Books: Pick of the week - Iain Banks Tue Freuds Cafe, Walton St, Oxford

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The Independent Culture
Iain Banks's first novel, The Wasp Factory, was almost a guidebook to grotesque sadism; his other "literary" novels, involving serial killers, random violence, dismemberment and assorted bizarre screwballs, offer similar extreme takes on the world.

His 18th novel, The Business (Little, Brown, pounds 16.99, 12 Aug), which he will read from in Oxford on Tuesday, is less macabre, though, despite the numerous tooth extractions featured in the opening.

The likable Kathryn Telman has risen from an impoverished but entrepreneurial childhood to become an executive at a company referred to only as the Business, a secretive, quasi-democratic organisation, which once owned the Roman Empire.

To get a seat at the UN, the company plans to "buy" a small principality in the Himalayas, and Telman is set the job of softening up the country, which is ruled by Prince Suvinder, who wants to marry her. At the same time, she is investigating a shadowy organisation operating within the Business.

Filled with private jets, powerful cars and slimeball executives, The Business is a fast-paced and highly readable story, thick with moral choices and corporate corruption.

Freuds Cafe, Walton St, Oxford (01865 790212) Tue, 7pm, pounds 3