My opinion on every Iain Banks book (that I’ve read)

Any book without a review is one I have not yet read. A book with a ⭐ is one of my all-time favorites.


Science Fiction

The Culture

  • Consider Phlebas. An easy way to immediately fall in love with the Culture; a life-altering book. Slightly more gruesome than the other Culture novels. On my second read, felt like a bit of a departure from the rest of the Culture series.
  • The Player of Games. Gripping story. Sad.
  • Use of Weapons. Violent and esoteric, beautiful and silly.
  • The State of the Art.
  • Excession. One of the greatest novels ever written. Too clever by half and shockingly profound.
  • Inversions. An amazing project that all comes together; deeply believable.
  • Look to Windward. The most Culture-esque of the Culture series; extremely good.
  • Matter. Cinematic, very good, a disappointing ending.
  • Surface Detail. Not my favorite: too violent, with settings I don’t particularly like.
  • The Hydrogen Sonata. Beautiful, with characters you really want to identify with. As a stand-alone work, has a deeply satisfying narrative arc.
  • The Spheres.

Not the Culture

  • Against a Dark Background. I didn’t make it through this one. The parts I read were chaotic and a bit disjointed.
  • Feersum Endjinn. I stopped reading a little more than halfway through. I didn’t really buy into the stakes of the plot, and the parts that were written in dialect were a slog to finish.
  • The Algebraist. An epic saga that you immediately deeply care about. A gorgeous book.
  • Transition.

Literary Fiction

  • The Wasp Factory. I wasn’t a huge fan. I loved the setting, but I could easily pass on the moments embedded in the novel which attempt to shock you.
  • Walking on Glass. Deeply tragic, mockingly fun; one of the timelines was maybe too abstract for me, but still a great book.
  • The Bridge. A bit too unlinked to me; departs from my favorite scenarios a bit too quickly for my liking. Could not get behind the core thesis of the novel.
  • Espedair Street. Quite good: a big, sad story about a big, sad man.
  • Canal Dreams. I might have liked this one if Banks wasn’t just inexcusably cruel to his protagonist.
  • The Crow Road. A truly perfect bildungsroman. Maybe not as powerful for me the second time I read it; a lot of its energy came from the feeling of being on the edge of my seat while going on the journey for the first time.
  • Complicity. Starts off a bit too distasteful for me, but once it shakes off the gonzo journalism project, settles into a dissatisfying violent thriller frenzy.
  • Whit. Right from the outset, I knew this one was going to be a magical ride. Powerful and captivating.
  • A Song of Stone.
  • The Business. Certainly one of the more reader-friendly Banks novels. Felt very Americanized and lighter on details than his other work, but had an intriguing plot and kept me engaged.
  • Dead Air.
  • The Steep Approach to Garbadale.
  • Stonemouth.
  • The Quarry.


  • Raw Spirit.


  • Poems (with Ken MacLeod).