I think this was the first Iain Banks book I ever read, years ago, and I am still in awe of how totally different each of his books are and of his incredible imagination. WHIT is the story of teenager Isis, the elect of God, who is sent out amongst the unsaved on a mission that eventually forces her to question virtually everything about the cult in which she has been raised. Her journey to Babylondon and beyond brings Isis into contact with aspects of the modern world that are rejected by her techno-phobic community and her perspective shines a light on our seemingly normal ‘rituals’ and values, suggesting they might be just as strange as some of those she has grown up with. The real journey though is one of discovery – that her jealous brother has been undermining Isis’ position and that her grandfather, founder of their faith, is a lecherous devil who tries to sexually abuse his grand-daughter. Despite these revelations, Banks depiction of the cult is surprisingly sympathetic – at times more so than his treatment of society at large – and Isis emerges as a genuine and credible example of goodness. There’s a strong moral dimension to the novel that, tellingly, is very distinct from the immoral religious one. As Banks himself has said, Isis comes to recognise the value of community over and above religion and that people not profit are what matters. Unusually for a male author, all of the women in this novel shine, whereas the men are, on the whole, either nasty pieces of work or incredibly shallow. For that alone I give it top marks!