back to article Author Iain (M) Banks falls to cancer at 59

The internationally renowned Scottish author of both literary and science fiction Iain Banks has passed away unexpectedly early at 59 after suffering from an aggressive form of cancer. Iain Banks/Iain M Banks Science fiction loses a giant (credit: Murdo MacLeod) "Too soon. Iain died in the early hours this morning. His …


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  1. Furbian

    A great loss to Sci Fi..

    .. those Culture novels are almost (bar 2 others) the only fiction I've read over six years, or rather the only reason I read fiction after Frank Herbert's works. The Sci Fi excursions from the Culture universe, Against a Dark Background and The Algebraist were excellent too.

    He will be missed.

    1. Bakunin
      Thumb Up

      Re: A great loss to Sci Fi..

      I completely agree, but would extend it to say "A great loss to literature". The fact that such a prominent author could move back and forth (and sometimes merge) between Sci-Fi and contemporary fiction helped to demonstrate how broad a medium science fiction is as well as producing some wonderful non Sci-Fi novels.

      If you haven't already read the Wasp Factory. You wont regret it.

      1. Jedit Silver badge
        IT Angle

        "If you haven't already read the Wasp Factory. You wont regret it."

        Most people who have read The Wasp Factory advance the opinion that they do regret reading it, for a great many reasons that do not involve the book being crap.

        Personally I never saw what the fuss was about with The Wasp Factory and for the most part I can't relate to the Culture books with all their GUAs [1] either. But still, in an ideal world Iain Banks would still be here, writing books I don't want to read. Ave atque vale.

        [1] GUA: Generally Unexplained Acronym

        1. David Given
          Thumb Up

          Re: "If you haven't already read the Wasp Factory. You wont regret it."

          I think it's probably more accurate to say:

          "If you haven't already, read the Wasp Factory. You won't forget it."

          I loved it as a teenager and thought it was brilliant; but haven't read it for a while. I may not be able to tolerate the lunatic, over-the-top melodrama any more. I should have another go.

          For his SF, _Use of Weapons_, _Consider Phlebas_ and _Look to Windward_ are among his best, I think. (_Look to Windward_ is one of the most upbeat books about nihilism I know.) (Incidentally, while his SF can mostly be read in any order, _Consider Phlebas_ and _Look to Windward_ need to be read in that order for maximum effect --- they're both standalone but are thematically linked.) _Feersum Enjinn_ is also great, and _Against a Dark Background_ is majestically bleak.

          For his non-SF, _The Crow Road_ is a masterpiece. _Whit_ is huge fun and less lightweight than it first appears. Plus of course _Espedair Street_; and _The Steep Approach to Garbadale_.

          Then there's his crossover books, which are largely unclassifiable. _The Business_, which I love. _Walking on Glass_ which is utterly bizarre. _The Bridge_ which does everything _Lanark_ tried to but so much better. And I haven't read _Transitions_ yet...

      2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: A great loss to Sci Fi..

        If you haven't already read the Wasp Factory. You wont regret it.

        Well I'm not sure about that... It's one of my least favourite of his books.

        Espedair Street is my favourite I think - I highly recommend it, especially if you're into music. It's certainly lots of fun, and one of his 'nice' books - as he said he described it to his wife. The Wasp Factory obviously being one of the 'nasty' ones - along with Complicity, which I liked. My second favourite of his normal fiction would be The Crow Road. Then, maybe, Whit. So I guess I was more of a fan of the 'nice' ones.

        I think my favourite of the Sci-Fi would be Excession. Although if you're not a fan of the ludicrous ship names, there's more in that than any other. In my opinion it was his sense of humour that made his books, and the ludicrous ship names made me smile.

        It's a shame, I'll miss his work. I think I'll dig out one of his books and a bottle of whisky tonight, in his honour. He also wrote a nice book on whisky, called Raw Spirit.

  2. Schultz

    He will keep his place on the bookshelves...

    and maybe, someday, a higher intelligence will have a nice microsecond with his works.

  3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Big Brother

    The Player of Games

    ...and this just after the official announcement that western society has devolved to the point where the paid butlers spy on their paymasters and their sole excuse is to huff, puff and rant at the guy who mentioned it. (I won't go into any of the other kind of abuse that's routinely happening.)

    I think there is a message here.

  4. BlueGreen

    He managed to drag SF into the mainstream

    against the inertial conformity of so many literature snobs, that's an amazing achievement. He changed the world a little, made it that bit more open minded.


  5. Wanting more

    Oh god.

    First Pratchett now M. Banks. not going to be reading much in future.

    1. Elmer Phud

      Re: Oh god.

      "First Pratchett now M. Banks. not going to be reading much in future"

      And all my Neal Stephenson's read (again) as well.

    2. Ralph B

      Re: Oh god.

      Erm. You do know that Pratchett's not dead ... yet?

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. reno79

        Re: Oh god.

        Thank Om for that. I'm expecting at least one more excursion into Discworld before I have to hear that news.

      3. Tom 38

        Re: Oh god.

        He's not dead, but he's pretty gone now, which is very very sad. Diseases which affect the mind are the most horrific of all.

  6. Graham Marsden

    A sad loss...

    ... but maybe there's a GSV out there which used its Effector to copy his mind state... :-/

    1. AceRimmer1980

      Re: A sad loss...

      "We'll never know; if you're reading this he's long dead; had his appointment with the displacement drone and been zapped to the very livid heart of the system, corpse blasted to plasma in the vast erupting core of Chiark's sun, his sundered atoms rising and falling in the raging fluid thermals of the mighty star, each pulverised particle migrating over the millennia to that planet-swallowing surface of blinding, storm-swept fire, to boil off there, and so add their own little parcels of meaningless illumination to the encompassing night...Ah well, getting a bit flowery there."

      'The Player Of Games'

      Beer, cos I can't gland Crystal Fugue State.

  7. DF118

    Public service announcement

    ...(the M was for the middle name "Menzies" that was left off his birth certificate.)

    That's Menzies, pronounced ming-iss.

    That aside, this is desperately sad news. And for him to be taken at a time when the post-scarcity utopia of the Culture seems more distant than ever just about has me crying. So long Mr Banks, and thanks for all the ships.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Public service announcement

      I always wondered if the 'utopia' of the Culture was really meant as that, or a reflection on what society thinks utopia would be. i.e. was he a staunch liberal or was that a statement on liberalism?

      1. Professor Clifton Shallot

        Re: Public service announcement

        CNN: Would you like to live in the Culture?

        Iain M. Banks: Good grief yes, heck, yeah, oh it’s my secular heaven....Yes, I would, absolutely. Again it comes down to wish fulfillment. I haven’t done a study and taken lots of replies across a cross-section of humanity to find out what would be their personal utopia. It’s mine, I thought of it, and I’m going home with it — absolutely, it’s great.

        1. Keith 72

          Re: Public service announcement

          You can count me in too!

        2. JDX Gold badge

          Re: Public service announcement

          Thanks Prof.

  8. GSV Slightly Perturbed

    [Broadcast Eclear, sent 1370816215.7]

    xGSV Slightly Perturbed

    oBOFH Reg Readers

    He's not dead, he's been reassigned.

    Chin up, chaps.

  9. h3

    I have only read "The Algebraist" and I needed to read it really slowly are all his books like that ?

    1. M Gale

      Some are easier than others. Try to avoid Use Of Weapons unless you want to have to wrap your head around two plotlines travelling parallel but in reverse to each other so that the book ends and begins at the end and beginning.

      State Of The Art is quite fun though. Lots of little bite sized storylets, some in the culture universe and some elsewhere.

    2. Michael Xion

      I've read all Banks SF novels, and the 'Algabraist' was hard (but rewarding) work. Try 'excession' for something a bit more straight forward(ish).

      1. Liam Proven Silver badge

        I really don't see what was particularly hard about /The Algebraist./ I'd say the least accessible of his SF was /Inversions/ myself. (Which, to reignite an old argument, *is* a Culture novel due to the inclusion of at least one minor detail. Which this is is left as an exercise for the alert reader.)

        1. breakfast Silver badge

          Yes! Inversions was clearly a Culture novel, somewhat inverted.

    3. Martin Gregorie

      I like "The Algebraist", but it pushes the limits of big and complex.

      You can do a lot worse than start in on the Culture novels by trying "Consider Phlebas", followed by "The Player Of Games". IMO these, plus "State of the Art" are the best of the Culture books, but if you 'get' the Culture you'll probably want to read the rest as well.

      I also like "Feersum Endjinn" a lot, but then I have a weakness for books written in not-exactly-English such as Antony Burgess' "A Clockwork Orange". "Feersumm Endjinn" is another non-Culture novel.

      1. Liam Proven Silver badge

        /Use of Weapons/ is perhaps the best of his SF. To decry it as too hard is to miss the point of reading IMB. It is not easy reading.

        The hard-of-thinking should probably stick to J K Rowling or Dan Brown.

        1. M Gale

          /Use of Weapons/ is perhaps the best of his SF. To decry it as too hard is to miss the point of reading IMB. It is not easy reading.

          Not saying I didn't enjoy it, but I was replying to someone who might want something a little lighter? You can burn through a State Of The Art short story in an hour if you're taking your time over it, stick a bookmark in there and come back tomorrow.

          Taking a lead from the movie adaptations of Dicke's short stories, something like A gift from the Culture(spoilers) is probably ripe for the Hollywood treatment, too.

    4. David Hicks

      I don't know if this is what you want to hear but.... I considered the algebraist to be the 'light relief', almost a work of comedy, as compared to the other Iain M Banks books.

      I enjoyed them all though. I plan to read the non-M books at some point.

      Great, great author. Damn shame to lose him.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        I enjoyed them all though. I plan to read the non-M books at some point.

        David Hicks,

        If you like music, read Espedair Street. It's clear that Banks did - and his sick sense of humour is on display as always. The Crow Road and Whit are good, and mostly nice. I enjoyed Complicity, which wasn't. And the Business is fun, although I'm not sure it's one of his best. The rest are a mixed bag, and there's quite a few, like The Bridge and Walking on Glass that could just as easily have had an M in his name.

        1. JDX Gold badge

          Enough of the "it's supposed to be hard" snobbery please. He wrote books to be enjoyed.

          Personally I think Player of Games is his most immediately gripping Sci-Fi novel which doesn't let sci-fi get in the way of the story. I think lots of his works take a little getting into but are always worth the effort.

    5. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge


      Start at the very beginning (the very best place to start), with Consider Phlebas. If you like that, you'll like the Culture. Although you don't need to have read any of them first before picking any other one up, there are possibly some assumptions in there that you could miss. If you like the Culture, you'll like Excession, and The Player of Games has a nice straightforward plot. Sometimes he plays silly buggers, but not in all books. Once you've liked one, it gives you the desire to plod through the slow/harder/odd bits of any others.

      Use of Weapons and Against a Dark Background are fun. But he does like his black humour. And watch out for those lazy guns.

      Personally I thought his books were quite uneven. He was trying lots of different things, and I thought there were quite a few weak books, where things just didn't come off. I thought that happened a lot more with his literary fiction than the sci-fi. I've had a lot of fun reading his stuff over the years. There's always the sense of humour and it's often fun to try and puzzle the book out, to try and work out what he's playing at before you get to the end. And he plays fair, and usually gives you clues.

    6. Benchops

      Re: Algebraist

      One of the few lines I've laughed out loud at:

      "It's not even a proper f*cking planet!"

      not entirely sure why.

  10. PhilBuk

    A Great Author

    RIP Iain M Banks.

    Just when I 'd found a modern SF author I thoroughly enjoyed he gets struck down in his prime. He will be greatly missed. Time to read his non-SF stuff methinks.


    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: A Great Author

      May I recommend Alastair Reynolds' SF to you, especially the "Revelation Space" books. It's the closest SF to I.M.B I've come across.

      1. MJI Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Alastair Reynolds

        And he replies to emails

  11. Oldfogey

    Still here in Spirit

    No mention of his seminal work in search of the perfect dram "Raw Spirit"?

    A lot of fans wanted to help research that one!

    And I've just realised that I got 2 puns in the title. He would have liked that.

    Pint of heavy is mandatory.

  12. Dick

    Sob, sniff,

    Damn, that's sad, what am I gonna read now ?

  13. Steve I

    I prefer to think that he has...


    1. Shannon Jacobs

      Sublimed? That was the theme of the Hydrogen Sonata

      Just read that book a few days ago. Magnificent, but it still made me feel he was getting a bit mellow. The survival rate of the principle characters was unusually high...

      I'm greatly saddened by his passing, but I'm not yet willing to try to assess his legacy. I am most familiar with his SF, and his optimism about a better future was quite inspiring. That actually reminds me of Gene Roddenberry, though I felt Banks was painting on a much larger canvas. Still, I can also consider the argument that most of his SF was just space opera, though again on the grand canvas... There were even some scenes where I felt he was almost deliberately playing for the camera, as in thinking of how it would appear in a movie.

      For now my summary would be that I did not regret any of the time I spent reading his works, though some of his literary works were the source of some nightmares... His imagination was superlative, and he had great skill in transmitting his dreams into the minds of his readers. Amazing power, and it saddens me to know that there will be no more from him.

      1. Rikkeh
        Thumb Up

        Re: Sublimed? That was the theme of the Hydrogen Sonata

        The was a certain film-like quality to his descriptions. But, on the other hand, a large part of his skill at description was in describing things that couldn't be filmed and shown to human-basics such as ourselves in a form we'd be able to comprehend: seven dimensional hyperspace, battles lasting nanoseconds, solar system-sized megastructures...

        Surface Detail has raised some interesting issues on what it might be like to be made immortal through technology. Hydrogen Sonata did the same on the idea of what you might do when your civilisation runs out of steam on this plane of existence (as well as briefly raising the suggesting why the Minds are so keen on keeping the humans around).

        While it's a shame not to see these ideas come to fruition, I'm grateful for them having been brought up in the first place. Thank you, Iain (M) Banks.

        1. Keith 72

          Re: Sublimed? That was the theme of the Hydrogen Sonata

          I wonder if George R.R. Martin's read any Culture novels, particularly Surface Detail. The idea of being able to kill a main character again and again would have him drooling I'd have thought!

          1. Reality Dysfunction

            Re: Sublimed? That was the theme of the Hydrogen Sonata

            George R.R. Martin has already figured this out with ....

            No I won't spoil it, just read the books.

    2. Gav

      Re: I prefer to think that he has...

      Except dying is nothing like subliming, and its a mistake to consider the two as in any way comparable.

      Banks did not introduce the concept of subliming into his Culture models just to make up for there not being a heaven. I suspect he'd be disappointed if people thought he'd used such a lazy plot device.

      What I'd like is that his mindstate had been stored and could be uploaded to a sympathetic ship's Mind to tour the galaxy at his leisure. Unfortunately we can't do that. :(

  14. Rattus Rattus

    Farewell Mr Banks,

    You and your work will be greatly missed.

  15. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    a committed atheist – a position he held until his death.

    I think he would have liked the joke in that

    And Tom Sharpe today as well

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Away the Crow Road

    Too early for him to go, with so much left to say. The first book of his I read, 'Complicity', was picked up in Turkey as someone else's discarded and only half finished holiday read; it blew me away, and is still one of my all time favourite books, perhaps more relevant today than it was when it was published. He had a unique gift for depicting the sense of place, experiences and banter that go with growing up in Scotland, bringing back to life for me a time I'd almost forgotten. His humour, always brilliantly dry, was at its best in the Crow Road, which apart from opening with the line "It was the day my grandmother exploded" contains an absolutely immortal description of the Himalayan region of Ladakh:

    "She was in Ladakh, a place so out of the way it would take several international airports, a major rail terminus and substantial investment in a network of eight-lane highways to promote it to the status of being in the middle of nowhere."

  17. Lost In Clouds of Data

    Think he's now onboard the GSV "Well, that about bugger's it up".

    What a tremendous shame - another great author lost.

  18. Winkypop Silver badge

    Farewell and thanks!

    So many really interesting SF books with thought provoking themes and concepts.

    I particularly enjoyed the audio book of The Wasp factory.


  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sincerely missed

    El Reg seems to be an appropriate place to express my sincere sadness at his passing :(

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RIP indeed

    'twas the summer of 2008 and my son lent me "The Wasp Factory" and gave me "Player of Games", and I thought, "Wow, that's two new serious writing talents whose work I'll be happy to explore for some time to come", and then I realised it was One Premier League writing talent ... happily, there's plenty of his work I haven't read, unhappily, there won't be any new books now. Thank you I (M) B, for bringing me back to serious reading ...

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: RIP indeed

      Spoiler Alert (minor):

      In the film Hot Fuzz, an apparently forgetful desk sergeant is later revealed to be two separate police officers, both played by Bill Bailey. Re-watching the film, one of the desk sergeants always reads an Iain Banks book, and the other an Iain M. Banks novel.

      He originally dropped the 'M.' at the insistence of his publishers, who feared negative associations with the novelist Rosie M. Banks. I have no idea what she is like as an author, but she is referred to in some of P.G Woodhouse's stories (in the 'Blandings' series, I think)

  21. Richie 1

    He'll be sorely missed

    I hope he's using his eight Feersum Endjinn style backup lives well.

  22. MJI Silver badge


    I have read most of the M books but not yet any of the others, but the Culture novels are excellent

    Will be sadly missed.

    BTW I was also a fan of Tom Sharpe

  23. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Did not see this one coming

    But then I guess neither did he.


  24. The Nameless Mist


    [Broadcast Eclear, sent 201306100858.5

    x GOU The Nameless Mist

    oGSV Slightly Perturbed

    &BOFH Reg Readers

    Prefer to consider the esteemed is now Sublimed ?

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: Sublimed

      o ROU Subtlety? Yes I have fucking heard of it.

      x GOU The Nameless Mist.

      Croaked or disappeared up his own arse, makes no odds. Still bloody gone, isn't he?

  25. This post has been deleted by its author

  26. My Alter Ego

    An absolute shame

    The only author who could consistently blow my mind.

  27. Elmer Phud

    Bye -- and thanks to both of you

    Was told about the Wasp Factory and got a copy eventually -- flicked through it, left it, picked it up another day.

    Put it down after I'd read the whole thing in one go and just went 'fuck!'.

    Then came the Culture books and left me giggling.

    One of the few writers who could really keep the readers hooked despite sometimes not quite knowing when you are. Algebraist -- just awesome, bastard kept making me think I knew what was coming and then changed direction.

  28. Probe Controller 4


    Probably my favourite writer of all time, especially with the M but read a few of the non SF titles too - some more successfully than others TBH. Looking at my bookshelf, there are probably more Banks titles than any other author, my copies of Use of Weapons, Consider Phlebas and Against a Dark Background are somewhat battered after many readings, he will be sadly missed by me and I am sure many others.

    RIP Iain and thank you for the many hours that I have spent lost in the other worlds you created.

  29. Charles Calthrop

    Strome Ferry (No Ferry)

    Some fantastic books

    Author of some of the best while simultaneously also some of the worst recent Scottish books. The crow road, Complicity and the wasp factory were amazing. I remember reading the wasp factory, it was like being part of this secret gang who liked this 'pretty fucked up little book' while a lot of the media railed against it. I loved the way he put all the negative reviews into the later editions.

  30. A K Stiles

    Sadly Missed

    I've read just about everything he's written since I was loaned a copy of the Wasp Factory in 1995. Love the Culture stuff - it just seems so right and something to which we could aspire. Love, and occassionally am quite perturbed by, the 'straight' fiction - some of it is quite twisted. Met the man once - seemed like a lovely, down to earth kind of a guy with whom it would have been nice to spend a quiet evening or two in the pub.

    I found out about the diagnosis about a month ago and struggled to avoid having to explain why I had tears in my eyes. Now I'm trying to avoid sobbing out loud. It truly feels like I've lost a good friend or a member of my family.

    Iain - thank you for all the good times and for the days when I stayed up all night reading your work.

    1. hamcheeseandonion

      Re: Sadly Missed

      Sad doesn't begin to describer it.......buggrit hand and shrimp

      .....I felt exactly the same when I read about the diagnosis, and I feel exactly the same as you now....could really, really weep, but will probably keep that for home time and an extremely large alcoholic drink.

      Mind you, he was a Fifer :-) the Culture, as IMB was a fellow atheist, and is nowt but some eminently recyclable Matter now....munchity crunchity.

  31. pewpie

    Mr. Banks

    Haven't read Banks for a few years - but I have great memories of reading The Bridge, The Wasp factory for the first time way back when.. Always a shame when a genuine creative dies.. At least I have the books he has released in the last several years to look forward to.


  32. James 36


    One of my favorite authors, prefer the SF to the nonSF

    Beer for all the pleasure his writing gave me

    You will be missed

  33. big_Jim

    She called me sick

    A short tale. My wife and I used to have a tradition (her idea) of swapping books every now again. I'd end up reading some banal and generic chick-lit or bleeding Potter while I did my best to give her some enjoyable and easy SF. Which she hated. Then I gave her The Wasp Factory to read. She called me sick and we never swap books again. For that alone I thank you Iain.

    1. Otto is a bear.

      Re: She called me sick

      The other way round for me, my ex gave me The Wasp Factory to read when she saw my stack of his SF works. Since then I've read alms all his other books, and enjoyed them all. She could never get her head round SF and Fantasy, but I got some cracking good non-sf reads out of it.

      Good Bye Iain.

    2. Tom 7

      Re: She called me sick

      you should have given her 'Bunker Man'!

      I shall locate a bottle of Scotlands finest and go and lie on the bench in the back field and watch the stars when the weather allows and ponder on the mysteries of the universe. It was big before Iain came along and got bigger still with his works. I find death easy to accept but this is one man whose mind on cellulose I shall miss.

      I shall kick all flotsam and jetsam in his memory for a long time to come.

    3. BorkedAgain

      Re: She called me sick

      Ah Big_Jim, you made me literally lol.

      I only regret I can only upvote you once.

      Cheers Iain. Missing you already...

  34. ukgnome

    A loss to the bookshelves

    <-----it should be whisky

  35. phuzz Silver badge

    Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,

    Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell

    And the profit and loss.

    A current under sea

    Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell

    He passes the stages of his age and youth

    Entering the whirlpool.

    Gentile or Jew

    O you who turn the wheel and look windward,

    Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.

    TS Elliot.

  36. JDX Gold badge

    If you are a fan of Iain. M. Banks, may I recommend...

    ...Alastair Reynolds' SF to you, especially the "Revelation Space" books. Definitely in the same vein.

    1. A K Stiles
      Thumb Up

      Re: If you are a fan of Iain. M. Banks, may I recommend...

      I'd second that recommendation and add Peter F. Hamilton to the mix. Include Mr Pratchett and you're covering the majority of my bookshelves.

  37. Squander Two


    I went to a Q&A session with him nearly twenty years ago. He was great fun. One thing he said was that he'd love to see a film of "Consider Phlebas": that, if they filmed the break-out from the GSV, the fight under the hovercraft, the iceberg collision, and the train crash, he wouldn't even care if they gave it a happy ending.

    If he was happy to have his plots messed with in the cause of big-screen spectacle, then so am I.

    I regret the lack of the books he'll never write.

    Little-known fact: he was in "Monty Python And The Holy Grail" when he was a student. He's one of the extras charging the castle at the end.

  38. Nigel Hamlin


    Reported: IMB converted AI post-bodydeath

    First post-death novel complete: 1.5 hrs

    Second: 38 mins

    Output expanding exponentially

    Latest work (5500 pp): 7.2s must be parallel groupread with mindshare on.

  39. Glyn Smith

    Really sad news as he's one of my favourite reads...

    Last night I popped outside and raised a glass of single malt to the GSV 'Going round and round' (ISS) and the Fast Picket 'Playing Catchup' (ATV4) and was rewarded with an unexpected Iridium Flare.

    I hope he's giving the Dra'Azon lessons in unscrutablility

  40. Colin Critch

    RIP Iain

    Thanks for the fantastic SF. Here is to you.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fucksticks, that is a shame

    While not a huge fan of the "M" stuff, I was very fond of his brand of "Scottish people, sex and death". A far nicer chap than most of his characters. He'll always be memorable to me for one of the all time great opening lines... I don't think I even need to specify, do I?

    I shall be raising a glass of single malt in his memory at the earliest opportunity.

  42. grant Davidson


    Meet him once and he seemed like a really nice guy. Love his books and the kind of hope that the culture personified. Also he seemed to walk the walk and gave and got involved in some Cinderella charities (seemed to remember it was about domestic abuse and he wasn't just giving them cash and then making a big deal of it, but actually involved and not making a big deal of it). Earth is just that little bit smaller without him.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reading his books, knowing that such a superb mind is there, still coming up with new stories, gave me sort of a... peace of mind. I knew there would be more of what I liked, and liked a lot. News of his cancer was like a very rude awakening. Yet, despite the knowledge how it "works" (my whole family, and I'm probably next for the exit sign), I was hoping he'd survive. Extremely unlikely, but such things do happen, so...I must admit, it was mostly for selfish reasons, as I was hoping for new glimpses of his utopia.

    Hell, I never felt such a loss about any writer. Maybe, a little, about Frank Herbert, who'd died a couple of months before I came across that book I'd never heard about, Dune...

    Banks was a great writer. Superb language, superb mind.

  44. JDX Gold badge

    I wonder if anyone else will step up

    To write Culture books... it really is such a great SF universe. I can't decide if it would be a good or a bad thing but amongst SF writers, it is not unknown for great writers to write in homage to other writers they are fans of, especially where an author knows they are dying.

    Putting aside the question of if this should happen, are there any authors who you reckon could write stories in a Culture universe?

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  47. attoman

    Ah, Iain we will miss you son...

  48. Zebo-the-Fat

    Too Soon

    I heard the news and just thought "Shit... too soon"


  49. Gavin McMenemy

    Transitions and the M

    You write " ... and was sufficiently confusing to be released under his literary name in the UK, but with his M moniker in the US."

    You are factually incorrect. I asked Iain and he told me:

    "It's only 49% SF but it's 51% over there".

    RIP Banksy.

  50. jai

    far too soon

    Shall be thoroughly missed. Reading his books felt like a formative part of my teenage years, and ever since. I'd always assumed he'd always have a new book every year or two. I always say Use Of Weapons is my favourite book (he said at a book signing that he wrote it as a coherent story, but when he showed the first draft to a friend they suggested he fold the story in two), but when i think about it, it's hard to really pick one above the other.

    Canal Dreams is the one i really didn't get into. I asked him what went wrong with it at another book signing and he agreed it wasn't his best. He said of all the other books, there's at least an element of himself in them. But when he wrote it, he'd not been to that part of the world, didn't play the chello and wasn't a woman, so that might explain it.

    I guess just thankful we've had such great books to enjoy all these years, and can enjoy them all again in the future. And sad there won't be any more like them :(

  51. Tom 11

    The true player of games succombs to his final obstacle.

    Gan doon the craw road.

  52. Alex C

    Very Sad

    I'll miss him hugely- space Opera on a grand scale. Funny, clever and mind expanding, I loved his SF work primarily - and really enjoyed what I've read of his no SF work. Terrific handling of such a huge variety of vast concepts, I reckon the Player of Games remains my favourite, but so many others are up there.

  53. Triggerfish

    I lent a friend

    my copy of Consider Phlebas, he never used to read books couldn't get into them, but I persuaded him to try it. That one book turned him into an avid reader. I can't think of any better example of the talent of Iain Banks than that.

  54. Antony King

    No-one mentioned song of stone?

    That's the only one I *won't* read again, after two goes. The rest are have been thumbed to death over the years. Very very sad to see him go; definitely a wee dram to be raised methinks.

  55. Ardly

    Thanks Iain M

    Eventhough I knew it was going to happen I didnt expect it to happen so soon. Great author and I will sadly miss his SF works. Just loved the Culture and the Minds. Always looked forward to his next book.

    Personal favourite was Look to Windward - awesome.

    Need to find someone with the same vision!

    A very very sad day.

    RIP Iain M

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Sweet dreams, Genar-Hofoen," the Grey Area said.

    The circuit clicked ostentatiously off.

    He lay awake in the darkness for a while, before falling asleep again.

    From "Excession", by Iain M. Banks.

  57. KPz

    Terribly Sad

    A few months back I was reading the edition of "The Hydrogen Sonata" with the author's notes at the back, and thought "It's great that I'll probably still be reading his books in both mine and his dotage". A few weeks later he announced he had cancer.

    I've been reading his stuff since not long after The Wasp Factory came out. He could be hit and miss, but by and large, he was hugely readable, and had the ability, at least in his SF form, to pick up ideas from other (often less-readable) authors and present them in a more readable manner. Must re-read Use Of Weapons and Consider Phlebas one day, once I've got through the 93 other books on my shelf that I need to read.

    Alasdair Reynolds is far more hard sci-fi than Banks, but very good - I'd strongly recommend the composite author James S A Corey's Expanse series for true Banks-style rollicking space opera. The first (Leviathan Wakes) is one of the best sci-fi books of recent years.

    Hopefully I'll share a pint with him one day in the Sublime.

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