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By Iain Banks

A bit wisdom could be a very harmful factor. blameless within the methods of the area, an ingenue by way of pop and type, the select of God of a small yet dedicated Stirlingshire non secular cult: Isis Whit isn't any usual teen. while her cousin Morag - visitor of Honour on the Luskentyrian's 4- every year pageant of affection - disappears after renouncing her religion, Isis is marked out to enterprise one of the Unsaved and convey the apostate again into the fold. however the street to Babylondon (as Sister Angela places it) is a treacherous one, quite while Isis discovers that Morag seems to be to have embraced the methods of the Unsaved with amazing abandon. fact and falsehood; kinship and betrayal; 'herbal' cigarettes and compact discs - Whit is an exploration of the techno-ridden barrenness of contemporary Britain from a special standpoint.

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I ducked down to lie on the seat while the locomotive thundered past, then sat up again when the train had disappeared up the track heading north. A moment's dizziness afflicted me as I sat back up, the immediate memory of the white lights flickering through the sides of the wagons ahead seeming to reflect and multiply inside my mind as though my brain was transparent and my skull a mirror; my heart raced and my mouth tasted of something metallic. The moment passed and I returned to my thoughts of my cousin, realising, as though to sum up, that I had another reason for wanting Morag to come back to us; if she did not return and be our Guest of Honour at the Festival then I might be expected to step into the breach (not to mention having somebody step into mine, so to speak).

It's a mark of respect,' I told him, smiling. ' 'Mark,' he replied, to some giggles. He looked defiant. ' 'Well, I have a bit of a funny name,' I told them. ' More laughter. The bell rang then and they were called away by a teacher who looked at me suspiciously. I waved to the children and blessed them under my breath, then turned away, looking at the stave in my hand and thinking how slight are the signals by which we serve notice - inadvertently or not - that we are not part of the Bland world.

Aasni and Zhobelia were the first of the family's second generation, and generally regarded as having had their heads turned by the bright lights of Stornoway; at any rate they were thought too head-strong and Westernised for their own good or that of the family. Had their family acted quickly enough they might have had the two girls successfully married off to suitable suitors summoned from the sub-continent before they got too used to making up their own minds, but as it was the Second World War intervened and almost seven years were to pass before an easing of both travelling and rationing restrictions created favourable conditions for a match to be arranged.

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