Feersum Endjinn

Iain M. Banks

Bantam Books. $12.95
(paper $5.99)


Countless millennia in the future, an interstellar dust cloud encroaches upon the solar system. Earth seems doomed. There is an escape route, maybe more than one, but some people will do anything to keep one a secret and sabotage the other.

The good guys here include a computer-generated construct, who might or might not hold the key to salvation; the cyber-ghost of a man already murdered eight times; and young Bascule, who only wants to find his lost friend, Ergates the ant . . .

Bascule also can't spell worth a darn, which is simultaneously the book's biggest flaw and its grandest source of entertainment. A good one-fourth of the novel is written phonetically; this, of course, is very difficult and tiresome to read, but Bascule's unique voice and sense of humor are worth it: " . . . Dartlin, who is a deer litl bird but wude not evin get a oneribil menshin if they woz givin out prizes 4 conversayshinil coherince . . ."

Feersum Endjinn is an elegantly constructed novel, phonetic spelling aside, with a plot that spans multiple layers of base reality and cyberspace and possibly even time. It is the kind of novel that can have no sequel, although other stories could take place within its world. And it has an understated last line that sends shivers down the spine.

Iain Banks is the author of several other highly regarded novels, and while Feersum Endjinn is the first I have read, as Bascule might say, "Am redy 2 reed moar."

 

This review originally appeared in the July 23, 1995 edition of The Roanoke Times.

 

This review copyright 1995 by Wendy Morris


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