The first thing to say about Iain Banks books is, well, don't count on happy endings. They do happen (I suspect to soften you up for the next book's tragic conclusion), but not that frequently. Far more likely is that the ambitions of the central character (don't count on that character being terribly heroic, either) are utterly and irrecovably frustrated - and that's if things turn out well. In more extreme cases the destruction of the character's life, loved ones, country or even planet has been known to happen...
To try to allow you to prepare yourself for whatever Banksey may offer, I've assigned my own patent "Hangman's Noose" rating to those of his books I've read; these will hopefully give you some idea of how liable to top yourself you'll be after finishing the book in question.
Here are the ratings on offer, and how serious you should regard each one as being:
||Cheer up, it might never happen!
||Worse things happen at sea
||Things might look better tomorrow
||Pass the Prozac
||Pass the razor blade
||Smile! All is well with the world!!! (Not many Banks books finish this way...)
Look To Windward
[Hardback] It was one of the less glorious incidents of the Idiran wars that led to the destruction of two suns and the billions of lives they supported. Now, 800 years later, the light from the first of those deaths has reached the Culture's Masaq' Orbital. A Chelgrian emissary is dispatched to the Culture.
The war raged across the galaxy. Billions had died, billions more were doomed. Within the cosmic conflict, there was an individual crusade: deep within a fabled labyrinth lay a fugitive Mind. Both the Culture and the Idirans sought it.
Use of Weapons
Cheradenine is an ex-"special circumstance" agent who had been raised to eminence by a woman named Diziet. Skaffen-Amtskaw, the drone, had saved her life and it believes Cheradenine to be a burnt-out case. But not even its machine intelligence can see the horrors in his past.
The Player of Games
Bored with success, Gurgel - The Player of Games - travels to the Empire of Azad, cruel and incredibly wealthy, to try their fabulous game. This is a game so complex, so like life itself, that the winner becomes emperor.
Two and a half millennia ago, the Excession, a perfect black sphere, appeared in a remote corner of space. It did nothing, then disappeared. Now it is back, and someone who saw it the first time has information on its staggering potential, but she is living out her death in the Sleeper Service.
The State of the Art
A collection of short fiction by the author of "The Wasp Factory" and "Against a Dark Background". The title story is a novella continuing the "Culture" sequence but set on Earth in 1977. The other stories range from science fiction to horror, and dark-coated fantasy to morality tale.
Other (Science Fiction)
In the winter palace, the King's new physician has more enemies than she at first realizes, but she also has more remedies to hand than those who wish her ill can know about. In another palace across the mountains, the chief bodyguard of the regicidal Protector General also has his enemies.
In the penultimate year before the Encroachment, the dimming sun still shines on the cloud-high weathered walls of Serehfa Fastness. On the day the Count Sessine dies for the final time, the chief scientist to the clan Accounts/Privileges receives a summons from the office of the High Sortileger.
Against A Dark Background
Sharrow was once a warrior-spy and leader of a combat team. Living in a state of semi-retirement, she suddenly found herself the target of the Huhsz, a religious cult, and realised that she had to find and reform her old team if she had any hope of survival. By the author of the "Culture" sequence.
Other (Not Science Fiction)
Isis Whit is a member of the "Elect of God", a religious cult based near Stirling. When her cousin Morag renounces her faith, it falls to Isis to venture out into the techno-ridden barreness of nineties Britain to save her. But Morag has embraced the ways of the "unsaved" with surprising vigour.
The Crow Road
Prentice McHoan has returned to the bosom of his complex but enduring Scottish family. Full of questions about the McHoan past, present and future, he is also deeply preoccupied - mainly with death, sex, drink, God and illegal substances.
Kate is a senior executive officer in a powerful and massively discreet transglobal organization. The character of The Business seems, even to her, to be vague to the point of invisibility. Her job is to keep abreast of technological developments, but she must let go the assumptions of a lifetime.
A Song of Stone
The war is ending, perhaps ended. But for the castle and its occupants, the troubles are just beginning - armed gangs roam a lawless land and taking to the roads with the other refugees, anonymous in their raggedness, seems safer than remaining in the ancient keep.
An exploration of the morality of greed, corruption and violence. When several prominent people die mysteriously, the police beat a path to the door of an Edinburgh journalist known for his drug abuse and total commitment to computer games.
The Wasp Factory
By the author of "Canal Dreams" and "Walking on Glass", this is the story of Frank, an unconventional 16 year-old. Frank has already killed three people, but was it just a stage he was going through?
A man lies in a coma, his body broken, his memory vanished. He finds himself in the surreal world of the bridge - a world free of the usual constraints of time and space, a world where dream and fantasy, past and future, fuse.
Daniel Weir was a famous - not to say infamous - rock star. Maybe he still is. At 31 he has been both a brilliant failure and a dull success. He's made a lot of mistakes that have paid off and a lot of smart moves he'll regret for ever.
By the author of "The Wasp Factory" and "Walking on Glass", this book is set in Japan and on the Panama Canal. It concerns a world famous Japanese cellist, who refuses to fly, and as a result finds herself involved in the ominous realm of global "realpolitik".
Walking on Glass
By the author of "Canal Dreams" and "The Wasp Factory", this novel is about three men - Graham Park, Steven Grant and Quiss. No trio of people could be further apart, but their separate courses are set for collision.