Iain Banks' The Bridge

Iain Banks

In December 1986, the late Iain Banks’ third novel was published by Macmillan. The celebrated Scots author once said it was his favourite of all his novels.

The Bridge is partially set in a society contained within a giant, abstract version of the Forth Bridge. The huge city-structure is hundreds of miles long and is divided into inhabited sections that mirror the piers, cantilever beams and girders of the real bridge. Characters Chief Engineer Arrol, Engineer Baker and Engineer Fowler are, of course, named after the constructor Sir William Arroll and the two principle engineers Sir Benjamin Baker and Sir John Fowler.

The Bridge cover

In the book, the world of Bridge is actually invented in the mind of coma victim Alex Lennox, a civil engineer who crashes his car on the Forth Road Bridge while admiring the adjacent Forth Bridge.

…What a gorgeous great device you are. So delicate from this distance, so massive and strong close-up. Elegance and grace; perfect form. A quality bridge; granite piers, the best ship-plate steel, and a never-ending paint job...

The novel is generally considered one of Banks’ finest and along with his 1984 debut The Wasp Factory, firmly established him as one of our most popular contemporary novelists. Banks grew up in North Queensferry, in the shadow of the Forth Bridge, and returned there to live in the 1990s. He often said his interest in science fiction stemmed from the love of huge structures imbued in him by the Forth Bridge. He died in 2013.