Infinities within infinities within infinities


“Infinities within infinities within infinities”, as one character observes. Iain Banks’s new novel can be a confusing place to be. No reality here is more than an aspect of an endlessly complex system of completely separate though ultimately related existences between which the leading actors “transition” (a verb here) more or less at will. SF-sophisticated fans of Iain M. Banks may feel instantly at home in this mesmerizing “multiverse”, while long-term readers of Iain Banks will be prepared for what awaits them; but newcomers may struggle to find their way. Yet however many worlds we traverse in however many time schemes, we are always recognizably here on earth: Transition is not about space travel, as traditionally conceived. Instead, a fast-moving action flits back and forth between a Venetian palazzo; a Limehouse loft; a Paris cabaret; a casino; a derelict industrial unit outside Chernobyl. It might be any airport thriller, except for the less familiar locations, from the mundane (a British bus stop) to the fantastical (the Himalayan seat of a world emperor of the future). All these places are provisional, the articles indefinite: “I live in a Switzerland”, says Transitioner Temudjin Oh.

more from Michael Kerrigan at the TLS here.