Transition: A Brief Review
Transition by Iain M. Banks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Concern engage in philanthropic activities spanning the whole of the multiverse, or so they would claim to their own people, using the powers of those capable of Transitioning between the many worlds to bring order out of chaos. Like some sort of dimensional Robin Hood affair, they put the bad to rest while supporting the good, steal from the evil to give to the just. However, looking under the surface, it would appear that the Concern might not be quite what it seems. The Council in charge have been in power for a long time and seem intent on making a long time even longer. Agents of the Concern sent to different worlds to make subtle adjustments to events or simply kill those who might turn a reality into something horrific, find evidence that the Concern might be engaging in extracurricular activity that no longer fits the template of acting to make things better. Someone on the Council has plans…
Iain Banks weaves a fair old tale here, cast in a form that sees the writer flitting between viewpoints of different characters, views that overlap and build a more and more complex picture over time. The efforts of the Concern and the powers of those who Transition gather detail as you traverse the pages of the book, and connections appear that make you stop for a moment to think back to earlier scenes. I enjoyed reading this book, though I understand – in passing – that Iain may have written it, to some extent, to fend off the words of mean spirited critics. I liked the concept and as someone who likes role-playing games, I could see myself using some of the ideas to create adventures across the multiverse. You could create something like a cross between Sliders and a Quentin Tarantino movie, all strange realities and blood-drenched gun battles.
In a way, I could have done with more of the same. Reading the book, and reaching the end, I found I wanted to get more detail about the Concern and the machinations of those perverting its cause. I wanted to read more about the powers of those within the Concern and the experiments carried out to chart their abilities. I could see this as the first book of a series, rather than a beginning, a middle and an end all wrapped up in one book. You get to see fragments of some of the worlds and I can envisage further exploration of these alternate realities where the quantum flow of events led to worlds very different to our own.
I rate the book for its potential as much as anything; and, I consider any book with several hundred pages that engages me from beginning to end a winner. As I say, I would love to see more, and if I cannot see more, I’d be happy to create more myself within the context of role-playing adventures. Banks does a fair old job here – not by any means his best, but a solid read that I enjoyed and would gladly come back to in the future for another round (assuming I ever reach the bottom of my existing book piles!)
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