Science Fiction Book Review

Dead Air

(2002) Iain Banks, Little, Brown, 16.99, hrdbk, 408pp, ISBN 0-316-86054-9

Ken Nott, a lefty shock-jock on a London radio station, is happy throwing furniture off a balcony at a friend's party when news of the World Trade Centre attacks comes through. Shortly thereafter he is entangled in a media battle with a holocaust apologist, and also having an affair with a gangster's wife. That's at least two people with a motive to kill him, not to mention everyone he's ever offended on his radio show, which makes the list of suspects quite large when someone drugs Nott and attempts to kidnap him. Are the threats coming from someone Nott knows, or is there a possibility that he could be caught up in a terrorist plot?

Banks handles this tale of paranoia and trust with good humour, never sacrificing the plot to complexity for its own sake, while making more than a few incisive observations about the way the world, especially of politics, works today. The interplay of Ken Nott's personal politics versus his media savvy is a microcosmic look at the daily dilemmas faced by the media, but it is Nott's personal circumstances and the problems he has to deal with that drives the book. Another winner for Banks I suspect...

Tony Chester

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