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The Wasp Factory [Paperback]

Iain M. Banks
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 19 2009

Frank, no ordinary sixteen-year-old, lives with his father outsIde a remote Scottish village. Their life is, to say the least, unconventional. Frank's mother abandoned them years ago: his elder brother Eric is confined to a psychiatric hospital; and his father measures out his eccentricities on an imperial scale. Frank has turned to strange acts of violence to vent his frustrations. In the bizarre daily rituals there is some solace. But when news comes of Eric's escape from the hospital Frank has to prepare the ground for his brother's inevitable return - an event that explodes the mysteries of the past and changes Frank utterly.

Iain Banks' celebrated first novel is a work of extraordinary originality, imagination and horrifying compulsion: horrifying, because it enters a mind whose realities are not our own, whose values of life and death are alien to our society; and compulsive, because the humour and compassion of that mind reach out to us all.


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"I had been making the rounds of the Sacrifice Poles the day we heard my brother had escaped. I already knew something was going to happen; the Factory told me."

Those lines begin one of the most infamous of contemporary Scottish novels. The narrator, Frank Cauldhame, is a weird teenager who lives on a tiny island connected to mainland Scotland by a bridge. He maintains grisly Sacrifice Poles to serve as his early warning system and deterrent against anyone who might invade his territory.

Few novelists have ever burst onto the literary scene with as much controversy as Iain Banks in 1984. The Wasp Factory was reviled by many reviewers on account of its violence and sadism, but applauded by others as a new and Scottish voice--that is, a departure from the English literary tradition. The controversy is a bit puzzling in retrospect, because there is little to object to in this novel, if you're familiar with genre horror.

The Wasp Factory is distinguished by an authentically felt and deftly written first-person style, delicious dark humor, a sense of the surreal, and a serious examination of the psyche of a childhood psychopath. Most readers will find that they sympathize with and even like Frank, despite his three murders (each of which is hilarious in an Edward Gorey fashion). It's a classic of contemporary horror. --Fiona Webster --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Review

One of the most brilliant first novels I have come across. DAILY TELEGRAPH Read it if you dare. DAILY Express A brilliant book, barmy and barnacled with the grotesque. New Statesman A Gothic horror story of quite exceptional quality...macabre, bizarre and...quite impossible to put down FINANCIAL TIMES

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I HAD BEEN making the rounds of the Sacrifice Poles the day we heard my brother had escaped. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Twisted tale of making monsters Oct. 26 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I purchased this book based on how often it was recommended in the listmanias; I found this short novel both captivating and demented. The story is a first person narrative on a rather dysfunctional family located away from the general flow of humankind. The reader is presented with the thought processes and lifestyle of a sixteen year old murderer whose existence, beliefs and actions revolve around a childhood trauma; Banks does a fine, graphic, job of showing the results of that trauma. The story twists and turns, leaving you gaping at the end; the horror is in the believability that it exists. This is worth a reread just to see how Banks prepares the shocks and surprises. You'll definitely get the willies from this tale of madness.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful, disturbing debut by Banks March 26 2002
Format:Paperback
The jacket of the book alone--which is reprinted by Amazon here--was enough to get me to pick this novel up. A teenage boy who once went through "a phase" of murdering others gives us a peek into his mind in this incredible debut by Scotsman Banks.
The narrator, Frank, is not your average teenager. Not by a long shot. There doesn't seem to be a normal person in his entire family--or what's left of it. An obsessive father with more than his share of issues, an insane brother who has escaped and is returning home, a multitude of bizarre aunts and uncles, a flaky, irresponsible mother, oh, and a brother and two cousins that he killed.
Frank describes the murders in great detail, and also gives us a serious justification for them, all the while mentioning his sanity like it's a given fact. But compared with what is around him, Frank is far from the worst. Isolated on a small island connected to a town via bridge, Frank doesn't officially exist on record. The island is his hunting ground, and he has grown into a large child, complete with even more elaborate games and rituals he can play and perform alone.
It's difficult and perhaps unnecessary to note the lengthy plot, because this is a page turner, though it doesn't present itself as such right away. This is a careful novel that takes it time and reveals it's secrets at an excellent pace. And it has quite a few surprises for the reader.
Personally, I found this novel to be a tremendous influence on Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho. I can't recall from the interviews I've read from him, but Ellis must have read this book and read it well before or during his crafting of American Psycho.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Bizarre study in gender relations Jan. 25 2002
Format:Paperback
This book begins like many horror novels. It's a confessional by a teenage boy about murders he committed as a young child. Frank Cauldhame describes his crimes in detail amid explanations for his own apparent psychosis and that of his older brother Eric, who has escaped from a mental hospital. Frank also describes the bizarre liturgy that he devised using carcasses of small animals to project himself off the island where he lives and into the heads of other people, including his brother. There isn't a normal person in his family. His unmarried father is an obsessive/compulsive physician and his absent mother a motor-biking flower child. Early on he proclaims his worst enemies to be "...Women and the Sea. These things I hate. Women because they are weak and stupid and live in the shadow of men and are nothing compared to them, and the Sea because it has always frustrated me...." Several women and men are introduced throughout the novel with appropriate gender commentary on all. Though a page-turner, the novel's ending is a let-down, almost anticlimatic after the grisly descriptions in earlier chapters. It's worth reading, though, and thoroughly chilling.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Wasp Factory : A Novel Aug. 14 2001
Format:Paperback
Every good book can be defined within the perimeters of three categories - a major classic (example The Old Man and The Sea), a minor classic (example - On The Road) and just a good book. I will put this book in the third category. This does not mean I am trying to say its poorly written or anything like that - I just want to mention the fact that it's a good book but not a classic. When I was comparing this book with "Catcher in the Rye" - there are certain marked similarities between the characters of Holden and Frank (the main character of this book) - this similarity may just have been a coincidence but still this fact cannot be overlooked. Iain Banks has brilliant grip over the prose and brilliant narrative capacities. So while reading the book you will enjoy immensely. I feel once you start it - it's hard to stop till you have finished. The book deals with the adolescent agonies of a teenager - battered between the egos and whims of his family. Its deals with the dream world of this kid who tries to give expression to his own world through various rituals, acts of brutality and destructiveness but cannot find an answer to the mysteries which keep on teasing him from his childhood. Sometimes he finds solace in vengeance and sometimes acts of pure dream but he is never stupid. The acts of violence in this book never seem to be real - at least to me, non the less they are quite innovative. There is a final twist but that is also not quite realistic like the twists of O' Henry and Saki. I feel the twist he has used in the final chapter could have only served the purpose in a short story but not a novel. Finally the plot of the story (in my opinion) is not worthy of a novel - rather a short story would have been better. So after all these you may have the question why I gave it four stars - well it's a real nice book to read - some of portions are hilarious.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A thoroughly enjoyable read
Delivery was fast and the book itself was really enjoyable, original and engaging.
Published 2 days ago by Trevor Strathdee
5.0 out of 5 stars (Eventually) Brilliant
I never heard of Iain Banks until I moved to Scotland. In Scotland, several people recommended I read him. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Troy Parfitt
3.0 out of 5 stars Crass yet Captivating
I couldn't put it down, but I couldn't say that I loved it either. This is one of those rare books that finds a way to fascinate and disgust you at the same time. Read more
Published on Oct. 3 2011 by Eternal Decree
5.0 out of 5 stars Instant debut classic
WOW...that's basically how I can sum up this book. It was awesome and completely exceeded my expectations. Read more
Published on Aug. 12 2009 by A. Mabley
4.0 out of 5 stars You are cooking them, aren't you ?
Iain Banks was born in Scotland in 1954 and published his first book - "The Wasp Factory" - in 1984. Read more
Published on May 9 2007 by Craobh Rua
5.0 out of 5 stars Glad I found it.
I came across this book by accident, finding it at work one night. In about four hours, I had the book read. I read it again the next morning. Read more
Published on June 9 2002 by Alan Papka
5.0 out of 5 stars banks best by far
one of the few books which can stand up to rereading. the black humour and twisted original plot are never equaled unfortunately in banks subsequent work. Read more
Published on May 10 2002 by simon gurney
4.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing...not for the faint of heart
This is the first book by Iain Banks and the only one I've read. It is graphically violent and disgustingly twisted. Read more
Published on March 30 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars CULT CLASSIC
This probably would have been better as a short story or novella - hence sometimes you feel like Banks is padding out as if this was an English assignment. Nevermind. Read more
Published on March 29 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping yet somehow suble....
Out of my cardboard oatmeal box which I use to randomly draw the next title I will be reading, I luckily chose The Wasp Factory to be my next endeavor. Read more
Published on Jan. 20 2002 by Bryan W. Akers
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