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Transition Hardcover – September 23, 2009

3.7 out of 5 stars 112 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Banks's latest novel opens with a warning from "Patient 8262" stating that he or she is an unreliable narrator, before the epic takes off, plunging the reader into a whirlwind of intricately constructed characters and detailed accounts of their experiences as they "flit" across multiple Earths. The cast of characters include Adrian, the greedy city trader, emblematic of the selfishness needed to become a "traveler"; the Philosopher, an assassin who despises killing; a catch-me-if-you-can rogue operative named Mrs. Mulverhill; and the imperious Madame d'Ortolan, possibly the leader of the Concern, a vast multi-world organization that claims to protect worlds from chaos, but may also hide a greater, darker purpose. Banks's prose is elegant and electric and his story dizzying, but inevitable contradictions are brilliantly tied together-the only way many characters maintain sanity is to question everything, and readers would be well-advised to do the same. Banks manages the neat feat of synthesizing 19th-century style with the cutting edge, the irreverent with the philosophical, and the intellectual with the adventurous.

Review

** 'Baroque, digressive, kinetic, teeming with big ideas and grand theories, it's a novel to get lost in ... gripping THE TIMES ** 'One of Iain Banks's most imaginative and compelling novels yet SCOTSMAN ** 'Wildly imaginative ... A corker of a thriller, a classic good versus bad tale, and one which the author uses to tackle some seriously big moral and philosophical issues - but always in his typically light-handed and darkly humorous fashion ... A book that makes you think, one that makes you look at the world around you in a different light, and it's also a properly thrilling read. If only more contemporary fiction was like it Independent on Sunday ** 'Transition is Banks at his exuberant, flamboyant, head-spinning best Financial Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit; First Edition edition (September 23, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316071986
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316071987
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (112 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #890,659 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book 'transitions' the split between Iain Banks' non-sci-fi output & Iain M. Banks' vast space operas, presenting a sci-fi tale with a contemporary setting.

It is based on the premise that a virtually infinite number of parallel dimensions do indeed exist. The inhabitants of one of them have discovered that by ingesting a drug called Septus, they can transport their consciousness into the bodies of unsuspecting people in other dimensions & thus meddle with the socio-political development of other Earths. They have therefore formed The Concern - an organisation designed to strictly control the use of 'transitioning' & ensure it is used to benefit other worlds. But since The Concern's High Council plays its cards suffocatingly close to its chest, can they actually be trusted? Or could some of its members have adgendas of their own? And who decides what constitutes the greater good anyway? These are questions one of The Concern's assassins has to find answers to when he becomes a piece in a deadly game between his employers & an enigmatic renegade.

I have found that many of Banks' novels (such as The Business) consist of a story which can be summed up in 100 pages, fleshed out with 300 or so pages of florid descriptions & background details. Transition, however, never meanders far from the main plot. It's an expertly-crafted, entertaining & thought-provoking read, which remains gripping throughout. In my view, it's one of his best.

In short, the transition from prologue to epilogue was a thoroughly enjoyable one.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Great book, I was a bit put off by some pundits commenting that the author was wrong to use "Ian M. Banks" for one of his works of contemporary fiction.

Don't be.

Good sci-fi executed with the flair I've come to expect from I. M. Banks.

Not a Culture book though, looking forward to more of them.

P.S. The reviewer immediately below me, Harriet K., is a fake, a stooge for a publishing house, see the comments associated with her review. Apparently she reviews about 8 books a day on average with 5 stars every time. Amazon you should do something about this sort of blatant marketing rubbish.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although I gave this book 5 stars, it's not for everyone: if you like your sci-fi to have a clear and straightforward plot line, conventional narration, and the usual trappings of sci-fi, there's very few of those things on display here. Instead the narration flits disconcertingly between a variety of characters, who, we are informed, may not be reliable (or even identifiable: in some cases we aren't even given a name).

If you're prepared to journey with this cast of unreliable narrators and stick with the journey through the (at times quite slow-paced) initial machinations, it builds to a very satisfying and thought-provoking read - one of Mr. Bank's best, in my opinion.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had this book's release date on my calendar... I bought it immediately when it was released. I set aside my reading list and read it immediately. Transitions is very different from the Culture novels, and that's fine with me. The concepts employed by Banks, his writing skills, and the POV methods are very interesting and entertaining. Unfortunately (for me) as the story unwound it began to feel like I was being bludgeoned by a blunt political object. Repeatedly. Without subtlety. Without style or clever nuance. This definately unhinged my ability to really like the novel. I think Mr. Banks could have put forth his message -- as he does in a number of his other novels -- without poking the reader in the eye with it (as another reviewer says)... and repeatedly.

Yes, Mr. Banks, I faithfully read the book from cover to cover, and I got the message. I truly hope this isn't a sign of things to come with your future novels. I read fiction to enjoy a writer's style, plotting skills, excitement, intrigue, clever twists, etc. I prefer the non-fiction shelf for ideology.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It was well written, with interesting characters, obfuscated narration, clever tricks, flash forwards / backwards / sideways and the sort narrative twisting that reminds me of Use of Weapons. In short, it was a very Iain M Banks novel. He's a fan of complex ideas and complex narratives. To claim that his leftist politics are too intrusive on the story, well, I guess you haven't read many of his other books - he's rarely shied away from making a pointed remark in that direction.

My only problem, or complaint, is that it just isn't that well thought out. It's made clear early on (and in several other reviews) that this is fundamentally a Many Worlds idea. Unlike, say, the 1950s Sci Fi efforts of multiple dimensions and alternate earths, this narrative uses an interpretation of modern physics writ large by Brian Greene. For a particle in some quantum state, it may end up in state A or state B - completely at random. Many Worlds is an interpretation of quantum mechanics that says that both of these outcomes are valid and, in fact, occur - there are infinities of universes constantly splitting and spiraling off from each other in countless number, from every little event, even, say, the decay of a radioactive element deep within the crust of the Earth (or some other planet, even). Most people tend to misunderstand this idea and instead ascribe the splitting of universes to individual, conscious choices they make - not really thinking about all the infinities that precede that choice (or if indeed there is such a thing as choice!) or, even taking the idea at its face, thinking about all the choices being made all the time by all the people, animals, insects ... anyway, its an enormous landscape of infinities.
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