Book discussion - The Quarry - Chapter 5:

Continuing the discussion from Book discussion - The Quarry - Chapter 4:

We are reading The Quarry by Iain Banks together as a group. Anyone is welcome to join. This is the discussion thread for Chapter 5.

Deadline for Chapter 5 is next Friday, 20th of March, at 12:00 noon GMT. That is when a new thread will be created for the discussion of Chapter 6.

There are no real rules set for the course of discussion. I say good guidelines are: don’t be a dick, don’t spoiler things from further chapters and try to have a real conversation with others.

Now, let’s continue our discussion!

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    continuing on next post…
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      .. continuing from previous post:
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Chapter 5 Summary:
(to come later)

Chapter 5. Is this the one where they try to throw Kit’s dad over into the quarry, only to find the skeleton of Kit’s mom?













Okay. That never happened. BUT I KEPT HOPING IT WOULD.

I mean, really, didn’t Chekov say if you see a mom on the mantelpiece in the first act, it must go off by the third act?


seriously, I was totes expecting a skeleton to be found.

SPOILER ALERT: no skeleton is found.

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Chapter 5
Starts with the stereotypical coke party (no Kit just say no like nancy told you, noooo!)

SPOILER ALERT CORRECTION: At least one bone was found, as the chapter ends with that erection the Dyson foreshadowed rearing it’s head where I least wanted to see it come on scene.

Are you mother, or am I just horny?


Aaaaand the point of this drug-party? So that everybody can have headaches the next day! And show how they’re just like they were in collitch. Only with proper jobs (for the most part). Only “still cool.”

I presume that’s what the characters intended. I took away roughly the opposite. That they all have the jobs they thought they should get and haven’t grown any older.

I might resemble that remark, a trifle.


I think that the late Mr. Banks may have hit upon the perfect anti-drugs campaign.

Kids! If you do coke, you’ll end up like these wankers.



Seriously, this was the chapter I read when I started to pull significantly ahead of where we were in the discussion, and when I began to get seriously fed up with Banks for making me spend time with these people without any clear pay off. Everybody is so short-sighted, so stuck on their own perspective on things. I mean, Kit’s on the spectrum, and is a late teen but still a teen - what’s everyone else’s excuse?


This, most exactly.

So far in the book I’ve been a mixture of surprised/amazed/disbelieving that Kit, for all his presumed shortcomings, is far and away the most competent, level-headed, compassionate, with-it character in the book. Everyone (especially Kit) assumes he’s not particularly good at anything but the videogame (even Hol’s reassurances feel quite condescending, IMHO), but he turns out to be pretty indomitable (even by the domineering Alison and the impossibly ungrateful Guy), and as far as I can see doesn’t even make any social missteps until the Boner Incident.

And that was something else that bugged me: I didn’t buy that incident. Kit’s side of it seemed pretty straightforward and understandable to a point, but I didn’t really buy Hol’s reaction to it. Maybe it was her fatigue, maybe some residual effect of intoxication, but if she feels as protective and maternal toward Kit as she seems to earlier in the book, I think she’d be (possibly much) more shocked and appalled by it. If nothing else, he’s less than half her age (and the nappy-changing factor is at least acknowledged), which in and of itself wouldn’t necessarily be that huge an obstacle… but she gives his dick more attention than she should under such circumstances. Way more, if she’s genuinely not intending to indulge him. And so Kit gets away with some fairly minor embarrassment (which might be appropriate given his age; certainly it’s merciful), whereas in every other book or movie I’ve seen with a similar situation, Kit’s move would have been received as a screamingly inappropriate violation of some sort, never to be forgiven or forgotten.

So anyway. Could be Banks has written Hol as a perfectly realistic, flawed human being. She certainly hasn’t done anything unforgivable, as far as I can tell, at least as far as I’m concerned. But somehow I find her a tad unbelievable.


I didn’t totally give up on everyone until chapter 6.


I look forward to it. :wink: Maybe tonight.

Thanks @chgoliz for taking care of creating the new thread!

Well, for what it’s worth, it was finally revealed that Kit indeed has Asperger’s, as I’ve suspected (plus obsessive compulsive disorder though that seems to come with Asperger’s almost as a default). I thought his xact condition was gonna be left open like it often is (probably in order to deflect any criticism about the representation of the condition in question) but I’m glad Banks didn’t mind giving Kit a diagnosis.

There sure was a lot of talk about drugs and addiction in this chapter. Asperger’s and drug addiction… regardless of the quality of the book, so many things hit so close to home at a critical point in my life that I can’t help but be grateful for it.

I completely agreed with what Hol said about drug addiction, how it’s not a disease and how AA (or NA - “same difference”, as someone in the book said) is bullshit. Quoting:

“It’s a condition. It’s a decision you make to keep on behaving in a certain way rather than in another way. You can call it a psychological weakness or a lack of will power if you like, but you can’t call it a disease without making the word basically meaningless.”

Some may be more prone to addiction than others, and some have live events or situations that make it much harder, but it’s always a decision you make. Take this from someone battling with addiction. Funny saying that, “battling with addiction” - as if I’m wrestling with a bear instead of just resisting taking the easy route when faced with difficulties. But really, I think giving people the idea that they can’t handle their addictions without submitting to a higher power, or that there is even such thing as being “cured”, is silly. You can get rid of a physical addiction through rehab (or by yourself), for sure, and hell, even stay on that path for years, but you can’t win something that is just your own proneness to a habit-forming thing. Why do smokers say they’ve quit, but drug users and alcoholics say they’re in recovery or got clean? Just food for thought - my point is that our way of viewing addiction is quite skewered, and it seems to be even worse in places were AA is actually popular (I don’t know how popular it is in UK, here it isn’t except a small religious minority, fortunately).

As far as the scene between Hol and Kit… I don’t really know what to say about it. It showed us a new (although an awkward teen) side of Kit, at least.

Well, we must again remember that Kit is the narrator. Maybe she was quite shocked, but didn’t show it much or know how to take it, and her way of dealing with it was to make it seem like no big deal. I did find her comments about Kit’s dick size quite odd, but… I don’t know. Hol has been a sort of mix of a friend and a mother/aunt-figure to Kit, but maybe she views Kit as more of a friend than we think and some naughty thoughts might have crossed her mind as well, even if she knows she could not actually make a move with him in any way. Plus, she knows Kit’s still a teenager and must understand that they’re not very savvy with this kind of thing, especially if they have Asperger’s, so that might have lessened the shock. Maybe the comments about Kit’s dick were made to make him feel better and less awkward about the whole ordeal.

But I’m just going over the possibilities. I’m quite unsure myself.

I actually think that’s exactly what was intended. I think Hol said something about Guy being just like he was 20 years ago, and that goes for all the other characters as well.


Because smokers tend to be filled with big, fat amounts of denial. An ex-girlfriend’s mother told me once that she had quit smoking 3 times, two of them successfully. As she was lighting up.

I thought Holly was being a bit of an ass, here. I don’t have the text to quote, but didn’t she say something like “you just decide to do it, and then you do it!” How nice to know that it is so easy, and that it’s just others who are weak and filled with weakness, not me. I made a decision, it was easy, and I stick with it. This cocaine right here? That doesn’t count.


I don’t think that AA is very popular in the UK. Personally it squicks me the hell out. The whole surrendering yourself to a ‘higher power’ crap and all that. Feels like a cult.

But the difference between drinking attitudes in the US and the UK is huge. At times I think it’s as if you’re thought of as an alcoholic if you ever drink (AA influence?) - the US seems to have less people who drink regularly but more people who consider themselves alcoholics. Are Brits just in denial?

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Mm, my area of specialty isn’t addiction work, but I’ve got close friends who specialize in it, and it seems to me this is one of those “it depends” things. It seems like there are different experiences of addiction - addiction as coping mechanism, addiction as escape, addiction as biological process - and for Hol to essentially say “you just make a decision and do it!” might be her understanding of it, but it isn’t the experience for everyone. I’ve definitely known people who were very committed to recovery who found that willpower wasn’t enough to keep them sober.

Which goes right along with the emerging recognition that Hol’s just as much up her own arse as the rest of the lot.

Or, is this little rant of Hol’s just a self-insertion by Banks? Frankly, there seems to be a lot of those the more the book goes on. An excuse to toss in an authorial aside, while he’s got the mic.


I think that’s all the book is. A platform for Banks to express his views.


I felt the same. It’s lazy writing when each of the characters, in their own way, carries water for the author’s political prerogatives.

What’s funny, once finishing the book, is to re-read the review quotes printed on the back.

Agreed. I felt that incident was boring typical cis-het-male wish fulfillment. Awkward teen guy busts a move, and get’s told he’s got a huge package and she admits she’s had sexual urges for him. Chapter literally ends with him wearing a shit-eating grin. Yawn.


First rule of writing: show, don’t tell.


Oh what do they say? I have the Kindle version.

I think you’ve got it dead on there. OTOH, it’s an insight into the facade of Hol as mother figure, but OTOH, it’s how every geeky young man wishes things would wind up with his older-lady crush (short of actually getting to fuck her).