Book discussion - The Quarry - Discussion of Chapter 2

I had this thought too, but with just the two chapters so far, there have been a lot of things others pointed out that I wouldn’t have noticed or thought much of otherwise. So I think it’s worthwhile, especially to test the idea of a bbs book club. Perhaps for something like this, doing two chapters a week would have been better - other than the “bombshell” at the end of chapter 1 there’s no real reason these two chapters are separate, and if anything there’s a point where I thought maybe I had continued into chapter 3 without realizing it (which is occasionally possible on my e-reader) but then it was just an odd break. Although perhaps future chapters are more narratively substantial. Someone who has read the book already could play teacher, haha.

I thought the cents-saving stuff was silly too (obviously intentionally part of his character). But I confess to falling into the same mind-trap he does. I guess I just value my grocery store queuing time more highly than he does since I dislike it so much. And there’s no way, unless it’s along the route he’s taking anyway although I don’t think it was, that even including the cost of fuel etc. as he claims it’s ever going to be worth it to go to a second place to save 20p on one item.

I too suspect they will all get more interesting, but Hol and Guy are cliched characters too at this point, perhaps just not as well-worn. Not that there’s even anything wrong with cliches if it works towards something greater, which is basically what you said (archetypes for a reason), it’s just not necessarily what I (and others who have commented on this) expected here. But we’ll see :smile:

What you describe very nicely in this paragraph will, I suspect, be the major theme of the book.


Hmm. In what way, exactly? The way the acts around people, the way he narrates? To me, it felt like the character of Kit got much clearer, like I have much better grip of how he thinks and that we saw more sides of him as he interacted with other characters, Of course, I think we both are projecting a lot with Kit, since we find so much to relate to in him, so it’s difficult to tell.

You said it! I could go on and on about certain things he said… but I’ll try to keep it as short as I can,

First there’s when he talks about HeroSpace. I think that’s something all people who have used video games as escapism can relate to. I have never played an MMO (by choice, I know how addicted I would get, plus it would drive me crazy because I need to get 100% completion), but I feel the same way about other games I play. I would rather live in them than in my own life.

Kit talking about his usual walking route and the steps it takes shows how he loves to count such things, but the fact that he adjusted it to make it a prime number shows not only that he’s a numbers geek but that he’s not a slave to his rituals,he’s capable of adjusting and making compromises. It’s an important point, hidden away in a little detail.

Kit’s points about how pointless responses are, well, pointless also resonated with me. But again, he doesn’t just shrug his head and think “that’s illogal” like a robot. Hol taught him to use this little communication trick, that he should response with at least an “uh-huh”, which I’ve also had to learn to do properly. It feel like I’m only acting out the proper ways of communicating with people, honestly, but I know it’s important that we understand each other. As frustrating subtle visual cues and tone changes and all that are to me, I know they let people express themselves in wonderful ways and I respect that and try to understand them to the best of my ablities. I have my own ways of expressing myself, but I can’t blame others for the fact that I am the unusual one, it’s me who has to adapt. I only expect people very close to me to adapt to some of my communication oddities.

Kit’s narratives about motorways and random traffic jams as well as the self-checkout machines was enjoyable and interesting to read and even if I don’t relate to those specific ideas, it gives me a nice tingling feeling in my stomach to know that there are others who think so deeply about such mundane things. I’m left wondering how someone who is not on the spectrum finds these parts. Do they seem interesting or boring, do you look for things to relate to or just imagine being inside someone else’s mind?

This chapter seems to have focused on showing us the functional side of Kit. It’s starting to feel like a very realistic version of Asperger’s or high-functioning autism. There were little things, like Kit’s small mention of fantasising about shagging a farmer girl (in an unnaturally clean farm, or what was it he exactly said, it was funny). It showed us that Kit is a teen with teen’s urges. AS people are often potrayed and treated as almost or completely asexual. It was also interesting that Guy thought (years ago) that Kit wouldn’t be able to take care of himself and enacted that action, and now Holly and Mrs. Willougby (Kit’s therapist, I think, I don’t know if I missed an actual definition) are testifying to nullify it. What I don’t understand is can’t Guy just nullify it, or does he not want to because he still thinks Kit can’t act like a proper adult?

Hah, you summed up my thoughts about that well. I hate how they just dropped the name of Grayzr there but didn’t explain it further than that it’s like Google. Just a search enginge? I doubt it, Google is so much more than that. I guess it’s a technology giant, but I’m intrigued. Banks keeps doing this, leaving you wanting to know more, because you know it will be explained soon if you just read the next chapter. And all the while there are the big mysteries that keep you hooked. It’s like an addictive drug; you need another fix soon, but you’re never satisfied and day after day keep waiting for a breakthrough, something more, something bigger, not today but some day.

More random thoughts:

  1. The movie Ted was mentioned, and after that Hol referred to Seth (McFarlane, I assume) as “our nipple man”. I haven’t actually seen the movie, so is this a reference to it? It’s probably funnier if you don’t understand the reference though, because as a fan of McFarlane’s work, rt’s funny to realize that someone calling him the nipple man doesn’t even seem weird.

  2. Who is Marty F? What’s Jim’ll Fix It?

  3. Was Guy really such a shitty father or is there more to this? Because who names a baby after a kitchen? I can understand how dying can make you bitter and angry and mean, but when Kit thought about their relationship, he said that maybe he only likes Guy because he’s there, because he has become imprinted on him like baby duckling do. Guy has said that he’s only horrible to Kit to to “toughen him up” for the real world, when he’s gone, but that sounds like the sort of excuse abusive parents always say. It’s a wonder Kit has grown up to be so functional with a father like Guy. I guess it’s because of Hol that Kit has learned to deal with the world in his own way.

  4. How the hell has Kit made 11-12 thousand pounds in 4½ years in HeroSpace? That’s 15 to 16 thousand euros. And he has been holding back the last couple of years so he doesn’t go over some tax threshold, so he could supposedly be making even more. And he couldn’t have been so good at very start, though he did say he become good enough within a year. I know you can make money by farming loot (or points, as he says - are they experience/skill points, or what?) in many MMOs. I know at least Diablo 3 did this and took a cut off each auction, but HeroSpace seems to just let people do whatever. I would imagine that in a game with millions of players, where there are no limits on the selling of items and nothing controlling the economy, there would be so many farmers and people would use bots and the economy would go down fast. I’m not an expert on MMOs and I’m not saying it’s impossible to make 12,000£ for a teenager with no life in a game like that. But as I looked around the internet, people were amazed when someone claimed to have made ten thousand dollars in Diablo 3, which is only half the amount Kit has made. So I don’t know.

It’s A1(M) in my copy. I don’t know why yours is wrong.

Thanks. I’ll do the same next time, but right at the beginning of the thread.

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70s Kids TV show starring one of the worst paedophile/sexual predator in living memory.
Children would write in and ask him to “fix it for them” (grant a wish). Awkward and creepy footage is available on youtube.


This chapter was definitely clarifying, there were just several things I wasn’t expecting based on what we learned in chapter 1. I may have just read into it too much but it could also have been deliberate on Banks’ part to try to confound the reader’s expectations of autism, who knows.

I was wondering about this too because in the discussion for chapter 1 some people said they found Kit a little infuriating. It’s got to be way worse this time because I found some of it a little infuriating myself, heh.

This has to at least partially be a retroactive joke by Gus which perhaps Kit doesn’t realize is a joke, although Kit must be familiar with the Kitchener name - Lord Kitchener was a very well known British Army figure and it’s him on this well-known WW1 poster:

I’ve always been familiar with the name because several things (including an entire city, and at least one major road) in Southern Ontario are named after him and you see the signs for it driving to Toronto from my home town of Buffalo, NY. When I was a kid I looked up many of the interesting mostly-British names (“Kitchener” has a nice ring to it, there’s also a couple of things named Kipling) you see along that route.

Anyway there’s more I’d like to respond to in your post but I’ll have to come back later.


A wish fulfillment tv program for kids, presented by dead paedophile Jimmy Savile.

Marty F? I don’t remember - was it Marty McF, I.e. Back to the Future?


Some added context from knowing what Jim’ll Fix It is (I read about Savile when that all blew up a year or two ago but forgot the name of any of the shows he’d done).

and @SmashMartian, because he’ll know what I’m talking about…

When I went to university, one of the things my department was proud of was that they’d made the robotic chair that gave the kids their medallions for going on the show.

I suspect they don’t talk about that so much these days.


Oh, I didn’t know about that. Maybe it indeed was a joke, but Kit at least seemed to take it at facevalue (and so did I, partly because I had no idea Kitchener was any kind of name).

Thanks for that information! Marty F. is someone Paul knows and Alison asks if he still sees him. Alison mentions he was on Jim’ll Fix It when he was younger, to which Paul responses “That’ll be something to tell his analyst.” (which now makes sense to me) I don’t think we’re supposed to know more about who this Marty F. is, because Kit at least says he doesn’t know. Maybe it’s not important.

ETA: You beat me to it. I have the disadvantage of having a physical copy. I heard about Savile when the child molestor scandal broke out, but didn’t remember the name of the show,

But there’s a lot of British stuff I don’t understand, words, places, concepts. And add to that the fact that I speak English as a second language and there’s bound to be some things I don’t understand. But I love learning new things!

That was some cool tech. But all the same… (shudders)


Well, finally got a chance to catch up. Yesterday was my last day on that particular job, had to clean out the whole office and tidy up the loose ends of paperwork, and today there was a bunch of family obligation, so I’m later to the party than I would have liked.

I do remember when a 10-cent difference in gas prices was actually worth pursuing. But this reminds me that my house has only two gas stations within a three-mile radius, and they’re across the street from each other. The Mobil station’s prices are fully forty cents a gallon more expensive than the Arco’s, and yet you still see plenty of cars getting gas at the Mobil station. I don’t go to either station, and instead buy gas at the Chevron and Union 76 stations farther away. The Arco gas is cheap, but it’s also crap gas. You don’t really notice if your car is new enough, but on more than one occasion, when I’ve had a marginally-running car that runs okay on Shell or Texaco or Chevron gas, it’ll stall on Arco gas. The Mobil gas is much better (though maybe not 40 cents’ worth better), but I still haven’t forgiven Exxon/Mobil for dragging ass on cleaning up the Exxon Valdez spill lo these twenty-six years ago, and I’ve bought Mobil gas three times in those 26 years, when the alternative was running dry. But other people who don’t share my own gasoline fetishes use other calculations. The Mobil station is cleaner and brighter and takes credit cards. The Arco is cheaper and skankier and only takes cash and debit cards. The Mobil is much easier to enter if you’re headed north or west, and the Arco is much easier (though more crowded) if you’re headed east. About the same for southbound traffic. But I use neither (when I have enough gas to get to the Chevron, Shell, or 76 stations three exits down the freeway) because of my own subjective reasons, neither of which are really all that sensible.

I know that all sounds OT as hell, but the fact that I recognize and think about all these factors may indicate that there may be some vestige of AS rattling around in my brain. I used to rock myself to sleep each night by banging my head against the headboard of my crib, and also used to rock and bang my head on car drives until I was five or so. That probably didn’t relate to anything (other than that I eventually became a drummer), but then when I was in junior high I was somewhat obsessed with even numbers, trying to make sure I stepped on as many cracks with my right foot as I did with my left, and a few other OCD manifestations that had largely to do with symmetry. They were all gone before the end of high school, at least as obsessions and compulsions, though I still remember the satisfaction that accompanied (and sometimes still accompanies) performing a particular kind of symmetrical or numerically-gratifying action. Though I am no engineer, I have what I always thought of as an engineer’s distaste for inefficiency. And when Lazarus Long advised me to “minimize my therbligs,” I really took that to heart more than most Heinlein readers would probably expect.

But these concerns and strategies are far from obsessions for me these days, and have fallen to the level of informal hobbies, like finding shortcuts when you’re not actually in a hurry (and in fact take the longer way home more often than not simply because it’s prettier or more calming or gives time for one more song). And since I don’t feel an actual need to obsess over most details, I’m not enslaved by them, for which I’m profoundly grateful at times like these when I’m reminded of the fact.

Not having read any Banks before and only knowing his work by reputation, I had thought we’d be reading some Iain M. Banks rather than some Iain Banks, but I didn’t understand the distinction until I looked up his Wikipedia page last week. I’m still interested in seeing where this book is going, but I confess to being slightly disappointed that it’s not one of his genre works. But discussing it with you lot definitely has made it more interesting than I would have found it without you. :kissing_heart:

Yeah, so far everyone but Holly’s kind of a self-absorbed asshole, you ask me, but then it’s all filtered though Kit’s perceptions again. And he doesn’t generally pick up on that sort of thing, so even though he passes on to us the asshole things they say, he doesn’t seem to resent those things, for predictable reasons.

I think you’re a gem of a person for volunteering to do it. Your summary was cogent and well-written and seemed to include everything I remembered, but I kinda hate to think how much effort you would have put into it, when we all have the book and are kinda supposed to have either read (or freshly re-read) the chapter recently enough to not need such a summary. You’re letting us be lazy, which is genuinely lovely of you, but I hope to god we don’t burn you out by expecting you to summarize the whole damn book for us, week by week!

Yeah, so far I’m waiting for any of them to actually become characters rather than cardboard cutouts. I do not mean to imply that Banks is falling down on the job here, but Kit hasn’t given us any depth on any of them, least of all his father. And I’m wondering if we’re ever going to get a decent reason why Guy is such a beast to him. Dying painfully doesn’t seem to be enough. No, I’ve never done it myself, but everyone else in my family seems to do it that way, sooner or later, and the only ones who did it in such a nasty way were nasty people in health, too. In my experience anyway.

I took that a different way. The ordinary number of steps was just the number of steps that route would take without a pattern being assigned to it, and yet making that single-step adjustment made it fall into a satisfying numerical pattern, which (I felt) ritualized the walk on a deeper level. If someone dug a hole somewhere on his route, I feel certain that his necessary detour would entail longer steps just so he’d be able to maintain the same number of overall steps, rather than compromise that ritual to fit the new reality of the route.

I haven’t felt myself to be “on the spectrum” in a very long time, if ever I actually was, as I mentioned at the top of this post, but I do find these things interesting and resonant, which leads me to wonder if I might not really be somewhere on that spectrum after all. As someone mentioned last week, that spectrum probably is like the Kinsey scale, with all of humanity falling somewhere on it. I think often about random traffic jams, if only because I live and drive in L.A., and one’s commute can live or die by one mistimed exit or missed traffic light. A few days’ experimentation led me to decide that the #3 lane on State Highway 2 south of State Highway 134 is the best approach to the Fletcher St exit after 7:45 am on weekdays, since too many on-ramps merge into the #4 lane, and lots of people load up into the #1 and #2 lanes to get downtown via Glendale Blvd, so when I take my kids to school, I settle into that #3 lane pretty early, because unlike most L.A. drivers, I dislike changing lanes unnecessarily. When I used to spend every weekend in San Diego, I’d come home on Sunday nights by taking the 805 freeway north to the 5 all the way up to the 101, and I’d get into the #2 lane immediately after merging from the 805 to the 5, and I’d stay in that lane as long as possible. One Sunday I stayed there in that lane for 115 miles until I got to the 101 split and had to go one lane more to the left. Anyway, I’ve never felt any of this stuff was interesting enough to share with anyone (and I apologize to those of you who agree with that previous assessment), but I can’t remember reading about a character who would have thoroughly understood and appreciated the reasoning behind this behavior before.

I suspect the latter, coupled with the fact that he’s wrapped up in his own suffering now.

I think he’s a pretty shitty father, but maybe I’m less forgiving of his shortcomings in that department since I’m in the throes of fatherhood myself. I’m withholding most judgment on Guy until Banks gets around to painting more character on him, but for now he seems like a self-absorbed academic (and even if he doesn’t consider himself an actor he certainly sounds vain enough to be one of the ones who infuriated me as a Theatre Arts major and as an industry professional) and insufferable lout. Just the fact that he teases Kit about who his mother may have been is, not to put too fine a point on it, utterly monstrous. Kit has no concept, really, of how cruel that was. Guy treats him like a pet, and not a valued one at that. Weirdly, I didn’t get really angry about that until just now, in retrospect.


Chapter 2 down and I’m still waiting for something to happen.

At least the financial thingy mentioned in chapter 1 was answered. So there’s that.


Struggling to find much likeable or even sympathetic about any of the characters, to be blunt. It’s not the quality of the writing, which is good as far as I can tell, just the subject matter. Still, I’ll stick with it. I’m hoping for some hideous, nameless evil to be discovered in The Quarry. Or maybe some yakuza rock up to reclaim some vital evidence on the videotape. Something, anyway.

@Raita - The chapter synopses are awesome. Especially for the taste-in-literature-challenged like me. Anytime I can help in return by explaining lowbrow cultural references, just ask.

Dinosaurs. That’d be cool in a quarry, too. Maybe there’s dinosaurs in Chapter 3.


Haha, you know I really appreciate your in-depth explanation of your driving and refueling behavior, because you’re almost exactly describing my own behavior too. Arco sucks! And you know, they make back basically all of their 40 cents per gallon (well, that’s extreme but they’re always at least 10-15 cents lower than other nearby stations) with the fee they charge to use a debit card. I only ever actually went there once; my dad (who also has very thought-out ideas about refueling, though very different than ours) visited me in Huntington Beach, and was intrigued by their tagline which includes something about it being “100% real gas” which he took to mean no ethanol (they are not clear on this point) so he wanted to try it (in my car…).

I mostly used Shell in southern california but Chevron (whose stations are just as nice) does a lot of the local oil extraction, so theoretically your gas purchase there supports the local economy, not that that realistically makes any more than a symbolic difference. I also don’t go to Exxon/Mobil, both because of the oil spill (you don’t even see Exxon branded stations in this part of NY and many other places), but also because the only gas station within several miles of my house growing up was (is) a Mobil that’s always 10 cents higher than any other area station.

As for lanes and routes, I’m pretty much the same. I experiment and find the best overall route first, and then figure out the best lane(s) and I get into my preferred lane as soon as possible. And unless there’s some reason to I don’t change. I also like to figure out for example the best place to park like at a mall or something - there’s always a clearly best way to get in and out with minimal fuss. Also I often can’t help but evangelize my “superior” routes and other ideas when other people are driving, which I know annoys people :wink: but when they’ve clearly not put any thought into it at all it’s hard to swallow.

Anyway… the reason I’m going off on this again when you already did is to raise the question of whether this is really necessarily autism spectrum behavior exclusively. Is it common, definitely. But not all engineers are autistic (hard as it may be to believe sometimes), and they think the same way - they’re trained to. Perhaps, though, trained engineers and the like don’t necessarily think like this all the time, which would be a key difference. I don’t have an answer. I’d also note that a lot of what Kit describes (and what real autistics do to fit in) is training himself, so it maybe goes both ways.

But lacking anything else of major substance to discuss, I think this topic (Kit’s autism and other behaviors) bears continued discussion by the long-winded among us who would certainly find something else to discuss in any similar piece of text that may or may not be light on significant action :wink: Not just because it’s clearly got to be significant later, but mainly because this character and the narrative style do communicate how this sort of mind works better than anything I’ve personally read (others have noted Banks has written other autistic characters, I haven’t read those) or seen in TV and movies (though there are a few good examples, they’re generally not told from the autistic character’s perspective directly). Though as I mentioned earlier there were some irritating moments - intentionally, I’m sure - chapter 2 especially really illustrates the thought process. It seems random and all over the place - the narration goes on significant asides without breaking stride to very nicely illustrate the thought process - but is actually logical and direct. It’s just a completely different social logic than what most people use.

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I read some interviews with Banks just before he died and he was disappointed that his last book wasn’t going to be one of his SF ones, which he personally preferred. Interestingly, apparently the more ‘literary’ ones sold better and subsidised the SF ones.

Definitely do read some.


I figured the implication they are implying is that Saville is party of the reason he’s gone off to America and doesn’t stay in touch, that he’s got problems. That none of the rest of them have, they myopically see.

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Honestly, I’ve seen this book 100x as a movie. I feel like Banks’ descriptions/integration of technology in the book are terrible. If we don’t find out that grayzr harvests the minds of the dead, this book is headed for no place.

I am enjoying the conversation but I’ve got so little positive to say about the book, I don’t know how to participate. These characters are totally hollow and Kit is fairly unbelievable. I think Banks may never have played a MMORPG or used a search engine. I do not care what is on the video tape, even if it is sex. Maybe it is an unsexy snuff film.


Well, I just want to make this discussion group work as well as possible. I want to get people involved and it makes me sad if some people can’t participate properly because they don’t remember the chapter details. I know I don’t have to do the summaries, but I want to! I’ll promise to stop if it starts to take a toll on me.

Hmm. Well, I still disagree. The way I’'m thinking about it is; if I was counting something, like how I count the number of people who pass me by when I’m going from point A to B, I’m hoping for some satisfying number, like a round number, or a prime number, or a number that feels good. But if the number ends up being something else, like 28 (what a boring number!), adjusting it to 29 (which is a very important number for me, you could say the most important) would feel wrong - it would be cheating, it would not have come naturally and therefore would be illogical. Like Kit, I do like finding patterns in things, but rituals are set in stone, you don’t adjust them. I don’t think his counting of the steps was a ritual, because the number just happened to be close to a prime number, he doesn’t plan his walking routes based on prime numbers and do only things according to those numbers. That would be a real ritual.

I don’t know if I’m making sense. My point was that there is a difference between the preference for little details to “click” in a satisfying manner, and very deep rituals which you see more in people with a more difficult type of autism. And Kit was here doing the former rather than the latter.

Yeah, I talked about that on the last thread. AS shows in many different ways, with different symptoms. You can have social difficulties without being autistic. You can have light/noise/sound sensitivity without being autistic. And so on.

Focusing on details in the way you described, or having very specific interests, is one of those things that many people can have in different forms, it’s not exclusively an AS trait. As @penguinchris noted, the difference might be that AS people can’t turn it off. They think this way about social situations, and other regular aspects of life, as well, which is the difficult part. Being analytic, calculating and detail-oriented about some engineering project is a good thing - not so with your love life.

How so? Because it seems like us on the autism spectrum have found him to be an exceptionally realistic depiction of an autistic character.

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At the beginning of chapter 2, Guy says good night to Kit by saying “You go. Have a nice wank. Wish to fuck I could.”

That’s the first example I saw that made it absolutely clear.

Yes, I’m finally here! Even my kids teased me for being such a voracious reader but somehow not finding the time to read ONE CHAPTER of a fictional story in an entire week. I’ve had short periods of free time, but none long enough (until today) to sit down and read an entire chapter in one sitting, which is how I want to do this.

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The online gaming stuff has definitely been done elsewhere and better, I think it’s just being used here as somewhere with ‘rules’ that makes more sense to Kit than real life.


Agreed. They’re there because Guy is about to die and his house is about to be packed up and they really really really want to know where that videotape is so they can destroy it.

Not because they want to hang out with their best friends from university. Or give a fig about Guy’s condition. Only Hol has been coming by with any regularity prior to this get-together.

Considering the fact that Kit is supposed to be the one person in the story more comfortable with things than people, he actually seems to be the one most aware of people out of all of them. Haze’s comment about how Pris’ new relationship can’t be that good because they’re sleeping separately, when he was the one who forced the issue by refusing to give up the bigger bedroom so they COULD sleep together, is a good example. If Kit does “too much thinking” and has too much awareness of what’s going on around him, then most of the rest of them don’t do enough.


haze seems to be the designated wanker at the momentbut things could change. Oh Joy.

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