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The Business   by Iain Banks

Read: 2022-09-29 Reviewed: 2022-10-03
Re-read factor:

Incredibly inventive book in which Banks manages to create, in some detail, an ancient, globe-spanning business with a finger in every pie, and even an entire small nation which the Business seeks to acquire, in order to gain itself a seat at the United Nations.

A career-driven individual, destined for the top, is chosen to be the Business’ ruling representative of this nation. But there is a big downside: the place is mountainous, freezing and wet, and medieval in its social structures, and taking the job means abandoning the lavish, high-flying western lifestyle which the woman enjoys to live a modest, feet-on-the-ground existence practically out of sight of the rest of the world.

But it turns out that there are rascally things going on afoot in the Business, with someone very high up attempting to cream profits into their own personal bank account by running an insider trading operation inside a remote Scottish factory. This all appears mostly tangential to the main part of the plot, and the full picture of what is going down, and what the implications of the exposure are, are not explicitly expounded: the book finishes really before it should with an initially unsatisfactory ending. However, it takes some effort of retrospect to realize that this book is quite clever, leaving it up to the reader to work out that it is the people trying to fleece the Business who are also trying to push the protangonist out of the way when they realize she is starting to be on to them.

The real gist of the story is that the woman comes to appreciate the simple lifestyle the people of the micro-nation enjoy, and understands the great upheaval that would come about if the Business succeeds in taking it over. Counting her scruples, she decides to leave the Business and marry the King so that as Queen with knowledge of the skulduggery that goes on in the West she can look out for the people and enjoy the simple life herself. She also, of course, exposes the criminal fraternity within the Business.

Fantastically clever, just a shame that the ending is slightly predictable and a little clipped. It is important to take a moment after finishing this book though to think back on events and fill in the parts you at first think you donʼt understand.

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