Stonemouth by Iain Banks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
As always, the problem with loving a living writer's work is the wait between books - Stonemouth was worth it!
Set in a smallish port town in Scotland, the action shifts between modern day and Stewart's youth (if one can count scenes at age 20 as "youth"). As a boy he was part of a group of boys, getting into a bit of trouble that includes the really tragic death of one of them in a paintball match. As a young man he was friends with one of the town's two Big Men, Joe (godson to the other), taking hill walks with him and visiting the home - and, of course, in love with Ellie, eldest daughter in the clan. Ellie and Stewart get engaged, and then a week before the wedding he has a quickie with another girl (the daughter of Ellie's father's rival, no less) that is caught on camera... Life in danger, he flees for London and a new life. Five years later he's back for Joe's funeral on a few day's dispensation from the new "Mr. M" (Joe specifically asked for Stewart's presence).
As with almost all Banks' non-SF books, the characters are people you might actually know (Song of Stone is one exception) doing things that average, ordinary people do. The writing is gorgeous, one of the things I love most about his work. Even though he uses name brands (a Ford Ka, BlackBerry, etc.) it won't feel dated in a few years and, unlike some books I've read recently, it's done sparingly enough to set the place and tone and not feel like product placement.
Sadly, now I have to wait for the next book...
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