate. (It wouldn't be the first time this sort of thing has cropped up in Banks' books, and I correctly identified the actor Iain had in mind then, so I'll go with my hunch here, too.)

So I had low expectations when I started the book - which Banks proceeded to blow away. At the outset, we are treated to an excursion into 'Trainspotting' territory - that's Irvine Welsh, not Ian Allan - through the point of view being shared with two subsidiary characters, one a suited exec from the family firm, the other a small-time hustler who is only identified as 'Tango'. The suited exec is the central character's cousin; he plays a supporting role in the rest of the novel. Tango is another matter: he surfaces from time to time in the course of the novel, commenting on events from a total outsider's perspective. The central character, Alban McGill, is a drop-out from the family and has been in retreat from the business for a while, sofa-surfing and working as an itinerant forester with his first love, trees.

Well, not his first actual love; for that, we get flashbacks to his teenage years and his relationship with another of his cousins. That relationship has repercussions throughout the book, as McGill comes back to the family seat, the Gormenghastly Victorian pile of Garbadale, in the far north-west of Scotland, for a family reunion which will decide the future of the firm.

In between, we get to do a lot of globe-trotting. McGill travels a lot, both in his gap year and later, when he is working for the firm. This often involves far-flung family members, on whose hospitality he sometimes forces himself and on others he is sometimes forced, when running company errands. We begin to piece together McGill's own history, and to pick at one particular scab that has been concerning him for a long time. Eventually, all the strings come together; personal and corporate crises come to a head, and the air is cleared in many ways.

Throughout we have Banks' robust Scots wit, together with a eye for detail which is likely drawn from real life. (His account of a mathematicians' conference sounds very much like some of the science fiction conventions Banks attended - I know, 'coz I was there.) Some reviewers felt that McGill was not a convincing character; but he is a man in search of himself, driven by events in his teenage years that skewed his character and outlook right up until the end of the novel. I found him quite convincing; I suspect he, too, was drawn from life in many ways.

Others have complained about Banks' political diatribes. (Including one of the other characters.) Well, this is an Iain Banks novel. The politics is a part of the package, and if the message is a bit in yer face, well, there are plenty of other writers who ignore or acquiesce with the state of the world as they see it (if they see it at all). To take the politics out of an Iain Banks novel would be to stifle the voice of the man. Perhaps those who saw Alban McGill as one-dimensional have not spoken to enough Scots people.

As with other Banks novels, the sense of place is quite palpable. It is possible to take a good map of the north-west of Scotland and make a fair guess as to where Garbadale supposedly is. (There are a few geographical red herrings in the text, though.) The "steep approach" of the title does make an appearance, though there is metaphor here as well.

Perhaps i didn't have the moments of sheer delight I've had in other Banks novels. Nothing I read in here made me burst out loud with cries of "You naughty, naughty author!" (which has happened with other Banks novels); but this is far from the disaster some have painted it as. A solid four stars from me. ( )
2 ääni RobertDay | May 27, 2020 |
Well, here's the thing: When a science fiction writer as accomplished as Banks knocks out a fairly ordinary contemporary novel, everybody is disappointed. I wasn't, in fact, I found it fascinating that Banks wanted to spend time writing a novel about an extended and complicated family. True, they have un-ordinary problems, such as how much money to ask for the family company -- 180 mil or perhaps more? from the American company (with a perfect Banksian name of Spraint) that wants to buy them out. But essentially, it's a book about family and relationships and places and love of Scotland. The deduction is for occasional lapses into bloviating about politics and ethics and global warming . . . I can't really recommend it to mad Banks fans, but I can say it is a perfectly good novel that readers of novels about family life would like. **** ( )
1 ääni sibylline | Jul 12, 2019 |
Depressing. As someone else put it, go read The Crow Road ahead. The disjointed political rants just come out of left field, from a character who doesn't really embody them and really seems lazy ( for a counter example, check out Whit, where Banks writes religion so enthusiastically you'd believe he was a Southern Baptist) - mostly, it's a story that on the whole, was frankly not worth telling. Banks writing has always had these mad flashes of genius but in this book they don't appear quite as often. ( )
  A-S | Jan 6, 2019 |
The appearance of an Iain Banks novel (with or without the “M”) is an event to look forward to. Or was. This disaster is a great dose of disillusion for me and could make me think twice about the next one. The story is unoriginal and without interest and the characters are dull and insipid.

Based around a family whose wealth is founded on a board game, we’re supposed to care if the business is sold to an American game editor. Worse, we’re supposed to understand why likeable black-sheep-of-the-family Alban, who has already sold out his interest in the business, now wants to take a stand, and why anybody else is interested in his opinion. Empire!Banks has used games in previous books and they always suggested modern strategic pursuits. Not this time; this time we get the impression of a dull pre-Monopoly kind of game and we couldn’t care less about it.

Alban is the most wooden Banks’ character of all time. Painted as charming, decent, honest, cynical he is a goody-goody quite beyond belief. With a negligible shareholding in the family business, we’re expected to accept that they hang on his every word and listen with reverence to his foolish company-saving speech (more about American imperialism than business as it happens!). He’s living with down and outs in a tenement when we meet him (presumably just to show how liberal and decent he is) one of whom gets an inexplicable (and plaintive) first person voice in the novel. For some reason (a typo perhaps?) the first person voice slipped into the visit to Doris and Beryl when our drug addict was absent!

The book has some of Banks’ usual wit and imagination (I especially liked girlfriend VG’s background as a tsunami survivor and the “School Bus Siege”) but overall this is a trite heap of rubbish not worthy of the author of such masterpieces as The Bridge and The Algebraist. If you’ve loved everything he has written so far, do yourself a favour and pretend this one never appeared. ( )
1 ääni tchelyzt | Jul 15, 2017 |
Banks seems to put more energy and thought into his SF novels these days. While this is head and shoulders above such recent fare as Whit and The Business, it falls far short of his early work, especially The Crow Road, to my mind his best non-genre novel.

Centred around Alban McGill, prodigal relation of the Wopuld family who invented and own the Empire! game, and his life long infatuation with his cousin Sophie, the book has the usual Banksian flashbacks, all leading up to an EGM at the titular Garbadale House, where the Spraint Corporation seek to buy out the family.

There is some wonderful writing along the way, and Alban is a likeable enough protaganist but somehow the plot, although neatly tied up at the end, just didn't grab me. And unfortunately, towards the end, Banks gives in to his weakness for diatribes against American Imperialism.

So, all in all, an enjoyable read, but not one of his best. Roll on the next Culture novel! ( )
  David.Manns | Nov 28, 2016 |
Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 37) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
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Englanninkielinen Wikipedia (1)

Dark family secrets and a long-lost love affair lie at the heart of Iain Banks's fabulous new novel. The Wopuld family built its fortune on a board game called Empire! - now a hugely successful computer game. So successful, the American Spraint Corp wants to buy the firm out. Young renegade Alban, who has been evading the family clutches for years, is run to ground and persuded to attend the forthcoming family gathering - part birthday party, part Extraordinary General Meeting - convened by Win, Wopuld matriarch and most powerful member of the board, at Garbadale, the family's highland castle. Being drawn back into the bosom of the clan brings a disconcerting confrontation with Alban's past. What drove his mother to take her own life? And is he ready to see Sophie, his beautiful cousin and teenage love? Grandmother Win's revelations wll radically alter Alban's perspective for ever.

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