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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Review: The Business

The Business is Iain Bank's foray into a novel about corporations and companies. Unlike Richard Morgan's Market Forces (Banks was a banker, while Morgan was an ESL instructor), Banks characteristically builds an Utopian-type company.

The Business is a corporation that's several hundred years old (trust a British SF writer to come up with a centuries old corporation which nobody has ever heard of) that's governed like a democracy --- managers are voted managers by people who have to report to them, and corporate officers are only allowed to buy perks (such as houses, etc) from the company, and on their death, cannot pass such perks on to their descendants.

The story follows Kathryn Telman, an up and coming woman executive in The Business who specializes in technology investments. At the start of the story, she's on sabbatical and spends her free time visiting (where else) corporate locations and investments for fun. We follow her as she flies from one company event to another, spurning suitors, and getting an explanation of how such a business would work, and how she was uplifted from grungy beginnings by a kind Business woman, and various machinations The Business is going through to try to get a seat on the UN.

Mid-way through the book, I realized that I didn't know what Banks was building towards. Then in the last 2 chapters he ties up all the loose ends, even the ones I didn't know were there, and then ends the novel in such a way that I think any feminist would be offended. In any case, I found the ending unsatisfying, so I'm afraid I'll have to lump this in together Song of Stone, though it's far more readable and much more coherent than that turkey was.

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