The Business


Who Do You Work For?
The Business, a nearly omnipotent enterprise, is so infinitely discreet that even its top executives are vague about its actual business. It predates the Christian church and counts among its vast riches dozens of Michelangelo's pornographic paintings and several sets of Crown jewels. The only thing it lacks is political clout, a problem the Business plans to solve by buying a nation and joining the United Nations. Kate Telman, the Business's foremost expert...

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Who Do You Work For?
The Business, a nearly omnipotent enterprise, is so infinitely discreet that even its top executives are vague about its actual business. It predates the Christian church and counts among its vast riches dozens of Michelangelo's pornographic paintings and several sets of Crown jewels. The only thing it lacks is political clout, a problem the Business plans to solve by buying a nation and joining the United Nations. Kate Telman, the Business's foremost expert on emerging technologies, is chosen to lead the effort. As this beautiful, ambitious American woman pursues the ultimate prize for her highly secretive transglobal employer, Iain Banks — whom The Times of London calls "the most imaginative British novelist of his generation" — offers a portrait of today's ubiquitous multinational corporations. Already a bestseller in England, The Business paints a picture that is at once wickedly satirical and frighteningly familiar.

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Editorial Reviews

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Our Review
Risky Business
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.

--Greg Marrs

From the Publisher
The Independent (London) The Business is written with enormous energy, crunchy wit and more curves than an Alpine road.

Sunday Express (London) Imagination, wit and complexity are Banks's hallmarks and The Business is no exception.

The Guardian One of his most assured performances yet....A highly inventive piece of work, amusing and sinister by turns.

The Times (London) The Business is a classic Banks invention.

The Scotsman To most of us, the world of international high finance is a mysterious domain, full of grey men in grey suits. But Iain Banks's biting satire cuts through the fog....The Business is human comedy, entertainment with a serious, satirical intent.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Ever since The Wasp Factory first bent readers' minds in 1984, prolific Scottish author Banks has tantalized and terrified with his eerily accurate representations of humanity at its twisted best and worst. Lighter in mood than some of his previous novels, his latest, a bestseller in Great Britain, is still shot through with sinister undertones. In a recognizable but slightly tilted 1998, Kathryn Telman works for the Business, a mysterious corporation that predates the Christian church and at one point owned the Roman Empire. Plucked from poverty in West Scotland at the age of eight, she has been groomed for the fast track ever since. Thirty years later, despite her power, money and success, she is finally beginning to wonder just what the Business is all about. Why was she pulled out of Scotland just as she noticed something amiss at a subsidiary chip factory? Why has she been summoned by a munitions-collecting higher-up to talk his nephew out of writing an incendiary anti-Islamic screenplay? Why has the Business's sinister head of security sent her a dirty DVD showing the wife of Kathryn's colleague--and secret love--in an illicit tryst? And why suddenly appoint her "ambassador" to Thulahn, a remote Himalayan principality the Business is buying in order to gain its own seat in the U.N.? Banks offers a hilarious look at international corporate culture and the insatiable avarice that drives it, but he suggests the positive potential of globalization, too. Less overtly eccentric and sensationalistic than favorites like The Wasp Factory and A Song of Stone, the novel is a clever, genre-bending pleasure. (Nov.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
What is "The Business"? One of those secret societies you've heard about that really rules the world, with operatives around the globe, friends in high places, and a little bit of dirt on everyone. Having been practically raised in The Business, Level 3 Employee Kate Telman confronts a crisis of conscience when on assignment to the island of Thuhn; her company plans on buying the island outright as a headquarters for its base operations, but Telman balks when she discovers that part of the deal is her imminent betrothal to the island's prince. Other curiosities crop up: a forbidden tryst on DVD, an employee's selectively removed teeth, and so on. There's more malevolent intrigue beneath the surface, but not much more; Banks has been accused of overwriting before, but this novel seems emaciated. As it stands, the aims of Telman's Business and its renegades are kept boringly indistinct throughout, allowing Banks to focus on his eccentric but uninteresting characters while delivering a routine wrap-up. Operating on low inspiration despite a great concept, Banks's novel isn't flat-out awful, but it's awfully disappointing. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/00.]--Marc Kloszewski, Indiana Free Lib., PA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
From the usually thought-provoking, even disturbing, Banks (A Song of Stone, 1998, etc.) comes a clever, well-paced, but surprisingly slight business thriller. Kathryn Telman, smart, beautiful, competent, is a Level Three executive in The Business—a vast, shadowy, international network of business concerns that predates Christianity and has been accumulating wealth and power ever since. Avoiding direct political power (brief ownership of the Roman Empire taught them a lesson they've not forgotten), the organization has remained a largely neutral presence in world affairs; though profits and self-interest come before the commonweal, those interests coincide often enough with society's that good-hearted, moral Kathryn can pursue money and career without guilt. Plucked from a Scottish slum as a child, Kathryn received a world-class, Business-financed education and went on to become a high-tech expert, making extremely profitable calls on Microsoft, etc, that brought rapid promotions. Despite being in love with a faithfully married colleague, Kathryn accepts some of the many propositions that come her way, but has consistently declined those of smitten Suvinder Dzung, Prince of Thulahn, a small Himalayan nation. When some Level Ones—multibillionaire, policy-level executives—decide to flout tradition and secure themselves a seat in the United Nations by buying out Thulahn, Kathryn is asked to take up residence to represent them. The Prince proposes, part of the Level One plan to control the country. She declines, but falls in love with the country (the loss of place in modern life resounds throughout here). When she uncovers a Level One plot to take advantage oftheThulahnese, though, she exposes the malefactor to his colleagues, and then marries the prince, to keep a watchful and protective eye on the nation. Sprinkled with erudite puns ("Was I a Freudian? . . . no, I was a Schadenfreudian") and topical references: a smart, breezy, entertainment—something John Grisham might have written if, say, he were a better stylist with more imagination.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743200158
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 10/30/2001
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 0.82 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 8.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Iain Banks came to widespread and controversial public notice with the original publication of his first novel, The Wasp Factory, recently selected in a British poll as one of the top 100 novels of the century. Since then he has gained enormous popular and critical acclaim with further works of fiction and, as Iain M. Banks, science fiction. He lives in Scotland.

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