The Steep Approach to Garbadale

Free The Steep Approach to Garbadale by Iain Banks

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Authors: Iain Banks
seems to be some sort of ghoulishly barbaric competition going on between the local belief system’s grisly squad of supernatural demons and the jolly japesters of the various Singaporean law enforcement agencies concerning who can be most inventively horrible, and it is profoundly not what you want to see when you’re up to your eyelids in a whole unholy cocktail of supremely illegal and remarkably powerful drugs, not all of which are yet safely - ha! - actually inside your body or that of your partner in crime.
    They wander around, assaulted by appalling images on all sides, bludgeoned by the screams - happy screams, definitely happy screams - of small children and impressionable adults, damp and getting damper as they stroll and stagger through clouds of water vapour being sprayed from path-side sprinklers studded amongst the flowers and shrubs.
    Riotous profusions of insanely vivid blooms flourish everywhere; greenery of a thousand shades and wild outburstings of flowers fill every speck of un-concreted, ill-asphalted ground in the gardens. Alban keeps wanting to stop and look at all this fabulously fascinating flora and maybe take notes or something or take photographs with the disposable camera he’s bought for the purpose - in fact, with one of the two disposable cameras he now has, because he forgot he’d bought the first one - but Fielding continually hustles him onward, demanding they exhaust the possibilities of the various exciting rides before they start looking at fucking flowers. Throughout the city Alban has sensed this vast, extravagant energy of growth and greenness forever trying to burst out through all the cement and tarmac, clawing at every missed nook and cranny in this fanatically self-controlled city, punching from every vacant patch of ground larger than a postage stamp like a violent reproof.
    They get kind of locked into the water slide, which provides a fine view of the harbour and the docks and the ships at the quay-sides and anchored offshore and steaming slowly along the nearer shipping lanes, not to mention Sentosa island, they think, which is where they’re going next or possibly have already been to. The extra soaking at the bottom of the ride each time makes no difference whatsoever to their clothes and helps keep them cool. Then at the end of one turn, Fielding doesn’t get out and Alban realises his cousin is asleep and snoring. In a way this is fine because it means they can go back to their hotel, but in a way it isn’t really fine at all because Alban’s forgotten which hotel it is they’re staying in and has been trying to think of its name for the last two hours or so. He’s checked his pockets but can’t find a key card and he’s looked in Fielding’s wallet and pockets too and for the last half-hour or so he’s had to contemplate desperate measures like just approaching people at random and asking if they recognise him or Fielding and might remember, say, which hotel bar, reception or restaurant they might have happened to see them in, though he suspects this plan may be a little on the optimistic side.
    He’s hauling a stumbling, incoherent Fielding along the path to the exit, thinking that maybe by some miracle he’ll find a taxi driver in the rank who remembers taking them back to their hotel some time over the last week or so, when a tall tanned white guy in a baseball hat and shorts and a bum bag comes up to them, all smiles, and greets them both by name. Fuck, we’re rumbled; it’s the pigs , Alban has time to think, but he’s wrong; it’s just friendly cousin Steve - Linda and Percy’s eldest - the guy who’s never at home because he’s always somewhere in the world installing or maintaining or replacing container terminal cranes but whom Alban and Fielding have both met at a couple of family weddings over the last few years. Which is great, though of course cousin Steve has absolutely no idea which is their hotel either.
    While Alban is desperately

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