Iain M. Banks
Feersum Endjinn (1994)
Of his books published as SF, this is Banks's most bizarre creation yet, a vision of a far-future Earth, superficially very different from his previous space operas but showing increasing similarity on further reflection. Outlandish settings like a castle built by giants and a cyberspace unencumbered by physical reality, grotesque creatures, and oddball characters are testimony to the little checked flow of the author's powerful imagination.
Casting the reader into the midst of an initially unexplained, surreal-seeming world, Banks again shows his predilection to experiment with structure and form. The book is told in four interleaving lines of narration: a newborn woman, who unbeknownst to her is an emissary holding the key to save Earth from the approaching Encroachment; Gadfium, Chief Scientist and conspirer against the King, who receives a long awaited message from the observatory at the Plain of Sliding Stones; Count Sessine, who is killed for the last time and still hunted by assassins in his multiple afterlives; and Bascule the Teller, whose job is to fish the crypt for information, and who must now enter deeper than ever before on the search for his missing friend, Ergates the speaking ant.
Bascule's part is written in an alternative, arguably phonetic spelling, which may be off-putting to some readers. It certainly adds to the bizarreness of the story. If you subvocalize when reading you will probably find the unconventional spelling quite easy to follow though still distracting (that's my personal experience), however people who read entirely symbolically will have a much harder time adapting.
A typical Banks book.
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