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Transition Hardcover – September 23, 2009

107 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.


** '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 (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,002,056 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Iain Banks came to widespread and controversial public notice with the publication of his first novel, The Wasp Factory, in 1984. Consider Phlebas, his first science fiction novel, was published under the name Iain M. Banks in 1987. He is now acclaimed as one of the most powerful, innovative, and exciting writers of his generation. Iain Banks lives in Fife, Scotland. Find out more about him at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

86 of 92 people found the following review helpful By G. Ronald "George" on September 24, 2009
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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55 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Rakich on October 17, 2009
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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49 of 54 people found the following review helpful By John Mitchell on September 21, 2009
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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31 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Mark D. Adams on November 4, 2009
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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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on October 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Pay attention to everything in the first 50 pages of the book, it won't make much sense to you at all, but it will by the end and you'll find yourself going back to reread that portion to see how you were first led off, after the knots have all been neatly tied at the end. Iain has a devious mind as can be seen in his earlier books. I think he comes up with a base story but his creative mind then winds backwards from that single thread to a gordian knot that then is transferred to words on paper. Transition is a worthy, and murderously bloody tale. It takes the traditional consipiracy plot (which side is which and who is on which?) and weaves it through fresh sci-fi turf that is fascinating and well detailed. He then adopts a film-like disjointed scenes approach to further "transition" the reader to this strange setting of multiverse. I can't think of another book like it, which I think is IB's goal. I got so caught up, I kept forgetting to sip my Grange.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By John M. Ford TOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ordinarily this would be a spoiler, but it is offered in the Prologue by one of the book's narrators as an ending for readers too impatient to hear the whole story. Readers are left holding this ending while they absorb enough of the story to give it meaning. And they may make a wrong assumption or two. This is a well-written book; not easy to figure out but worth the effort.

The overall plot is straightforward. A shadowy organization called The Concern monitors activities in a large number of parallel Earths. Their operatives transition between worlds using a drug supplied by The Concern. After each transition, operatives remain "themselves," but take on the physical appearance--and some of the mental characteristics--of the host person they have taken control of. The Concern influences events in these parallel worlds through various means, including selective assassination of key players--or potential players--in world events. All of this is supposedly for the greater good. Some of the book's characters, such as the competent assassin Temudjin Oh, the renegade Mrs. Mulverhill, and the unnamed hospitalized Patient 8262, have their doubts. Each recoils from The Concern in a different way. As the story unfolds, we learn more about who each of them are and what they have learned about The Concern.

Fans of "Iain M. Banks" hard science fiction, such as Use of Weapons and The Algebraist, will not encounter the same high-tech, high-Culture environment in Transitions. It is more similar to his previous "Iain Banks" fiction.
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