Ever since The Wasp Factory first bent readers' minds in 1984, prolific Scottish author Banks has tantalized and terrified with his eerily accurate representations of humanity at its twisted best and worst.
Lighter in mood than some of his previous novels, The Business, a bestseller in Great Britain, is still shot through with sinister undertones.
In a recognizable but slightly tilted 1998, Kathryn Telman works for the Business, a mysterious corporation that predates the Christian church and at one point owned the Roman Empire. Plucked from poverty in West Scotland at the age of eight, she has been groomed for the fast track ever since.
Thirty years later, despite her power, money and success, she is finally beginning to wonder just what the Business is all about. Why was she pulled out of Scotland just as she noticed something amiss at a subsidiary chip factory? Why has she been summoned by a munitions-collecting higher-up to talk his nephew out of writing an incendiary anti-Islamic screenplay? Why has the Business's sinister head of security sent her a dirty DVD showing the wife of Kathryn's colleague and secret love in an illicit tryst? And why suddenly appoint her "ambassador" to Thulahn, a remote Himalayan principality the Business is buying in order to gain its own seat in the U.N.?
Banks offers a hilarious look at international corporate culture and the insatiable avarice that drives it, but he suggests the positive potential of globalization, too. Less overtly eccentric and sensationalistic than favorites like The Wasp Factory and A Song of Stone, the novel is a clever, genre-bending pleasure.