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Socialist Review Index (1993–1996) | Socialist Review 180 Contents

Pete Morgan


Terminate a Tory


From Socialist Review, No. 180, November 1994.
Copyright © Socialist Review.
Copied with thanks from the Socialist Review Archive.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Iain Banks
Abacus £6.99

‘We already produce enough food to feed every starving child on earth ... Starvation’s caused by debtor countries having to abandon their indigenous foods to grow cash crops to keep the World Bank or the IMF or Barclays happy, or to service debts run up by murdering thugs who slaughtered their way into power and slaughtered their way through it, usually with the help of one part of the developed world.’

Not a bad motive for the murder of various arms dealers, businessmen and donors to the Tory party. Deep down we’ve probably all hoped that there is a real life ‘terminator’ out there who will do us all a favour and go and wipe a few of them out. Well this is exactly what happens in Iain Banks’ latest novel, Complicity.

The story centres around Cameron Colley, a reporter on an Edinburgh newspaper who spends his time chasing up politically sensitive information from an unknown source. Cameron leads a life of insecurity – into drugs and alcohol, an alienated person who, in between time, plays computer games and has an affair with his friend’s wife. Yet he believes that through reporting and ‘good journalism’ some of the rottenness of the system can be exposed.

As the novel starts he’s into a great story about corruption in the Scottish whisky industry. Meanwhile a Steven Hawking like voice keeps giving him tip-offs about various murders.

And what gruesome murders they are. I won’t spoil the fun by going into the graphic details, only to mention that some nasty people get a dose of their own medicine – including a politician, a child pornographer and an arms dealer. But as the story progresses Cameron becomes implicated in the murders. And it then becomes a battle for him to prove that he was not at the scene of the crimes when they were committed, and to help try and find the real murderer.

What adds the extra twist to the story is the relationship of Cameron to his best friend Andy. We get a glimpse of their childhood as the story progresses, and it is clear that Cameron, in a number of ways, let his friend down in their childhood days, so much so that Andy nearly lost his life by drowning and was raped by a stranger. The closeness of the friendship with Andy becomes a strength in Cameron’s attempt to convince the police of his innocence.

But the strength of the novel lies in its politics. It’s clear that the generation of people who did so well under Thatcher are the enemy, bitter and twisted, hell bent on making as much as possible – there is no sympathy for those who meet a nasty death at the hands of our ‘terminator’.

This is a novel the 1980 ‘yuppies’ will hate – it despises their lifestyle, their money grabbing, ‘don’t care who you screw values’.

The alternative, however, tends to be a form of cynicism – which is even reflected in the sexual relationships.

We identify with Cameron who reveals at the end the disappointment he felt when, on the greatest assignment he had in his journalistic career – reporting the horrors of the Basra Road at the end of the Gulf War – he is completely numbed by the experience: ‘I was reduced to a numb, dumb realisation of our unboundedly resourceful talent for bloody hatred and mad waste, but stripped of the means to describe and present that knowledge.’ Fortunately though, Banks doesn’t disappoint us and we get a feel of the horror of it all. It’s a novel worth reading. It’s exciting, fast and the politics are good.

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