It’s an old novel, so old, in fact, that it was published in the same year I was born, but Complicity by Ian Banks is indeed a fascinating book. It manages to be funny and frightening as well as intellectually and morally challenging, as it follows a miserably hedonistic journalist, and his involvement in a series on bizzare attacks. It is more than just a thriller though. It tests our views on justice, passes comment on politics (which show a remarkable relevance to today), and questions normal views about justice and morality. In addition, it is an interesting character piece, as it explores Cameron Colley, the journalist protagonist’s, personal history and views from the first person. It can be shocking though. The attacks that form the centre of the novel are detailed in second person, making the graphic descriptions of violence very unsettling. However, that’s the point. Not only to shock, but also to make the reader feel complicit in what is happening, to feel at least partially responsible. This, and the nature of consent, are key themes in the book. Are we complicit in the evils of politicians and corporations because we allow them to happen? What can you really consent to? Why is this important? These questions are posed to the reader, and less subtly, at times asked directly by characters. The second half is thrilling, with the resolution ringing in your ears after you finish.
I could go into more depth about each section of the book, and what was particularly interesting, but I don’t want to. I went into this book relatively blind, and that meant every section was surprising. Ian Banks, or Ian M Banks (the name he uses when he publishes sci fi), is a writer of considerable range and talent, and his recent death is a great loss for British literature.