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Walking on Glass Paperback – April 1, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Banks received rave reviews from critics in his native England and the U.S. for his debut in The Wasp Factory. His second novel is also an extraordinary feat, terrifying and baffling, going far beyond the bounds of fiction as it's usually defined. There are really three separate stories here. The first concerns nice young Londoner Graham Park, in love with Sara ffitch (sic), whom he meets through his gay friend, Slater. The latter's wild ideas provide needed comedy in an otherwise brooding atmosphere, as Graham worries over whether he can win the mysterious Sara from her biker boyfriend. The next story tells of Steven Grout, a laborer who can't keep a job because of his disruptive temper. The paranoid Steven believes "They" are out to get him via lethal microwaves. The scene is laid in a surreal castle where two prisoners, Quiss and Ajayi, are being held for failing as soldiers in the War Against Banality and Interest. The pair, required to answer riddles to win release from this science-fiction hell, miss every time. Banks connects the entirely different events in the novel's closing pages, which reveal what happens between Graham and Sara in a scene so shocking it leaves the reader numb. February 14
Copyright 1985 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Banks's unusual novel explores the imagination's more grotesque efforts to cope with life, in three personal dilemmas. Graham Park is a young innocent in love, due to awaken to his role in an unwholesome relationship. Steven Grout is a paranoid and a betrayed warrior from another realm, exiled to our world to suffer secret microwave and laser torments as a social misfit. The elderly Quiss and Ajayi themselves are dishonored exiles of a cosmic war, fated to play bizarre games and answer an impossible riddle, in the strangest castle this side of Mervyn Peake. Banks shows a compelling ability to enter their lives. How he brings them together in a fantastic framework is somewhat less compelling. But his vision of disillusion and escape remains memorably funny and sad, like the idea of glass made real in his castle: a transparent yet only apparent solid, that slowly is puddling under the pull of gravity. Recommended. Jeff Clark, SUNY Coll. at Old Westbury Lib.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group; Reissue edition (April 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349101787
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349101781
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 4.9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #402,303 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Michael Battaglia on March 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
This was only his second novel so he's not exactly at the top of his game yet, but it shows quite a bit of ambition. It's a story divided into three apparently separate parts. You have one guy who's in love with this rather mysterious girl and it goes through how they met and how he falls for her. The second part involves a rather paranoid fellow who thinks that the world is out to get him and lives his life by that assumption. And the third . . . well the third part is weird. Basically it's two people in a castle (very reminicent of a certain famous fantasy castle) who have to play games that they don't know the rules for and by winning they get a chance to answer a riddle that might let them escape. Banks basically writes three excellent short stories and then attempts to link them by the end, which is where the tale starts to fall apart. The link between the first and second (non-weird) stories are a bit on the coincidental side but at least make sense, while the other links are really stretching it and comes off as more forced than anything else. However, as I mentioned all of the parts are excellent written and stand up fairly well on their own, the first story's revelations are surprising and overall that was the most emotionally involving story. The paranoid gent in the second story was interesting and his attempts to stay ahead of the ubiquitious "they" are sort of fun, in a "glad I'm not him" sort of way, but his story seems to serve no purpose in relation to the overall theme itself. And the last one . . . I don't know if Banks had started writing his SF tales at this point but the castle and the people in it, while borrowing from that certain fantasy castle I mentioned earlier, shows ten times of the imagination of the other parts and even other SF books.Read more ›
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 7, 2000
Format: Hardcover
How do we judge reality? Banks creates three realities, twisted through a series of connections that seem to simaltaeously disprove one another. How can we know which is real, can reality only exist in a form we can relate to, or is it indeed every bit as ludicrous as one dimensional chess? Are they all real, or creations of a mental patient in a hard hat? Each scenario is systematically destroyed by logic, stripped bare by coincidence. Not least the idea of reality Banks has us cling to. All this in the journey from an office to a girlfriend's flat. You can't say fairer than that. Five Stars.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By James on December 5, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book was not a satisfying read. I feel Banks could have concentrated on one plot, rather than split it into three: the juxtaposition of "surreal" with "real" doesn't sit very well with me. Also, as another reviewer has said, the links at the end are very weak indeed. But there are brilliant moments of precise language and humour. The images presented to me via Banks were superb; they just needed a good tweaking as far as plot's concerned. But, it's worth a read. Sort of.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By dodgem@kci.wayne.edu on February 5, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Walking on Glass is typical Banks in the sense that the main characters psyche is completely probed by the reader to the point where more than a simple relationship is formed. These main characters, actually 3 sets of main characters linked by a way you will never guess (although you will try and cry desperatley too) find themselves in a mental war with themselves and the reader is caught in the middle - as usual Banks. Their pain , their frustration and their madness is catching as if it were happening for real. Why? Because they relate to parts of our pschye that is real, and this is the connection that Banks makes. When you are caught in this mess, you can't stop reading it to try and resolve what is now, a personal issue with you the reader. This book is so original (as all his I've read are) that now, I suffer. I used to read King, A.C.Clarke, and recently "The Wheel of Time" series by Jordan. Since Banks, they all bore me. I continue to read them, but they only enforce my belief that Banks is a true artist originale and they are merely story tellers. By the way, The only place I have found these books is in a bookstore within a small shopping centre call "Parleet" in Oslo, Norway. Every trip I take to Europe I search book stores for his books and only at Parleet have I succeeded. They have all his books there and I was able to get a copy of Whit, Wasp Factory, and Walking on Glass all with original B&W covers. Speaking of Whit, that book was also truely original although not as exciting as WoG and WF.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Tesnau on January 3, 2003
Format: Paperback
Everyone goes on an on about how 'trippy' the concept of the movie 'Matrix' is... I get so tired of those drooling troglodytes who grab me by the sleeve and say crap like: 'But... but man... the Matrix could be real and like we'd like never know it... the Matrix could like be an imaginary world in itself man... can like you dig it man?' The idea of the flimsiness of reality was probably tinkered with by some neolithic cave man who, after eating an undercooked brontosaurus melt and a dozen mugaritas at the local TGI Fridays, reeling with stomach cramps and in the throws of feverish delusion looked at his buddy and said 'Like, man, like, what if none of this was like, man, like what if it wasn't real man? Wouldn't that be trippy man?" And the response then is the same as it is now, you look at your companion on the couch opposite you, smile weakly and nod, maybe throwing in a shrug. God, that thinking calls in mind attending a philosophy 101 class at the local junior college. But in all fairness, who's taken up the pen and tried their hand at penning their own work, and not once snuck in '....AND THEN HE/SHE WOKE UP AND IT WAS ALL A DREAM...'. It's a conveniant tool, even though it's painfully obvious.
So saying, before Matrix and Keanu's hammy overacting, I read a book called 'Walking On Glass'- and it is probably the trippiest, most disturbingly brilliant book on the nature of reality and the ties that bind us to that reality I've ever come across. If you're not into Kafka, or Borges, or someone like Kierkegaard, this book will bring a closer understanding of some of the horrors they try to come to grips with. Banks simmers down the essence of those three to leave you with a chilling look around you; the question 'What is real?' will take on alarmingly terrifying aspects.
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