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From Barnes & NobleOur Review
A shadowy commercial empire bent on controlling the global marketplace, a secret cabal plotting the crime of the century, and the one woman who holds the fate of both in her grasp: In his new genre-defying novel (call it a sexy-techno-comic-spy-thriller), Scottish author Iain Banks gives the brave new world order "the business."
In 1984, Banks debuted to controversy and acclaim with The Wasp Factory -- a novel that was recently selected in a British poll as one of the top 100 novels of the 20th century. Since then, the prolific author has developed something of a literary split personality: As "Iain Banks," he has penned eccentric British bestsellers such as Complicity, The Crow Road, and A Song of Stone; as Iain "M." Banks, his expansive "Culture" novels have earned their place in the space opera repertory alongside Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy, Frank Herbert's Dune series, and Orson Scott Card's Ender quartet. But the hallmark of all of Banks's novels is his unfettered imagination, informed by a dark humor and a dry, caustic wit.
The Business finds Banks comfortably earthbound, focusing his technological lens on the advances of the information age and their at-times questionable applications in the modern corporate and political arenas. Narrating this captivating cautionary tale is Kate Telman, a buff and brainy 38-year-old Level 3 executive -- part secret-agent "Jane" Bond, part Barbarella, and equally adept in the board- and bedroom -- in a venerable commercial organization that, for simplicity's sake, is referred to simply as the Business. Predating the Christian Church (though not the Roman Empire, which, at one point it technically owned), the Business has survived plague and pogrom, crusades and communism, all in the name of profit. By the dawn of the 21st century it is a vast holding company whose tentacles control myriad ventures, from the mundane to the multinational.
As the novel opens, Kate is enjoying a well-earned sabbatical when she receives a desperate -- and nearly unintelligible -- phone call from a junior operative who has been abducted on the eve of an important round of negotiations and given an unforgettable lesson in guerrilla dentistry. This brutally comic episode is but the first thread in a tangled skein of characters and plotlines that play out with typically Banksian complexity. In short order, Kate finds herself back on the global chessboard as a pawn -- or, more appropriately, a queen -- in an elaborate gambit orchestrated by a cadre of Level 1 power brokers. At stake is not only her career but also the Business's clandestine bid to buy the tiny Himalayan Shangri-la of Thulahn -- and in the process obtain a voting seat at the United Nations.
The Business is a deliciously wicked satire of technology, corporate ethics, and global consumerist capitalism that only Iain Banks could conceive, much less pull off. Imagine a giddy mix of Benjamin Barber's dialectical Jihad vs. McWorld, the historical arcana of Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum, and the intramural menace of John Grisham's The Firm, leavened by wry commentary on topics ranging from Xerox Parc to the damp realities of trickle-down economics to the musical eccentricities of Glenn Gould and Alanis Morissette, and you'll begin to get the picture. The latest in a long list of unqualified literary successes, The Business reaffirms Banks as one of the most inventive and original authors writing today.