Iain M. Banks
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Kate Telman is a senior executive officer in The Business, a powerful and massively discreet transglobal organisation. Financially transparent, internally democratic and disavowing conventional familial inheritance, the character of The Business seems, even to Kate, to be vague to the point of invisibility. It possesses, allegedly, a book of Leonardo cartoons, several sets of Crown Jewels and wants to buy its own State in order to acquire a seat at the United Nations. Kate's job is to keep abreast of current technological developments and her global reach encompasses Silicon Valley, a ranch in Nebraska, the firm's secretive Swiss headquarters, and a remote Himalayan principality. In the course of her journey Kate must peel away layers of emotional insulation and the assumptions of a lifetime. She must learn to keep her world at arm's length. To take control, she has to do The Business.
was up against too many of them, what if this was their power base, their stronghold? What if I'd somehow missed some crucial undercurrent of meaning and threat the previous evening, what if I'd totally misconstrued everything? I swung back and forth, looking through the bare branches at the distant château. Maybe there was a sniper lining me up in his sights right now. Would I get a glimpse of a laser flickering redly around the twigs of the trees between me and the château? Maybe a snatch
executive; a single level above Uncle Freddy and the highest of the high, one of the all-but-untouchable principal players of our company and a full member of the Board. He would be showing up later on today with some of the other power players. Uncle Freddy — a frustrated Level One man if ever there was one — harboured certain resentments concerning Mr Hazleton. 'Do we have a legal route in there?' he asked. 'Only through Hazleton,' I told him. 'Or another Level One intervening.' Uncle Freddy
kerosene stove for a bowl of tea while in-flight, a small but pungent billy goat and a pair of vociferously distressed and explosively incontinent piglets. Oh, and there was a crate of hens, every one of which looked distinctly dubious about trusting their necks to such a patently un-airworthy craft. What a fine old time we had. On this occasion I was the only passenger, though there was a pile of crates secured by webbing behind the last row of flimsy seats and various sacks of mail occupying
do not know,' Langtuhn admitted, hauling the ancient car straight as we passed a butcher's and skidded on a patch of what looked like chicken entrails. He laughed. 'Perhaps he has run out of money in the Paris casino.' 'Ha ha,' I said. I sat back. Suvinder. Oh, well. Maybe having the Prince here wouldn't be so terrible. He wasn't that difficult a guy to deal with and he would, I assumed, make it even easier for me to travel round the country and gain access to, well, whatever I needed to gain
this Silex thing.' 'Silex?' I had to think. The chip factory near Glasgow. It seemed like a long while ago. 'What about it?' 'They nobbled our chap. The fellow we had transferred from Brussels.' 'What do you mean, "nobbled"?' 'He's been bought off, turned, whatever you want to call it. Doesn't matter how I know, but I do. He's saying it's all above board up there. Bugger's lying. And I think it's Hazleton again.' 'Are you sure?' Uncle Freddy was starting to sound paranoid, developing a