The Business

ISBN: 0743200144
ISBN 13: 9780743200141
By: Iain Banks

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About this book

From one of Britain's most celebrated authors comes this fast-paced and wickedly satirical novel -- already a top bestseller in England -- about a highly secretive, centuries-old organization bent on global domination.From Silicon Valley to Scotland's Silicon Glen, Kate Telman trawls the globe in search of opportunities for her place of employment, cryptically known only as The Business. Though raised from girlhood to be a partner in The Business, Kate is still trying to navigate the mysterious world of the cabal-like organization whose origins predate the Christian church.With tentacles stretching from the ice-fields of Antarctica to a remote Himalayan principality, The Business boasts possession of a book of DaVinci cartoons, pornographic paintings by Michelangelo, and several sets of crown jewels. Yet its exact nature seems to be vague to the point of invisibility. In the course of her journey, Kate begins to uncover some curious facts about her enigmatic employer, and to keep control of her life she must learn to do The Business.In its first week out, The Business hit #3 on the Times of London's bestseller list, with tens of thousands of British readers having thrilled to this visciously funny commentary on corporate takeovers, the rise of the Internet, and other post-Cold War struggles for economic and political domination.

Reader's Thoughts

Michael Anderson

Well written, though the fact that the Business has been around since BC played not one bit in the story. Seems a lot of reviewers say this book is not nearly as good as many of his others. In that case, his others must be some hot shit, since I thoroughly enjoyed this one, and I can't wait to read more.


Iain Banks wrote one of my favorite books, so my expectations might have been high when I picked up this one. Instead of the interesting characters and fascinating setting punctuated with a few giggles here and there as Banks created in 'The Crow Road', this book boasts one dimensional characters, one dimensional villains and absurd conspiracy. As a businesswoman myself, I thought a book with a powerful business woman as the lead might be interesting. Unfortunately, as the book went on, her motivations and point of view were left entirely unexplored giving her decisions along the way a lack of context. One might as well have rolled the dice to determine her next action.

Jeremy Hornik

Woman who works for a massive and secret business that controls much of the world's wealth gets into buying a company, while investigating some corporate shenanigans and being mildly sad about her empty love life (but vigorous sex life). The whole book is sort of about compromise. The prose style is unfortunately in that sort of benignly clever British thing that starts (brilliantly) with P.G. Wodehouse... but has the effect of draining the tension from thrillers in jokey asides.


not sure about this one on first read, but at a loss for a book to read I headed back to the bookcase, and I'm glad I did. I really enjoyed the story this time around. Kate is a likeable character with 2 things on her side that most of us don't have - time (she's on sabbatical from her job for a year) and money (she is a high level exec in a global 'business') So with this background she spends her time and money on solving a bit of a mystery!

Chris Bullock

I really enjoyed this. The story line was not what I was expecting from Iain Banks, as I had only read his Science Fiction before.Difficult to fit into any specific genre, even the title doesn't really help - perhaps thriller/adventure with some romance thrown in. An interesting read, which keeps you guessing on the outcome until right at the end.I did like the way he educates his British vs. American readers.I now plan to read many more of his non-SF books.

Clive Thompson

In some of Bank's novels you are not sure whether they are set in the past, present or future. This one appears to be set in the present, if the past had been different. In this version of Bank's world, an organisation (The Business) has become more and more powerful through legitimate means and has a structure that is based on promotions rather than the 'murder to get to the top' of less successful family organisations. The story follows Kate Telman through the most important times that she has with The Business - and her realisations also.A year before writing this review, I read the novel on holiday and returned to add an instant review to the Amazon pages. In that, I stated that my guess would be that, in the future, all Bank's previous works, before "The Business" will be termed his earlier works; such is the level of maturity seen in this novel. I believe this to be his best so far and probably also the most accessible. It would be a good introduction to Banks and a springboard to "The earlier works""A close inspection of my own personal Mammon graph would reveal even to the untrained eye that my remuneration package - including commission multipliers gained as a result of my successful forecasts regarding computers and the Internet - was already more generous than that of many of our Level Two executives. It had occurred to me a couple of years earlier that I was probably what the average person would consider independently wealthy; in other words that I could have existed comfortably without my job though, of course, as a good Business woman, that was all but unthinkable for me."Note in the above that Business woman has a capital B. The Business is all powerful and Kate has to cope with that fact at the expense of her own feelings. Doesn't she?


I picked up Iain Banks' novel The Business at the local library when they didn't have his Consider Phlebas in. The first few pages intrigued me, so I checked it out. Sadly, the first few pages were the best in an otherwise dreadfully boring novel. Those first pages were part of the prologue of the book. Once I got past it and began the first chapter, I knew I was in trouble. Here's the opening paragraph in it's entirety:My name is Kathryn Telman. I am a senior executive officer, third level (counting from the top) in a commercial organisation which has had many different names through the ages but which, these days, we usually just refer to as the Business. There's a lot to tell about this particular concern, but I'm going to have to ask you to be tolerant here because I'm intending to take things slowly and furnish further details of this ancient, honourable and -- to you, no doubt -- surprisingly ubiquitous concern in due course as they become relevant. For the record, I am one point seven metres tall, I weigh fifty-five kilos, I am thirty-eight years old, I have dual British/US nationality, I am blonde by birth no bottle, unwed, and have been an employee of the Business since I left school.If you're not already asleep, you at least have a good idea of how incredibly dull this story is going to be. And "for the record," never introduce a character that way. It's a rookie mistake that stops the story cold. It's a puckered seam on something you want to be seamless.I plodded through another thirty pages, in which some interesting questions were raised. Ultimately, though, the terrible writing was too much for me to take. Not only that, but the woman who seems like such a strong heroine at the outset turns out to be hung up on a married man who is staunchly committed to his wife, and she doesn't want to take no for an answer. If the situation were reversed, the character would seem like a smarmy sleaze. But since it's a woman persisting in the harassment, it just comes off as needy, weak, and dumb.So I'm dumping this book back on the library shelf and not bothering to finish it. Don't waste your time with this one.


This story is about an old and powerful multi-national corporation. Its' executives want to take over a tiny country in the Himalayas to get a seat in the U.N. It's also about Kate Telman, the rising exec who's sent to lay the ground work for the take-over, the single Prince who rules the country, & corporate skullduggery. It's a very funny book. It's also scary, because it's possible that somewhere corporate executives just may be planning to create the perfect country; one with laws to suit whatever the business wants.

Melvyn Harris

I was disappointed with this book overall. It started well, with a character whose details you found out slowly but surely. You discovered she was part of an organisation and bit by bit you found out (along with the character) details about colleagues and superiors within the organisation. My disappointment was because the story dragged on with not a lot of pace or plot movement. As to various threads of the story, which as with all good books came together towards the end, this book didn't end satisfactorily. There was the tried and tested denoument at the end with various characters finding out what others had suspected and now knew. But instead of finishing the story it was left hanging in the air and to my mind the author should have carried on. At least until some good break point, or more likely to expand on the story post-denoument. As it was, the lead character made a decision and the stiry finished - there were just too many loose ends, unanswered questions or ways that the story could have gone on from that point.

Big Lemons

3 and 1/2 stars

Elliot Raff

Extremely well written female lead. Strong character driven narrative. Enough intrigue and twists to make it a can't stop reading experience.


Fairly boring. Disappointed with my first Iain Banks. Dull story that doesn't end plausibly ...


As every conspiracy theorist knows, They control everything. When something unexpected happens, it's because They arranged it. And, needless to say, you don't want to find out too much about Them. It could be bad for your health. Which makes you even more curious - so it's surprising that this is one of the few novels I know that's firmly set in Their world. It turns out that They are actually called The Business, and were already well-established at the time of the Roman Empire. I see some other reviewers complaining that it's all quite impossible. No such organisation could ever have survived into the present day, even if it had existed in the first place. Well, how naive can you get? Obviously, that's exactly what They want you to think...


Not one of his best. I've tried to read it twice now and can't get through it.

Ian Caithness

An incredible novel on the human condition and the temptation of capitalism in business. Iain Banks writes with a free-flowing and captivating prose that allows people to sink into his books and come out at the end feeling refreshed.

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