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Second sentence of third chapter of Walking on Glass:
Probably not. Prevaricating woman. He sighed and set off up the stairs again, pulling himself up by his hands on the thick, frozen rope fixed to the outside of the staircase, the castle’s concession to their earlier request for a handhold on the often ice-slicked steps.
Second paragraph of third chapter of The Quarry:
Guy, who had said last night he reckoned he'd b e able to go to the pub, is still in the house, sitting in the kitchen feeling sorry for himself. He looks even more gaunt and haggard than usual and hasn't put his woollen hat on, so his head looks still more like a skull.
I had fond hopes one Worldcon planning weekend in 2013 that I could join aeglefinus on a recreation of Graham's walk from Walking on Glass; I bought the book, but events intervened that meant I could not do the walk, and meantime I forgot that I'd already read it and it ended up in my pile of unread books. Meanwhile, of course, I got The Quarry in memory of its author (Nick Harkaway has a nice line about an autographed copy in his Doctor Who story, Keeping Up With the Joneses). And they both popped up on my reading list at about the same time.

There is an obvious link between the two, in that both feature narrators who are not neurotypical. Steven Grout in Walking on Glass is clinically paranoid, and we experience his world from his perspective, though of course he tells only a third of the story. Kit, the narrator of the whole of The Quarry, is on the autism spectrum. I don't associate Banks particularly with findong those voices for his narratives, so I guess it's just coincidence that these two books both featured those narrators.

Another common theme between the two is concealed secrets of sexual history. In Walking on Glass, it's Sara's relationship with the mysterious Stock, who turns out to have an unexpected identity. In The Quarry, it's farther back in terms of the narrative; Kit's father, the dying Guy, has never revealed who Kit's mother is, though he and his college friends spend much of the book reminiscing about their intertwined love lives. Both Graham and Kit are manipulated by sexual forces greater than they really comprehend.

And of course politics is inescapable in both books. Sara's evil father turns out to be a Tory MP. Paul in The Quarry wants to become one. I think that Banks shows a certain maturing of perspective in the 28 years between the books - Paul is merely deluded, cynical and self-serving, rather than the spawn of Satan and father of evil.

As to which is better: Walking on Glass, obviously. It's a brilliant intertwining of three different storylines whose links only gradually become apparent, a real sense of place in London alongside the fantasy game-playing castle of Quiss and Ajayi. Yet The Quarry has a great combination of themes that Banks had not often hit before: the impending death of Guy of course turns out to have awful personal parallels for the wrter (who was a much nicer person than the awful Guy), but I also liked the ensemble of Guy's college clique, Peter's Friends but done seriously, and the encroaching quarry itself, not to mention his characterisation of Kit. He wouldn't have chosen it to be so, but The Quarry is a decent farewell to a career, more so than, say, The Shepherd's Crown.

Walking on Glass came simultaneously to the top of my lists of unread books acquired in 2013 and unread sf - though I realise now that I had in fact read it before. Next on the former list is Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel, by Jeff Kinney; next on the latter is The Stars My Destination, by Alfred Bester, though I'm fairly sure I've read that before as well (but I haven't written it up). The Quarry was recommended by you guys at the end of last year; next on that list is The Unicorn Hunt, by Dorothy Dunnett.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
aeglefinus
May. 21st, 2016 10:38 am (UTC)
Interesting to read your views, I read The Quarry in a bit of a fug and probably need to re-read it. There is a school of thought that says Walking on Glass is a flawed book in that the author didn't get across what he was trying to get across. It is one of my favourites, I get something new from it each time I read it, but still think that one day I will totally get it, unlike The Bridge which I appreciate but know some of it just goes straight over my head and probably always will.

I think you can read Walking on Glass as a mainstream novel in which the Quiss and Ajayi being the two people in the sheltered housing that Grout ends up in. In which case it is three studies in paranoia. Graham, who isn't but should be as he is being manipulated; Grout who is, but maybe shouldn't be, and the old couple, who are over the edge. If you read it like this then it is a mainstream novel masquerading as a science fiction novel. If you take everything at face value then bizarrely the three stories have more intertwinings, and the book is a science fiction novel masquerading as a mainstream one.

June 28th is a Tuesday this year which is the same day of the week as it was in 1983 when the book is set. I think I will try and get the afternoon off and head into London to do Graham's walk at the time specified in the book 3:33 PM. I know it is unlikely you will be around, but if any of your readers are interested I will appreciate some company.

I have a couple of Douglas Adams walks coming up. Cambridge on Towel Day (Wednesday 25th May) and Islington on Saturday 28th May, which crosses some of the same locations as Walking on Glass.
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