0253 | The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

Context: Was reading this as we attended a wedding in Somerset. Someone had made a great model of the couple for the cake.

This is a rare book in that inside the front cover, the publisher has included some comments from reviews of the book. What makes them unique as far as I can tell is that this book has negative reviews. There are reviews telling us not to bother reading it, that it’s distasteful and not worth our efforts. I can only think that by mixing these in with those eulogising it, the publisher is attempting some form of reverse pyschology. Anyway, I was halfway through it before I realised, but even by that point, I understood the reason for the mixed reviews.

This is the story of a person who has created their own world within a world created for them by their father. It’s a claustrophobic novel told in the first person deep down in the thoughts of Frank, an obsessive who has punctuated his life with superstitious ritual. These rituals involve the death of large numbers of animal and insect life, often in gruesome ways. I can’t imagine any vegetarians liking this one.

Quite why Frank feels this is all necessary is never explained. It just is. Frank’s got a brother, Eric who is quite patently insane and has been shipped away somewhere. He escapes from this somewhere near the start of the novel and gradually gets closer to home as the novel progresses. The climax, when it comes, is a bit strange. In fact, the whole thing’s a bit strange.

Banks has included a twist at the end which isn’t too hard to anticipate and having delivered this, the novel limps to a brief and altogether premature end. Anyone frustrated by Banks’ decision not to explore the issues in a more humane way should read a novel which I will hide because knowing it would give away the twist. If you want to see the novel I’d recommed click show

I didn’t think it was terrifically well-written. If you’re a fan of McEwan, you’d feel at home with the style. And it probes people’s psyche like McEwan does too. But I wasn’t overly keen on my first Iain Banks. Maybe I’ll like The Crow Road better.

I had been making the rounds of the Sacrifice Poles the day we heard my brother had escaped.

Poor Eric came home to see his brother, only to find (Zap! Pow! Dams burst! Bombs go off! Wasps fry: ttssss!) he’s got a sister.


Key: Legacy | Plot / toPic | Characterisation / faCts | Readability | Achievement
Read more about how I come up with my ratings

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