In The Bridge, master storyteller and weaver of worlds, Iain Banks creates a mysterious structure that leads from nowhere to nowhere Everyone lives on the Bridge, including a man named Orr, devoid of personality or memory, and haunted by dreams of war Banks engaging blend of the cutting edge hypothetical and blistering reality collide inThe BridgeThe Bridge is like none other A multi layered society of incredible cities, terrible war zones, humor, horror and lust Now that John Orr victim of a terrible car accident has reached it, the question remains of what lies on the other sideBanks is a phenomenon Wildly successful, fearlessly creative with gnarly energy and elegance William Gibson, author of Neuromancer Banks never does the same thing twice But he always does it sublimely Los Angeles Times Just onething I nod at the bodies littering the ground like fallen leaves What happened here What happened to all these people He shrugs They didn t listen to their dreams, he says, then turns back to his task pp.362 363Like skywriting in Braille the late Iain Banks early novel The Bridge is hard to get a grip on The comparisons that spring to my mind are mostly cinematic think David Lynch s Mulholland Drive, or perhaps Adrian Lyne s Jacob s Ladder.Feverish and multilaye Just onething I nod at the bodies littering the ground like fallen leaves What happened here What happened to all these people He shrugs They didn t listen to their dreams, he says, then turns back to his task pp.362 363Like skywriting in Braille the late Iain Banks early novel The Bridge is hard to get a grip on The comparisons that spring to my mind are mostly cinematic think David Lynch s Mulholland Drive, or perhaps Adrian Lyne s Jacob s Ladder.Feverish and multilayered, The Bridge is a challenging work, not easy to appreciate, or to synopsize A man lies in a coma after a car crash in Scotland an amnesiac tries to fit into the linear society he finds living on an apparently endless bridge a barbarian warrior battles sorcery while ridden by a magical familiar This is Banks without the M., the initialless persona he used for his mimetic fiction, but the veil between fantasy and realism here is very thin Most of The Bridge appears to be fabulation, in fact the great Bridge itself is a setting worthy of China Mi ville, and there are swathes of a swashbuckling sword and sorcery tale told in the barbarian s near impenetrable dialect It seems likely from the beginning that all of these narrators are the same person, but if so which one is the real man, and which ones the butterflies merely dreaming that they are men And did it really take methan 300 pages to remember that bridge hasthan one meaning No annihilation without representation, Stewart, p.330The Bridge seemed steeped in the UK s politics of the 1980s, and in that wayakin to fellow Scots author Alasdair Gray s work than other Banks novels Elsewhere in his conversation with Stewart, for example, our narrator speculates on whether Scotland could ever have become an empire the way Rome did His conclusion is that by the time the Scots became civilized themselves, they d missed their chance they were already too late to become world civilizers.She laughed, shook her head Well, love is blind, she said So they tell us, he sighed Can t see it myself p.278Despite its bizarre trappings, exotic digressions and flights of outright fancy, though, The Bridge seems to me at its heart to convey a simple message, one that s utterly mundane that although love may be blind, it s also strong it ll find a way to express itself even though the rest of the world may have gone mad.Ach, mebbe I ve just gone a bit daft arter a hunnerd and fourty years wi this wee bugger whisperin on me showlder Iain Banks was a genius and The Bridge is one of his greatest works Few would disagree with the first statement, but some might disagree with the last.Why Because this novel utilizes a pretty cheesy central plot device that the events occurring are the dreams of a man in a coma If this puts you off I understand usually any novel using the It was all a dream premise sounds as appealing to me as Days of our Lives in book form but trust me this novel is worth your time If you can look Iain Banks was a genius and The Bridge is one of his greatest works Few would disagree with the first statement, but some might disagree with the last.Why Because this novel utilizes a pretty cheesy central plot device that the events occurring are the dreams of a man in a coma If this puts you off I understand usually any novel using the It was all a dream premise sounds as appealing to me as Days of our Lives in book form but trust me this novel is worth your time If you can look past this cliched premise you will find yourself immersed in one of the best books I ve read in the last decade.If you ve read any Banks you ll know that he was as comfortable with literary fiction as he was with Science Fiction, writing many books in both genres during his career The Bridge falls into the litfic section of his output, but contains enough weird and speculative elements to appeal to those like me whose tastes tend towards genre.The story is split three ways.The first character, Alex, wakes on a bridge However, this is no ordinary bridge This bridge is a world, a vast, many levelled structure that spans a seemingly endless sea, stretching off into infinity in either direction, an entire civilization existing within its steel stanchions and concrete buttresses.Alex lives in this strange world, unsure how he came to be there exploring his new home and meeting with a psychiatrist to discuss his disturbing dreams Dreams within a dream In particular he is enduring a series of sometimes hilarious, sometimes horrifying nightmares where he is making his way across a strange and magical world as The Barbarian a sword swinging Scottish brogue wielding warrior who is the second major character in the narrative.While Alex explores his own mind and his environs we also follow the life of a young man, James Orr, who is making his way in our world There are some parallels with Banks character Adrian Cubbish in Transition, although Adrian is a bitof a chancer than James.James finds success, with all its trappings, but finds his wealthy life empty Throughout his rise to success and ennui the common thread in his life is his love for a woman named Andrea Crammond, whom he reluctantly has to share with her other lover, a distant Frenchman.Across these three narratives we begin to grasp what the bridge could be, explore the reasons Alex is there and discover the significance of both The Barbarian and the life that John Orr has lived.What makes The Bridge so great is the inventiveness of Bank s narratives Each of his books is a unique riot of imagination and The Bridge is funny, poignant and awe inspiring, sometimes all at once on one page.For those of us who love The Culture novels The Bridge also gives us a hint of Banks famed space opera series years before Consider Phlebas was written, with hints of an interstellar civilization and advanced technologies sneaking into one of the narrative threads If you re as obsessed with The Culture as I am this glimpse of the seed that would grow into ten of the best novels in SF is tasty indeed.It s totally heady stuff, and I was shamelessly addicted, pawing over pages late at night, my eyes bleary with fatigue, ignoring my partner, my cat and any food unable to be eaten with one hand.For some readers the founding premise of the novel may seem trite For me however, the brilliance of the story and Bank s regular volcanic eruptions of narrative inventiveness massively overshadow the slightly clich d premise beneath it all I was watching Grey s Anatomy, Season 13, Episode 4 At 35 minutes in, Owen Hunt was lying in bed and reading a book I have paused this scene and kept going backwards and forwards trying to figure out what book he was reading And now half an hour later here I am, knowing the book and adding it to my TBR pile I may never get to it, but the satisfaction of actually finding this book is too big It makes me realise we spend so much time choosing books in today s fast world And sometimes I was watching Grey s Anatomy, Season 13, Episode 4 At 35 minutes in, Owen Hunt was lying in bed and reading a book I have paused this scene and kept going backwards and forwards trying to figure out what book he was reading And now half an hour later here I am, knowing the book and adding it to my TBR pile I may never get to it, but the satisfaction of actually finding this book is too big It makes me realise we spend so much time choosing books in today s fast world And sometimes, when a book finds us, it is a miraculous moment, and I want to cherish this moment forever This review contains a mild spoiler I don t know if you can call it a spoiler, because thebook description as well as the Publishers Weekly review both give it away I think that s a crying shame, although it s not really a spoiler that would take a lot of brain cells to figure out on your own Anyway, I wouldn t mention it in my review if it weren t a key reason why I disliked the novel Are you ready Here it is It s all a dream.Sigh This book was written 25 years ago, but even then This review contains a mild spoiler I don t know if you can call it a spoiler, because thebook description as well as the Publishers Weekly review both give it away I think that s a crying shame, although it s not really a spoiler that would take a lot of brain cells to figure out on your own Anyway, I wouldn t mention it in my review if it weren t a key reason why I disliked the novel Are you ready Here it is It s all a dream.Sigh This book was written 25 years ago, but even then the it was all a dream scenario wasn t really all that fresh or interesting, and it takes a heckuva a lot of talent to pull it off without getting readers to feel like they ve wasted their time After all, absolutely anything can happen in dreams, and so it s never really a surprise when anything does Say goodbye to plot, conflict, tension, drama, or any of the other structural bits and pieces that authors use to guide their storytelling The most you can do with it was all a dream is connect it in some way to reality and hope that the bridge is meaningful or profound in some way.The metaphor of the bridge is a pretty hefty one here Suffering from amnesia, our narrator is fished from the waters around a bridge This is no ordinary bridge It s so large that it seems to have no beginning or ending, and an entire civilization lives among its beams and girders This is, in fact, a really cool idea and worth exploring Meanwhile, our narrator is asked by his therapist to provide him with examples of his nightly dreams Since he doesn t remember his dreams, he makes them up At first This is also a pretty interesting concept, and the narrator s dreams both real and fake are pretty fascinating stuff.But it s really all just a fictional gumbo The narrative voice slips and slides for no reason other than to increase the disorienting effect of the dreamscape Different stories including one about a warrior and his smart mouthed familiar gain and lose prominence as the book goes on The narrator, inexplicably, makes it off of the bridge and into a city that appears to be at war Then he comes back Then there s a desert Back and forth Up and down There s no consistency to any of it, but that s because it s a dream, you see.The thing is, no one likes to be told about your dreams It doesn t matter how cool your dream is to you, or even what cool ideas there are in it, if you start to explain your dream to someone and it lasts longer than a minute, they ll start getting that glazed look in their eyes I felt the exact same way about this book Once it became apparent that this was all just some kind of coma dream, it developed a hollow, very aimless feeling, and I ended up wishing it were over sooner.Banks does include a description of the narrator s life when he was awake, and it s actually kind of impressive how well he conveys an entire life with such economy of language You speed through his childhood and school years and well into his adulthood, marking his successes and failures and even the size of his bald spot Much of his life centers around an unconventional relationship with a woman But, even though it s nifty how slickly Banks condenses this man s personality and life into such a small space, the guy and his history aren t especially compelling Even the kinda sorta open relationship that he has feels just as hollow and aimless as the dream world he spends most of the book inhabiting And no, it s pretty clear that that isn t the point of the book.While it was probably a ton of fun to write and while there are elements here and there that are imaginative and stimulating, the whole experience is ultimately as unsatisfying as trying to remember the details of your own dreams an hour after waking It s ultimately unsuccessful, and you end up wondering why you re even bothering