It was very sad to hear of the passing of Ian Banks yesterday. I first came across his novels a number of years ago. I had no idea at the time that he was a Scottish author I simply picked up a copy of “Whit” whilst waiting in the lounge at Glasgow airport. I liked the sound of the blurb on the back and started reading. This was to be the first of many of his books that I devoured over the years. I went back and read “The Crow Road” then “Complicity” and “The Wasp Factory and many others. I am unsure wither I have read all his books but if not I have made a good stab at it and any that I have missed I will mop up when I get the chance. As a youngster I loved science fiction novels with a passion and read so many that I really sickened myself with the genre and could not bring myself to read another one. This was a combination I think of overload as well as much of the science fiction being written in the eighties was just not as good as some of the material produced in the seventies. Alternatively perhaps I was reading the wrong books, no matter, I lost the taste for Science fiction completely (strangely I was reading more science fact than I ever had before) and I do not think I read another science fiction novel until I picked up “Excession” by Iain M Banks. I did not realise until I started reading it that Ian Banks and Iain M Banks were one and the same person. This was a long time ago now after all. There was the same sly and slightly smutty sense of humour, the ballistic imagination, the twists and turns that I had grown to associate with Ian Banks. For a change I read the inside cover and the author bio and found them to be one and the same. It came as no big surprise but what did was that “Excession” was so good that it rekindled my love for Science fiction, especially imaginative Science fiction. I could not believe that any author could have taken two or three chapters of their book to explain another dimension in mathematical terms so complex that even the above average reader would not be able to follow it. Worse the audacity of the man, it was all put in for the sake of a punch line (a very funny punch line in my opinion). To me this was as important a sequence as I have ever read. Many other authors have done the same thing since then and I am sure it will be copied again and again. But no one had ever taken that chance before. Or perhaps I should say that no one before had taken that chance and succeeded. Much the same applies later as after reading Mr Banks “Feersum Endjinn” I noticed his use of pigeon or semi-machine language has been used time after time by other writers.
Oh I could go on and on about bits of his books that I enjoyed, his novels or his dark humour, his insight and a dozen other things but I will not. Let me just say that he is one of my favourite writers ever (I think the fact that we are both Scots is coincidental). He has the singular honour of having encouraged me to like science fiction again and is an author whose lines and jokes and imaginative observances jump into my mind most days at some time or another. A great writer who will be sorely missed by me. As well I am sure by many others.