It’s almost impossible to quickly catalog the delights of this novel from the mischievous imagination that produced The Wasp Factor and The Crow Road. There’s the large and eccentric clan of the Wopulds, the decaying stewards of a British board-game dynasty that culminated in the classic Empire! There’s Alban, sensitive and alienated young scion of the aforementioned tribe, living the life of a couch-surfing slacker to avoid the family ghosts that haunt him; and Alban’s smart and cynical foil Fielding, now in charge of much of the family business. There’s the complex, equally cynical merger deal with a big-bucks American firm (the occasion for a delicious comic deconstruction of a PowerPoint presentation). And there are a host of wonderful secondary characters: Alban’s voluble and profane roommate Tango, the fading but still powerful Wopuld matriarch, Grandma Win, and the American schemers Feaguing and Fromax, just to name a few. It’s ultimately Alban’s story that emerges from this noisy hurlyburly, as a surprisingly warm and engaging melody. When he reenters his family’s world, he inadvertently opens doors to the past through which a new vista can been seen, casting all of this novel’s pleasurable distractions into a different light. As Banks leads the reader to the final revelation of his rich tale, laughter and grief equally enter the glorious view. –
About the Author
Bill Tipper has been Managing Editor of the Barnes & Noble Review since its launch in 2007. His reviews have appeared in the Washington Post Book World and elsewhere.