Complicity, Iain Banks Rothdas book review RSS
4.0 Stars
2-10-2019

Reading _The Fever_ spurred me to re-read _Complicity_, since _Complicity_ is basically what happens when the narrator of _The Fever_ decides to take direct, serial killer action. And while I do still like _Complicity_, it wasn't quite as good as I remember it and had a number of bad/embarrassing elements in the mix. Some of the bad parts are due to poor aging, e.g. most of the talk about computers and screaming fast 486's. In the same category, there's a lot of stigma around AIDS, and one crucial part of the novel is based around the "Highway of Death", where Iraqi forces retreating from Kuwait were massacred by US air power. And reading that it's like "Banks, if you had just waited ~15 years to write your novel the US could have given you way better material than that, and not these baby-atrocities." More importantly, and as with _The Fever_, I disagreed with a good part of his list of who exactly should be up against the wall (isn't that always the problem?). The most egregious one was the incompetent military officer, who was killed because he got too many of his own soldiers killed and not enough of the enemy soldiers killed. That's just not any basis on which to construct a consistent morality. And in general there was just too much killing by the end of the book. It felt like Hannibal, a world where security cameras and bystanders and APBs don't exist, where psychopaths can just waltz around the city center spending hours setting up grisly displays.

Still! Even in the worst Bank's books (and this isn't one), there are ideas that I simply don't find anywhere else. Which unfortunately I can't talk too much about here, since this is a family blog, but along with _Song of Stone_ and a few other items it's helped develop my thinking in significant ways. Also quality in this book is the constant interleaving of its main theme of complicity, across all sorts of domains. There's the reader PoV, the gaming, the sex, the economic relations and violence relations, the art, and probably a number of other levels I am missing. Finally, and most minorly, but Banks does a good job with game design in this book. His envisioned game _Despot_ is basically _Crusader Kings 2_ thirty years before CK2 was ever released. In particular there's a feature he mentions in _Despot_, the PoV switching_, which seems likely to come out in the next update for CK2. Anyway, it's an intelligent and insightful but very uneven book.