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It’s realism, but not as we know it

Iain Banks lives a double life as both a leading mainstream and genre novelist. Yet his latest book makes that dividing line look increasingly permeable

Transition By Iain Banks (Little, Brown £18.99)

Plenty of contemporary authors have written both realist fiction and science fiction. Anthony Burgess was a master of historical and present-day narrative, but his greatest work was A Clockwork Orange. Kingsley Amis, the great comic realist, wrote an alternate-universe novel, The Alteration. Then there’s Margaret Atwood, with her disturbing futuristic dystopias; although she famously denies that what she writes is sci-fi, saying that her books don’t contain, for example, “talking squids in space.”

Iain Banks, though, has divided up not only his repertoire but also himself— although neither version of Banks could exactly…

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