Iain Banks
Canal Dreams (1989)
Reviewed: 2003-11-07

Hisako Onoda is a famous cellist. Mortally afraid of flying she insists on traveling by ship when her agent just can't refuse the offers for a European tour any longer. Her vessel is one of several that get stuck in the Panama canal when a local war breaks out. And so she spends the time practising her instrument, learning to dive, and having an affair with an officer from another ship caught in the same events.

The first part of the book reads like a pleasant travelog. Then the immobilized ships are taken over by a group of ... yes, let's call them terrorists. What starts as a rather civil hostage situation eventually turns into a massacre. Something dies inside Hisako and the meek woman proceeds to eradicate the terrorists with extreme prejudice. Throughout the novel there are flashbacks that tell us about Hisako's previous life and elucidate her character.

The final part of Canal Dreams is a violent action thriller reminiscent of Die Hard and I'm surprised that Hollywood hasn't yet picked it up as such. Overall the novel presents an intense character study.

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