cover image Walking on Glass

Walking on Glass

Iain M. Banks. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $15.45 (239pp) ISBN 978-0-395-40048-7

Banks received rave reviews from critics in his native Scotland 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