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. A complicated project that picks up a lot of speed as the narrative progresses. Mostly fun, but a little awkward on a few levels.

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. Unlikable, misogynistic character has an exciting adventure happen to him because he’s unlikable. This book would have been ten times as fun if the main character was half as much of a jerk.
  • ⭐ The Steep Approach to Garbadale. Troubling and cinematic, overflowing with atmosphere.
  • Stonemouth.
  • The Quarry.


  • Raw Spirit.


  • Poems (with Ken MacLeod).