Complicity is a novel that can be read on two different levels; as a mystery, and as political and social commentary on the Thatcher years. I was somewhat disappointment by the book, because I felt the structure, plot, and narrative of the book was a poor vehicle for the central idea. The novel’s lack of subtlety and control makes one feel bludgeoned over the head with the idealogy behind it.
However to be fair, Complicity still reads as a competent mystery novel, and proves to be stylistically interesting. The choice of using a second person narrative proved to work effectively since it makes the reader complicit in the act of the killing. I felt slightly uncomfortable during those scenes which surprised me because I have read enough thrillers to usually feel desensitized to the violence.
Additionally, I found the last scenes of the book to be memorable as Banks gives us his bleak, nihilistic view of our world. The first to second person switch also makes us aware that while Cameron feels disgusted with his friend’s actions, he nonetheless agrees with the motives and point behind them. Unfortunately I do not have enough expertise on the political environment of the UK during the 80s and early 90s to grasp the finer points of his views, but am highly interested in everyone’s opinions on the political commentary found in Complicity.
To me, the most disappointing thing is that comparatively I know Banks as a far superior author than what he shows in Complicity. Gerald Houghton summarized it best when he reviews the book by stating:
Too often of late Banks seems unable to do justice to his ideas, the intelligence and sophisticated plotting of books like Walking On Glass or the aforementioned The Wasp Factory giving way to a breakneck jokiness that although entertaining enough in itself comes off as lightweight and lazy from the man capable of writing books as driven and purposeful as The Bridge or The Player Of Games.
Iain Banks, is a far better novelist than Complicity would suggest. I highly recommend some of the reading mentioned above especially The Bridge, The Player of Games or Use of Weapons before you write him off.