In which Prentice McHoan tells the story of his family, and specifically his attempts to track down his Uncle Rory, who disappeared several years ago.
I think this is one of the most conventional of Banks' novels, and I remember really liking it when I first read it, although the only bits I remembered were the opening line, "It was the day my grandmother exploded", and the game they played on the motorway to stay awake when driving at night: seeing if you could avoid any cats eye when crossing from one lane to another.
For most of the book perspective switches between Prentice talking about "now", and third-person accounts of earlier incidents in the McHoan family's life. Some of these may have been meant to come from Rory's diaries, but not all of them could. What you do get is a feel for a quite plausible set of characters in Prentice's family and friends, although I think that maybe he's a bit weak at the girls: Verity, Ashley and Diana are all contemporaries but apart from hair colour, there's not a lot to distinguish them.
The story of, and solution to Rory's disappearance was secondary to the story of how Prentice copes with life: with disappointment in love, failure at university and animosity to his father. But the sense of lack of responsibility that goes with not yet having a family or a job to worry about was conveyed pretty well I think. Perhaps the first time I read it about 15 years ago it would have had a greater resonance for me which is why I remember rating it so highly.
I still think it's quite readable, but maybe not a brilliant piece of literature. It is a bit too long, and could have done with being edited. I think I might try re-reading some more Iain Banks though.
Completed : 11-Nov-2007 (audiobook)