Iain Banks’s fiction has always been flush with the joys of genre, only, they have often seemed incidental to the matter at hand. Ever since his debut, The Wasp Factory (1984), his novels have brimmed with lurid, gothic violence frequently inflicted on a particular family or community, as though the result of an ancestral curse. Except, rather than terrifying his characters into evasive action, this gore only baffles or amuses them. It’s a brief distraction from the typical concerns of realist fiction: getting laid and drunk on the one hand, thinking and noticing on the other.
Also often present are the plot devices of a noir thriller: a mystery, for instance, that the protagonist is engaged in solving at significant personal risk. Except they’re not normally that engaged in solving it. Prentice McHoan in The Crow Road puts off investigating his Uncle Rory’s disappearance as he