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The Business

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Kate is a senior executive officer in a powerful and massively discreet transglobal organization. The character of The Business seems, even to her, to be vague to the point of invisibility. Her job is to keep abreast of technological developments, but she must let go the assumptions of a lifetime.


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Kate is a senior executive officer in a powerful and massively discreet transglobal organization. The character of The Business seems, even to her, to be vague to the point of invisibility. Her job is to keep abreast of technological developments, but she must let go the assumptions of a lifetime.

30 review for The Business

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    Barbara Rosenblat 11.7 hours. Description: Kate is a senior executive officer in a powerful and massively discreet transglobal organization. The character of The Business seems, even to her, to be vague to the point of invisibility. Her job is to keep abreast of technological developments, but she must let go the assumptions of a lifetime. BLURB: From Publishers Weekly: Ever since The Wasp Factory first bent readers' minds in 1984, prolific Scottish author Banks has tantalized and terrified with h Barbara Rosenblat 11.7 hours. Description: Kate is a senior executive officer in a powerful and massively discreet transglobal organization. The character of The Business seems, even to her, to be vague to the point of invisibility. Her job is to keep abreast of technological developments, but she must let go the assumptions of a lifetime. BLURB: From Publishers 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, The Business, 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. Am not a fan of that ending - I can't believe Banks went for the fairytale and this lost a star because of it. 4* The Wasp Factory 3* The Business 1* The Deep Approach to Garbadale (aka The Dire Descent into Garbage) 2* Stonemouth As Iain M Banks: TR Consider Phlebas (Culture, #1) TR The Player of Games (Culture, #2) TR Use of Weapons (Culture, #3) 3* Matter (Culture, #8) TR Surface Detail (Culture, #9) 4* Look to Windward (Culture, #7) 4* The Algebraist 3* The State of the Art (Culture, #4)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Manny

    As every conspiracy theorist knows, They control everything. When something unexpected happens, it's because They arranged it. And, needless to say, you don't want to find out too much about Them. It could be bad for your health. Which makes you even more curious - so it's surprising that this is one of the few novels I know that's firmly set in Their world. It turns out that They are actually called The Business, and were already well-established at the time of the Roman Empire. I see some othe As every conspiracy theorist knows, They control everything. When something unexpected happens, it's because They arranged it. And, needless to say, you don't want to find out too much about Them. It could be bad for your health. Which makes you even more curious - so it's surprising that this is one of the few novels I know that's firmly set in Their world. It turns out that They are actually called The Business, and were already well-established at the time of the Roman Empire. I see some other reviewers complaining that it's all quite impossible. No such organisation could ever have survived into the present day, even if it had existed in the first place. Well, how naive can you get? Obviously, that's exactly what They want you to think...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Robert Dunbar

    Imagine if Evelyn Waugh had written “The Firm.” Remember that book? A by-the-numbers thriller from John Grisham, it was effective enough, especially if the reader's expectations weren’t high. But imagine if Waugh had written it. The plot would retain that edge-of-the-seat construction, yet be augmented by a real – and quite dark – artistic sensibility, replete with vicious humor and enhanced by a flair for characterization. Iain Banks’ THE BUSINESS concerns an insidious secret organization (and Imagine if Evelyn Waugh had written “The Firm.” Remember that book? A by-the-numbers thriller from John Grisham, it was effective enough, especially if the reader's expectations weren’t high. But imagine if Waugh had written it. The plot would retain that edge-of-the-seat construction, yet be augmented by a real – and quite dark – artistic sensibility, replete with vicious humor and enhanced by a flair for characterization. Iain Banks’ THE BUSINESS concerns an insidious secret organization (and the lone woman with nerve enough to challenge it). The Business turns out to be an unimaginably powerful enterprise, ancient and ubiquitous, with origins that predate both the Catholic Church and the Roman Empire, the latter of which it briefly owned. Not so much a clandestine institution as a clandestine empire, it makes extraordinary demands on its staff. Management personnel must renounce religious and national allegiances, even family connections. Enter Kate Telman, a sort of executive-in-waiting, groomed since childhood to ascend to the organization’s upper echelon. After years of concentrated preparation, Kate is about to take her place within the inner circle… when things get messy. After all, in the world of commerce, personal morality can be an insuperable handicap. Though Kate dallies with both a handsome chauffeur and a prince in peril, the real romance here concerns the seductiveness of power. As THE BUSINESS demonstrates, even Banks’ mainstream thrillers retain a speculative edge: a sharply observed play of ideas provides the author’s major focus, and fans of his macabre brand of satiric vision will not be disappointed.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    I've had extremely mixed experiences with Iain Banks novels. Some I loved (Transition, The Player of Games), one I absolutely hated (The Wasp Factory), others had clever elements but failed to engage me (Consider Phlebas, Use of Weapons). ‘The Business’ was a different experience again - I enjoyed it and was engaged, but there were certain flaws that prevented me from wholly adoring it. The greatest strength was the narrator, Kate Telman. She is an excellent character: a clever, reticent, ambiti I've had extremely mixed experiences with Iain Banks novels. Some I loved (Transition, The Player of Games), one I absolutely hated (The Wasp Factory), others had clever elements but failed to engage me (Consider Phlebas, Use of Weapons). ‘The Business’ was a different experience again - I enjoyed it and was engaged, but there were certain flaws that prevented me from wholly adoring it. The greatest strength was the narrator, Kate Telman. She is an excellent character: a clever, reticent, ambitious woman dealing adroitly with annoying men on a daily basis. In fact, I’m impressed that Banks got me to sympathise and identify with such a jet-setting 0.1% hyper-capitalist. He managed it, I think, by demonstrating that all her money and power do not prevent Kate from being hit on by drunk arseholes. Not that she didn’t also interact with a variety of interesting women, but I did appreciate her running conversational rings around level one men. She has a great turn of phrase: ‘I did my impression of the Roman Empire, and declined.’ Moreover, I liked the emphasis on how the power of money can be brittle. It can’t protect you from car accidents, or the FBI confiscating your weapons, or your grand gestures falling flat. If anything, the overconfidence it brings makes such events more likely. The characters and dialogue were, to my mind, stronger than the plot. I would happily have followed Kate about her typical work days. (view spoiler)[As it was the plot seemed to raise more questions in my mind than it actually answered. What did Kate’s actual day job at the Business involve? Why did she feel compelled to uncover the conspiracy? What was so bad about it? Concealed trading seemed so mundane and apparently only the secrecy made it inappropriate. Is Banks making a point about the utter arbitrariness of ‘responsible’ capitalism? After all, the Business is repeatedly stated to obey no laws but its own. I bet this kind of corruption is totally typical at Goldman Sachs. Indeed, the rules that the Business operates by and its long-termism make it seem fantastical. I liked the conceit of the Business wanting a seat at the UN, but these days why would they need something so crude? Neoliberal ideology predominates such that international business interests are constantly placed above those of electorates, as economic growth is the only means by which the world can exist. Returning to the novel’s plot, presumably the implication is that Kate was uncovering the embezzlement for her own satisfaction and ambition, yet that doesn’t really chime with her decision to marry Suvinder. It was obvious that, a) he would ask her marry him (I actually commented on this out loud while reading: “He’s about to propose, you fool!”) and, b) at the end she would return to Thulahn. However I don’t understand why she accepts his proposal and do not see the marriage ending well. Suvinder’s latter polite behaviour should not somehow erase his previous drunken harassment. Surely Kate could work with him and shape the whole Thulahn project without marrying Suvinder? Thus I was ambivalent about the ending overall. That said, I am willing to forgive a lot for the scene in which Kate tortures a Ferrari, which is a thing of beauty and a joy forever: The car quaked, the engine screamed, wailing like something in the utmost extremity of agony. It would have been a hard thing to do for anyone with the slightest amount of mechanical sympathy, and I wasn’t enjoying it, but, then, it was a means to an end, and in the end our Adrian was right: it was just metal. No matter what it sounded like, the only real suffering was being done by him. Poudenhaut shook as he heard the noise, then he spun round and came charging back. He beat on the hood with his fists. “Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!” “Can you smell that, Adrian? Smells like burning oil or something, don’t you think? Oh, look, there’s a red light on in here. Can’t imagine that bodes too well.” I blipped the throttle again. The engine caterwauled, metallic and harsh. “That sound different to you? I thought it sounded different that time. More of a metallic edge, seemed to me. What do you think? Here, have another listen…” “Stop it! Stop it!” “You’d better answer my questions, Adrian, or soon I’m going to get bored and then I’ll just keep my foot planted pedal to the metal until the fucker seizes.” (hide spoiler)] In summary, a smart and nuanced depiction of how privileged people justify their wealth and power to themselves under globalised capitalism. The plot doesn’t explain itself as well as it might and I take issue with certain aspects of the ending, however the main character is excellent and there are some truly wonderful scenes and fantastic bits of dialogue.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    First read it five or six years ago in a single afternoon and was wholly underwhelmed by the experience. Coming after Song of Stone – the only Banks book I genuinely dislike – I felt at the time that maybe his powers were beginning to wane. But a friend urged me to give it a second chance and told me to read it as a prequel to the Culture books, whereupon it makes much more sense. And do you know, he’s right. It’s a bloody Culture book in disguise. Or at least, it takes as its premise – how could First read it five or six years ago in a single afternoon and was wholly underwhelmed by the experience. Coming after Song of Stone – the only Banks book I genuinely dislike – I felt at the time that maybe his powers were beginning to wane. But a friend urged me to give it a second chance and told me to read it as a prequel to the Culture books, whereupon it makes much more sense. And do you know, he’s right. It’s a bloody Culture book in disguise. Or at least, it takes as its premise – how could something like the Culture come about, and what kind of choices and moral framework could inspire it? It lacks the grand guignol of his more gruesome tales, the broad comedy of Espedair Street, or the emotional power of The Crow Road. It’s a minor Banks. But it’s still a damn good read, with a likeable and well realised central character, a few of Banks’ trademark eccentrics, some interesting ideas well explored, and moments that made me smile or think. The thriller plot is underused – too tenuous to follow initially, and then too poorly explained at the end. He should have made more of that, it could have given the book a sense of urgency which it would have benefitted from greatly. But Banks is a safe pair of hands, and even a less than stellar performance from him is well worth the time.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    Well not one of Iain Banks' best pieces of contemporary fiction by a long way and coming next in line to A Song of Stone, then it does fade quite spectacularly into insignificance. Why so? It is overlong, and about three-quarters of the way through we get a very lyrically description section on a Himalayan village called Thulan, which 'The Business' wants to modernise the country and end up having control over for 'The Business' to gain a seat on the UN. 'The Business' is this, almost shady orga Well not one of Iain Banks' best pieces of contemporary fiction by a long way and coming next in line to A Song of Stone, then it does fade quite spectacularly into insignificance. Why so? It is overlong, and about three-quarters of the way through we get a very lyrically description section on a Himalayan village called Thulan, which 'The Business' wants to modernise the country and end up having control over for 'The Business' to gain a seat on the UN. 'The Business' is this, almost shady organisation that has wheeled and dealed going back centuries, during Roman times, and also apparently controlled the Catholic Church at one point. Great book if you are into conspiracy theories and some high powered Capitalist Elite having control over the Stock Market and so on. Then we have conspiracies within conspiracies which only seem to become unraveled towards the last 100 pages or so (the book come in at near 400 pages long). It is focused around a 38 year Woman called Kate Telman, who grew up in a Glasgow slum and became 'adopted' by The Business. I guess her Feminism shines out throughout most of the book (she being the main focus and narrative), and she is the envoy to Thulan, whith most of The Business having ulterior motives for her to marry the Prince of Thulan to properly cement the 'deal'. However Kate becomes suspicious of what exactly is going on behind the scenes of The Business, and starts doing a bit of undercover sleuthing to uncover some quite nasty schemes going on, etc. I am not going to write a massive review because, whilst there is a good plot going on (although the narrative and her love life seem to be the most prominent aspect here), it fails quite short, and I was wanting some history of this shady background organisation. Kate uncovers the background machinations, and disappears back to Thulan to eventually marry her Prince. Sweet ending, but ultimately a bit of a let down. 3 stars mainly because if came from the wild imagination of the late Iain Banks.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nicky Neko

    I feel bad giving this 2 stars -- especially because of how much I love Iain Banks, but this book was pretty poor compared to his other work. Well, as the Japanese say: even a monkey falls from a tree.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Simon Mcleish

    Originally published on my blog here in July 2000. The Business is a shadowy commercial operation which has been in existence for thousands of years, and which now aims to buy itself a country, so its senior executives can gain the privileges which go with a diplomatic passport. Kate Telman, the narrator, is not quite up to that level, but is one of the rising stars in the Business, and it is not particularly surprising when she is asked to become an ambassador of sorts to the Himalayan kingdom o Originally published on my blog here in July 2000. The Business is a shadowy commercial operation which has been in existence for thousands of years, and which now aims to buy itself a country, so its senior executives can gain the privileges which go with a diplomatic passport. Kate Telman, the narrator, is not quite up to that level, but is one of the rising stars in the Business, and it is not particularly surprising when she is asked to become an ambassador of sorts to the Himalayan kingdom of Thulahn to arrange the purchase of the country from the reigning prince, particularly as he is known to have a strong fancy for her. The Business is, of course, designed by Banks to be the kind of organisation which attracts conspiracy theories, even if Kate is quite vehement in denying them ("We're not a cover for the CIA. They're the Company, not the Business."). This aspect of the novel is entertaining and unusual: most conspiracy theory novels are written from the point of view of an external investigator, rather than someone closely involved in what could clearly appear sinister to an outsider even if considered relatively innocent by herself. Kate has strong reasons to be grateful to the Business, which lifted her out of the deprived background in which she was born, but she is not entirely naive about the organisation and some of its senior members. She is one of several female point of view characters used by Banks (Canal Dreams, Whit, and Against a Dark Background provide other examples), and is reasonably convincing if a little bland. The star of The Business is Thulahn, which is an exaggerated version of Bhutan or Nepal, content to remain one of the remotest parts of the world. The people may be poor, but at least they're happy. The questionable benefits of Business sponsored development programmes begin to make Kate think twice about the whole deal, but in the end the country's portrayal is too idyllic for the issues to have real meaning. If The Business has a message, it is one it shares with Whit. This is that it is possible - and maybe easier - to be happy without the distractions of modern Western culture, without the consumer luxuries with which we are surrounded. (Whit makes this point more effectively, as its narrator is one of those on the outside of consumer culture, while Kate lives a life of corporate luxury.) Banks is surely trying to say that we should look at our own lives to see what in the material world is really important, what really brings us happiness. This is one of the reasons why The Business lacks the significance of Banks' earlier novels - or other novels about the third world. Compared to, say, The God of Small Things, it has nothing to say; it lacks the brilliance of The Bridge or the immense shock value of The Wasp Factory. Banks seems to have become a bit too comfortable, but is still a good writer and extremely entertaining.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sally Melia

    I have read all of Iain Banks novels and this one is one of my favourites. The Business from where the book gets its name is a centuries old concern, at one point in the novel it is suggested that its history stretches back as far as the Roman Empire, but the story postulates the compelling conceit that over centuries The Business has been built up with assets and resources that go beyond countries and national powers to influence every part of the world. Unexpectedly, at the top of The Business i I have read all of Iain Banks novels and this one is one of my favourites. The Business from where the book gets its name is a centuries old concern, at one point in the novel it is suggested that its history stretches back as far as the Roman Empire, but the story postulates the compelling conceit that over centuries The Business has been built up with assets and resources that go beyond countries and national powers to influence every part of the world. Unexpectedly, at the top of The Business is a strictly meritocratic management structure, and here we come to the main story which is that of Kate who by a chance encounter on a housing estate outside Coatbridge, Glasgow, was lifted out of dire poverty to become Kathryn Telman, a senior executive officer, third level (counting from the top). I won't say much about the story, except to say it had me hooked from the very start. It keeps the reader interested by using a variety of styles, phone conversations, emails, interview extracts; but also by a globe spanning selection of locals from Texas to Tibet, Yorkshire to Geneva. When it comes to describing how the very wealthy and eccentric spend their money, Iain Banks is as ever witty and entertaining. I think what I find compelling about this book is the character of Kate Telman, as always Iain Banks female heroines are excellent, and the overall story of not necessarily good vs evil, but greed vs the greater good. Also some interesting reflections on what makes a happy life. Recommended.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Luke

    You know those books that you read and enjoy while you're reading them, but when you're finished you struggle - even when it's only days later - to recall much about them? The Business is one of those books. I've put off reviewing this for a while largely because I wanted to write something worthwhile, but was finding it difficult to think of anything to say about the work. So now: let's get to it. It's an airport novel. Let's be frank. It's designed to be inhaled and forgotten, I think, so it's You know those books that you read and enjoy while you're reading them, but when you're finished you struggle - even when it's only days later - to recall much about them? The Business is one of those books. I've put off reviewing this for a while largely because I wanted to write something worthwhile, but was finding it difficult to think of anything to say about the work. So now: let's get to it. It's an airport novel. Let's be frank. It's designed to be inhaled and forgotten, I think, so it's fitting I bought and read it while on holiday. The writing isn't bad, by any means, and the story is so-so - it's just that it fails to leave much of an impact, which is a shame given the setup Banks provides. The book is told from the perspective of Kate Telman, an executive in a shadowy, eons-old corporation known only as The Business. The Business is keen to own a nation state, so that it can have access to the workings of the United Nations, so there's a geopolitical slant to what could otherwise be just a fairly standard shadowy-cabal-rules-world-secretly-until-this-character-rises-up kind of work. Unfortunately, the blurb (or the imaginings you're having based on the blurb) is probably more ultimately satisfying than what we're given. There's plenty of memorable scenes (almost crashing in a tiny mountain state, SCUD-collecting stories) and characters (though they tend towards the stereotypical: inscrutable businessmen, faintly daft avuncular types, sleazy Princes who have a heart of gold, really) but I just wasn't too sold on the story, or on Telman's character. The lead's background is well drawn, but some of the day-to-day descriptions seem a bit forced. She's someone I really liked, and wanted to learn more about, but I couldn't escape the feeling that it was a dude writing a woman without really asking any what it's like. Essentially, the story seems to boil down to a kind of factional contest within The Business, which was a disappointment. It seems a waste to have an all-powerful conglomerate (and an undeniably interesting stolen-tooth opening) and then to have the bulk of the story focus on territorial pissings. The ending sort of stumbled along, and I was left with the distinct impression that Banks had a great idea for a story, but then phoned it in when he had to actually write the fucking thing. It sounds like I'm pretty down on this. I am, I guess - not because it was bad, but because it could be so much better. It's still enjoyable in a holiday/waiting room kind of mode, but so is candyfloss: it doesn't bear much reflection afterwards, and you probably wouldn't want to have to chew through it every day.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    The more I read Iain Banks' work, the more I appreciate it. His way with words aside, it's the fact that no two books are exactly alike in tone or style, but they share a common quality that makes me go "yummm". In The Business, Banks introduces us to Kathryn, a Level Three in The Business, but who knows from personal experience what the hard life actually is - she's from the "schemes" (Scots for "projects") and only by dint of natural cunning and adoption by Mrs. Telman does she get out. The Bus The more I read Iain Banks' work, the more I appreciate it. His way with words aside, it's the fact that no two books are exactly alike in tone or style, but they share a common quality that makes me go "yummm". In The Business, Banks introduces us to Kathryn, a Level Three in The Business, but who knows from personal experience what the hard life actually is - she's from the "schemes" (Scots for "projects") and only by dint of natural cunning and adoption by Mrs. Telman does she get out. The Business is one of those shadowy, semi-secret, incredibly long-lived organizations, predating the Roman Empire and essentially running the world in whatever era it is. Kathryn's a computer/IT geek, but she's also intelligent and has caught the attention of several Level Twos and Level Ones because she's also caught the eye of the Prince of Thulahn. The Business, it appears Has Plans. The other characters in the book are well-drawn, but definitely secondary to Kathryn (a trait that many of Banks' books share). The plotting and counter-plotting, the games and tricks are interesting, and while I guessed what the Big Plan was, it's never explicitly stated, even at the end. I also loved how Kathryn could go from mushy about her "pillow children" (especially Dulsung) to quite, well, frightening in her last encounter with Adrian. Any of Banks' books makes for a great adult read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Morgan

    I thought I owned this book because it was on one of those 1001 books one should read type lists. The whole time I was reading it, I kept asking myself, "What in the world is so special about this novel that it would make such a list? I'm pretty sure there Banks has better books, and there are certainly better books in the world..." I didn't realize that I'd confused it with The Information by Martin Amis. The names are similar and both authors are British, okay? We all make mistakes. Even if I' I thought I owned this book because it was on one of those 1001 books one should read type lists. The whole time I was reading it, I kept asking myself, "What in the world is so special about this novel that it would make such a list? I'm pretty sure there Banks has better books, and there are certainly better books in the world..." I didn't realize that I'd confused it with The Information by Martin Amis. The names are similar and both authors are British, okay? We all make mistakes. Even if I'd figured out my mistake, I was already committed to this rather bland novel. This book was so heavy handed with the "strong female protagonist" trope that I was nodding off regularly. Read the Culture series, not this.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lysergius

    Iain Banks has a most wonderful felicity for plucking ideas out of nowhere and developing them into the magical creations. He would probably object to such a characterisation because I am sure he has to work hard on some of them. This particular idea of a company, a business going back to the beginning of time is superb. Surviving all vicissitudes it survives by plucking management talent from wherever it can find it, developing it and then letting run. Rather like Ian Bank's ideas. Read on.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    A delightful satire on international finance and investment, rife with high-grade one-liners and a morlaity axis which one hopes could be possible. Not a great effort from Iain but one worth one's time. I've read that could be considered a proto-Culture novel, that such a qualification adds to the novel. I honestly don't know.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    I lump this with "Dead Air" in the category of "Iain (M) Banks' not-very-good novels." Everyone's allowed a clunker, and I've enjoyed (if that's the right word) most of his books. This one gave all the signs of having been rushed and spinning out a weak premise.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Roman Baiduk

    A good language and a sufficiently interesting description of the life of an executive of a powerful corporation.

  17. 4 out of 5

    bookczuk

    My response to hearing of the passing of Iain Banks was to go out and get another book of his to read. This one lacks the "M." in the author name, so technically, it's not science fiction, though it does dive into alternate history/universe territory. So, what if there was a powerful multinational corporation that had been in existence since before the Roman Empire (which it actually owned for a brief period of time), which was now interested in acquiring a country in order to have a seat in the My response to hearing of the passing of Iain Banks was to go out and get another book of his to read. This one lacks the "M." in the author name, so technically, it's not science fiction, though it does dive into alternate history/universe territory. So, what if there was a powerful multinational corporation that had been in existence since before the Roman Empire (which it actually owned for a brief period of time), which was now interested in acquiring a country in order to have a seat in the UN? That's the underlying supposition in The Business (decidedly NOT "The Firm".) I listened to this on audio, with one of my favorite voice actors, and the first bit was simply marvelous. It's a voice conversation between the main character, Kate, and a colleague Mike, who has just awakened after being drugged, to find about half his teeth randomly pulled. All this on the morning before he was to fly out for a high profile meeting with a powerful executive The Business has been been wooing. The story that follows was quite compelling. Banks wrote from a woman's point of view and did it without embarrassing himself or women in general. An author to be missed, to be sure, but luckily, he left us a legacy of reading.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mitchell Safeway

    For years I thought Iain Banks could do no wrong. 'The Wasp Factory', 'The Bridge', 'Complicity' and all the rest, every time I read an Iain Banks book I felt as though my mind had been blown by the guy's genius. And then I ran out to WH Smith and bought 'The Business' as soon as it was released. Ack. It sounds interesting enough, the whole history of the Business, this huge, shadowy organisation and this woman who works for them. But the book is what I never ever thought Banks could be. Dull. I For years I thought Iain Banks could do no wrong. 'The Wasp Factory', 'The Bridge', 'Complicity' and all the rest, every time I read an Iain Banks book I felt as though my mind had been blown by the guy's genius. And then I ran out to WH Smith and bought 'The Business' as soon as it was released. Ack. It sounds interesting enough, the whole history of the Business, this huge, shadowy organisation and this woman who works for them. But the book is what I never ever thought Banks could be. Dull. I kept throwing the book to one side and then picking it up again, thinking it's Banks right? It has to be awesome and genius. But no, it was about this woman I couldn't begin to care about who works for this organization that's so shadowy that I couldn't care less about it. And on this journey the woman meets people who I remember being just as dull as she is. In his earlier novels Banks always had the brilliance of his writing to carry the day, but in this one there wasn't even that to fall back on. A massive let down after his earlier books.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Gregory

    Loved this book. For fans of Gibson's Bigend series who are feeling iffy about Banks, pick this one up (conversely, if you've read this and liked it, but don't read Gibson, you may want to give those books a whirl; they are, in order: Pattern Recognition, Spook Country, and Zero History). Really thoroughly enjoyed this book, and was torn over how it should end, and in the end I can't say I disagreed with how it did. Anyway, given the nature of the plot, I'll leave it at that to avoid spoilers.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ian Caithness

    An incredible novel on the human condition and the temptation of capitalism in business. Iain Banks writes with a free-flowing and captivating prose that allows people to sink into his books and come out at the end feeling refreshed.

  21. 5 out of 5

    reed

    Not one of his best. I've tried to read it twice now and can't get through it.

  22. 5 out of 5

    notgettingenough

    Gave this up as a bad business. Review based on the first eighty pages.

  23. 5 out of 5

    James

    The Business is a thriller that mixes business with lots of international intrigue. We follow the life of Ms. Kathryn (Kate) Telman, who came from an impoverished area of Scotland, but whose street smarts caught the attention of a wealthy woman and this led Kate to be educated at a fine set of schools. She works for "The Business," which has roots going back to the time of the Roman empire. As nations and empires had come and gone, a savvy group of business people found ways to make money from i The Business is a thriller that mixes business with lots of international intrigue. We follow the life of Ms. Kathryn (Kate) Telman, who came from an impoverished area of Scotland, but whose street smarts caught the attention of a wealthy woman and this led Kate to be educated at a fine set of schools. She works for "The Business," which has roots going back to the time of the Roman empire. As nations and empires had come and gone, a savvy group of business people found ways to make money from it. Kate is smart and valued by her company for a series of investment suggestions in high tech which helped the company make large amounts of money, so she's on the rise as a Level 3 executive when we meet her. This book was published in 1999, but its view of business feels very contemporary and more than a little edgy. The author, Iain Banks, who also wrote science fiction as Iain M. Banks, is clearly quite conversant with high technology and business, which gives the book a forward looking feeling. Kate has a fine education, but her street smarts set her apart and we soon learn she has strong intuitions and, as a woman in her thirties, is very comfortable cutting between a wide variety of international settings and cultures. One of Kate's mentors, nicknamed Uncle Freddy, helps to inculcate her into some of the more rarefied circles of the company and she begins to hobnob with the upper layer (Layers 2 and 1) executives. At one meeting in particular, she is invited to meet with some of them at various sites on a mission which she hasn't been told much about. At this point, the pace picks up and Kate travels to a variety of locations, including one small mountainous locale Thulawn which is of particular interest to The Business. She gets a sense of what the company is looking for and perhaps why, but there's lots of missing pieces as she meets with the executives and various people of Thulawn, including their royal leaders, a queen and an unmarried prince named Suvinder Dzang. As she digs deeper, the plot thickens, with elements of potential blackmail and who knows what else all in play. Kate is sometimes a bit reckless, but as a seasoned risk taker, she also has become very good at reading people and trusting her intuitions. The pace accelerates and Kate takes us along for the ride as she tries to unveil secrets and figure out where all of this might lead in her simultaneous pursuit of the next, best business role and whatever that will mean for the rest of her life. There was a lot that I liked about this book. We hear the story from Kate's point of view, but she's sometimes an unreliable narrator and we're not always sure where she's going. We can also see that she's pushing against some dangerous limits in the company and perhaps has stumbled into some nasty activities. This book is a good page turner and its sense of business and the international scene still feels spot on. Kate's combination of smarts and her human touch make her somebody the reader wants to root for.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mike Allen

    An interesting tale of manipulation and deceit... Kathryn Telman is a Level 3 executive in a clandestine, global organization that calls itself The Business, which has survived for thousands of years with its roots in the Roman Empire. Level 1 executives are board members and all of them have personal wealth estimated in the billions. Kathryn has risen quickly, and is one of the youngest people ever to achieve her current rank (she is in her late 30's). While ambitious and living a luxury, jet-set An interesting tale of manipulation and deceit... Kathryn Telman is a Level 3 executive in a clandestine, global organization that calls itself The Business, which has survived for thousands of years with its roots in the Roman Empire. Level 1 executives are board members and all of them have personal wealth estimated in the billions. Kathryn has risen quickly, and is one of the youngest people ever to achieve her current rank (she is in her late 30's). While ambitious and living a luxury, jet-set life of privilege, with her home in the hills above Silicon Valley, her life is now a far cry from her underprivileged upbringing in Scotland. Discovered selling candies at a high mark-up price, she chances to impress the wealthy and mysterious Ms. Telman, and is eventually adopted by her, with her mother's permission and support. Ms. Telman was a senior executive in The Business, and Kathryn had been groomed to follow in her footsteps. Taking a sabbatical year to study new technologies, for which she has developed a reputation for the early identification of successful products and trends, Kathryn finds herself enmeshed in The Business's attempts to claim a seat at the United Nations by effectively taking over and running a small country. As successful and as shrewd as Kathryn is, she still finds herself manipulated and lied to in order to further the goals of both The Business and some of its more senior executives. All in all, this is a good read, full of Banks's trademark humor, thoughtful observations and darker undercurrents. I personally found the nature of The Business a little unrealistic: the way Banks describes it makes it sound like any large, acquisitive, multinational conglomerate—if a little more democratic in its internal operations than others—but doesn't explain how the organization maintains its secrecy. In practice, it must recruit people from other companies, but how does it prevent their operations from becoming known more widely known when their operatives choose to depart? We do not get to find out. Nevertheless, I'm sure conspiracy theorists will love the concept of The Business, and will even be able to conjure up one or two real-world matches. However, I personally found the ending a little lame, and despite the opportunities provided by the plot, there is little in the way of menace or excitement.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    I really wanted to love this book. With its slick dialogue and strong female lead, The Business had great promise in the first few chapters. I thought initially that it was just taking a while to get going, and was looking forward to getting past the slow start and into the gripping narrative beyond. Unfortunately for me, the whole thing was a slow start. The pithy character exchanges were nestled among endless paragraphs of long-winded exposition of the shadowy and seemingly omnipotent "Busin I really wanted to love this book. With its slick dialogue and strong female lead, The Business had great promise in the first few chapters. I thought initially that it was just taking a while to get going, and was looking forward to getting past the slow start and into the gripping narrative beyond. Unfortunately for me, the whole thing was a slow start. The pithy character exchanges were nestled among endless paragraphs of long-winded exposition of the shadowy and seemingly omnipotent "Business" - a wealthy and expansive global organisation which predates both the Catholic Church and the Roman Empire. A great premise for sure, with a great protagonist at its centre - Kate Telman has been groomed from childhood to inevitably reach the upper echelons of this clandestine yet ubiquitous company, and will be the youngest member to ever do so. So yeah, great potential. But just not fast paced enough, and I found myself zoning out of much of the plot progression. Banks' writing was, as always, high calibre. But the narrative just never gripped me. The ending felt rushed, and the earlier plot points which had been designed to pull together into a climatic conclusion just felt forced. The plot itself managed to be thin, yet over-complicated at the same time, and the ending was simultaneously spelled out for you, but left several important stones unturned. Definitely not one of the better Banks I've read. On par with the similarly bland Whit and nowhere near the dizzying heights of the seminal The Wasp Factory or the masterful Transition.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Chris Marcatili

    The Business promises intrigue but it doesn't quite deliver. It's about Kate, a woman in her late 30s and successful in The Business – a secretive organisation that's been around longer than the Catholic Church. While on sabbatical she manages to get embroiled in a seemingly complex series of events, moved around the globe like a pawn piece in schemes beyond her knowledge. My assumption going into this book was that it would be a high-stakes psychological drama with Banks' characteristic wit. And The Business promises intrigue but it doesn't quite deliver. It's about Kate, a woman in her late 30s and successful in The Business – a secretive organisation that's been around longer than the Catholic Church. While on sabbatical she manages to get embroiled in a seemingly complex series of events, moved around the globe like a pawn piece in schemes beyond her knowledge. My assumption going into this book was that it would be a high-stakes psychological drama with Banks' characteristic wit. And the writing style was very accessible, I found myself moving through the book much quicker than expected. Plus, the protagonist is a strong-willed, cheeky, sometimes almost intimidating female character, and the book as a whole is full of colourful, (mostly) well-realised characters. But... there was something never quite consistent about Kate as a character. As though Banks was trying to make her too much. Her style of narration often did not mesh with her dialogue, and it seemed to me like she'd occasionally say random things that seemed out of character the rest of the time. Also, the novel seemed to pad itself out, meandering a bit until the end, where there was a suggestion that all the things she'd experienced were tied together, without them really being so at all. All in all, not an amazing read. But fairly enjoyable.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Adam Newgas

    The Business isn't really about the titular business, it's about Kate, the protagonist. Kate oozies competence and savoir faire, the perfect power executive, but as you get to know her you understand her inner feelings and vulnerabilities without being so much as told them. It leads to the climax of the book where she is forced to examine her priorities. A mystery plot and the alt-history expositions about The Business are irregularly woven amongst this personality tale, without them really overl The Business isn't really about the titular business, it's about Kate, the protagonist. Kate oozies competence and savoir faire, the perfect power executive, but as you get to know her you understand her inner feelings and vulnerabilities without being so much as told them. It leads to the climax of the book where she is forced to examine her priorities. A mystery plot and the alt-history expositions about The Business are irregularly woven amongst this personality tale, without them really overlapping too much. The book has a razor sharp wit - both in the dialog, and the sudden context switches between mid paragraph. I enjoyed this greatly, particularly the bit about the "Chilp". The book falls short of perfect mostly as it takes a long time to pick up steam, and a lot of the early book is spent on depictions of the life style of the uber-riche. It's simply not that engrossing compared with the tech-porn of the culture novels.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Keith Railton

    Boring and, frankly, half-arsed. If this novel were a room, the 'conspiracy', such as it is, would be standing outside at the far end of the garden getting rained on. And you look around and notice the room only has three walls. And all the doors are just drawn on in crayon. It's boring, the world isn't believable, the characters all seem 2D, the narrator herself is just a sketch even though we're in her head the whole story. I was never invested in her story or her stupid life. Ultimately, the Boring and, frankly, half-arsed. If this novel were a room, the 'conspiracy', such as it is, would be standing outside at the far end of the garden getting rained on. And you look around and notice the room only has three walls. And all the doors are just drawn on in crayon. It's boring, the world isn't believable, the characters all seem 2D, the narrator herself is just a sketch even though we're in her head the whole story. I was never invested in her story or her stupid life. Ultimately, the book's big failing is that it is about nothing. I'd no real idea there was supposed to be a mystery until the final few pages as it's 'set up' at the start and then never mentioned again. And if didn't make any sense. Can't believe he handed this in without thinking, 'Yeah, that could probably do with another rewrite'.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    A tad too long for what it was, and a tad too pert and controlled. Kate Telman needs some flaws, other than the one where she is totally surprised by the fairly obvious plot turn that readers see coming a mile off, despite constant proof of how otherwise clever she is. This reminded me a bit of reading a Jeffrey Archer novel, which is fine, I guess. It was well done, overall, and I was entertained. But I couldn't shake the feeling that Iain Banks devised this entire novel around two (unrelated) A tad too long for what it was, and a tad too pert and controlled. Kate Telman needs some flaws, other than the one where she is totally surprised by the fairly obvious plot turn that readers see coming a mile off, despite constant proof of how otherwise clever she is. This reminded me a bit of reading a Jeffrey Archer novel, which is fine, I guess. It was well done, overall, and I was entertained. But I couldn't shake the feeling that Iain Banks devised this entire novel around two (unrelated) ideas that he scribbled down onto a pad of paper by his bedside in the middle of the night and then painstakingly worked up hundreds of pages of supporting plot to string them together into a coherent corporate intrigue. I kind of liked it, though.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Alex Vrettos

    Reading Iain (M.) Banks for me is always like a warm bath for the mind with plenty of bubbles with some energetic music rather than whale song in the background and a bottle of aged rum rather than a mug of coco. The Business did not quite meet this for me but it was a good story with some fantastic characters and had enough twists and turns to keep me interested. It gives the reader a glimpse of a lifestyle most will never know which is compelling, but on the whole I felt it just lacked a littl Reading Iain (M.) Banks for me is always like a warm bath for the mind with plenty of bubbles with some energetic music rather than whale song in the background and a bottle of aged rum rather than a mug of coco. The Business did not quite meet this for me but it was a good story with some fantastic characters and had enough twists and turns to keep me interested. It gives the reader a glimpse of a lifestyle most will never know which is compelling, but on the whole I felt it just lacked a little punch compared to his other yarns. The water had bubbles but was little cooler and the rum was perhaps only half full. Still enough to toast a master writer.

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