The Bridge Critical Essays

Iain Banks


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Although dystopian fantasy has long been an established genre within British literature, the British novelistic tradition has tended to regard fantasy as a fringe element. The social upheavals of the 1980’s, however, stimulated a number of novelists to break out of the confines of social and psychological realism by incorporating fantasy or Magical Realism as critical perspectives on a society increasingly seen as riddled with crises. Iain Banks (who publishes his works of fantasy under his name without the middle initial M., which is reserved for his science fiction) explored the world of the psychosexual bizarre in his first novel, The Wasp Factory (1984), and developed the technique of intermingling realistic and apparently fantastic story lines to accomplish similar ends in Walking on Glass (1985). The Bridge employs this technique to mount a full-scale critique of a materialist modern world in which reason has successfully outlawed any dimension of experience and any subjective reality that does not conform to the iron laws of scientific empiricism.

In the conventionally “realistic” narrative, the engineer is in danger of losing himself and the woman he loves because he embraces the cold, objective logic of scientific reasoning and rejects all “faiths,” which he sees as nonsensical. He becomes increasingly distanced from his lover, Andrea, who is interested in various forms of the “irrational,” such as...

(The entire section is 565 words.)