When I first was introduced to Iain Banks, I was amazed by his sheer storytelling power. Since, I have started reading a Banks book as every second book I’ve read. When I discovered that my local supermarket had a deal on hardbacks, and especially when I found banks’ book, I was hooked.
Dead Air – written by Iain Banks
published 2002, by Little, Brown publishing. (which, incidentally, is owned by time warner books. When will we see the film?
The plot is quite simple; We follow Kenneth (Or Ken Nott) a radio DJ on a moderately popular radio station in the time right after September 11. Surprisingly – or perhaps not, I am not quite sure yet – Ken is quite unaffected by the whole terrorist attack.
The book starts with Ken and some friends at a party. A moving-away party for some posh friends of theirs. In a state of loads-of-drugs-and-alcohol, Ken decides it is a good idea to throw fruit down from the balcony onto the carpark below, seing the fruit splatter. Eventually, their game evolves into throwing televisions, beanbags, and all kinds of other junk over the edge.
Which is when they start noticing something on television. A plane, crashing into a tower. And another one.
From here on, things just get more and more interesting… Ken witnesses a traffic accident, gets involved with a crime boss, goes on national television, doing something completely outrageous against a holocaust-denier, gets kidnapped, nearly gets killed, but lives happily ever after. All these plot points are finely interwoven in a style no less of what you’d expect of Banks.
Why this book just might be worth reading.
Primarily? It is a cozy book. It is probably one of the most light-hearted things I have ever read by Banks – no unspeakable horrors (wasp factory) or insane twists in the plot, just a largish dose of nice, clean fun.
It helps that Ken Nott is a pretty damn witty man with some incredibly sharp comebacks. His rants and ideas about life are reasonably politically correct, but at the same time quite thought-provoking. The book is about people – people interacting in private lives and in the workplace. Mostly in a funny way, but also very believable in many ways; Suspension of disbelief is limited to a minimum.
As the reader, you get a pretty good insight into the world of radio journalism and DJing. Based on my experiences in the field (limited as such, but still), it seems fairly accurate as well.
The book reads very much like a film, actually: It is very detailed in all the points where you would expect a film to be detailed, and you can just see Brad Pitt or one of the other big ones sprout the snappy conversations. In addition to that, I found myself skipping paragraphs just to get to the point faster. Some of the sections are incredibly exciting and lay very close to that of a thriller.
I read the first fifty pages of this book in a week or so. The rest of it (total of 400-odd pages) I ploughed through in less than two days, effectively leaving me without sleep for three nights in a row.
The Dipsolect Verdict
I like this book. A lot. It lacks that unsuspected Banks twist, but because of the sheer storytelling power, it does not really matter.
Without adding anything significant to the literature world in term of philosophical or literary value, this is still a book worth having a look at if you would like to kill a few hours on a journey, by train, or bus. Or even on a plane, if you can stomach the occasional references to terrorist threats. Or just in your favorite comfy chair in your journey of life, if you will.