‘Whit’ by Iain Banks was my reading group’s choice for November, and I wasn’t expecting to like it at all. Science fiction is the one category of books that I just don’t seem to like. I thought Iain Banks was a science fiction writer (he has written a lot of science fiction books in the past, but this isn’t one of them) and the cover image reinforced this expectation.
The back cover didn’t help:
A little knowledge can be a very dangerous thing. Innocent in the ways of the world, an ingenue when it comes to pop and fashion, the Elect of God of a small but committed Stirlingshire religious cult: Isis Whit is no ordinary teenager.
When her cousin Morag – Guest of Honour at the Luskentyrian’s four- yearly Festival of Love – disappears after renouncing her faith, Isis is marked out to venture among the Unsaved and bring the apostate back into the fold. But the road to Babylondon (as Sister Angela puts it) is a treacherous one, particularly when Isis discovers that Morag appears to have embraced the ways of the Unsaved with spectacular abandon.
Truth and falsehood; kinship and betrayal; ‘herbal’ cigarettes and compact discs – Whit is an exploration of the techno-ridden barrenness of modern Britain from a unique perspective.
It just sounded weird!
So I picked up the book, expecting to have given up within a few pages. I was wrong! It did start off quite slowly, but I quickly began to like the main characters. It was very well observed, and even made me smile in a few places. The plot was a bit strange, but many aspects of it were very clever. By the end I was totally hooked, and will try to search out more books by Iain Banks in the future.