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5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful, disturbing debut by Banks
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...
Published on March 26 2002 by N. P. Stathoulopoulos

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Twisted tale of making monsters
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,...
Published on Oct. 26 2001


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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
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
By 
N. P. Stathoulopoulos "nick9155" (Brooklyn, NY) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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. Both novels are in the first-person of someone who is supposedly less than sane, thus offering very graphic yet flatly related and highly descriptive scenes (that naturally wind up shocking us). Both novels offer murdering narrators who share a similar, obsessive style of carrying out their days. (In both books there are scenes of what is pure routine to the narrator--routine but important). In both narrators there is a clear hatred of another people--most notably women. When you read Frank Caulderhame, you can notice the elements that Ellis liked and worked with in Patrick Bateman.
Nevertheless, this is a very fine debut for Banks. It was probably much more shocking back in 1984, but today it retains a distinct voice and all of its scares. Banks has the reader look where most people don't ever want to look, and that's always important and noteworthy if not to everyone's tastes.
Highly recommended modern novel,especially if you like bizarre tales, are an Ellis or American Psycho fan certainly, or just want what has been called one of the "Top 100 Novels of the Century". Believe it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Bizarre study in gender relations, Jan. 25 2002
By 
Anna Bates (Alpena, MI USA) - See all my reviews
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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
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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5.0 out of 5 stars HORRIFYING -- FASCINATING -- COMPELLING, June 23 2001
By 
Larry L. Looney (Austin, Texas USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
The reader might note that, as I enter the fray with my own comments about this controversial novel, there are, below mine, 77 other reviews posted. All of this for a book that many people have never heard of -- one that has obviously stirred radically conflicting feelings and opinions amongst its readers, and which has been both lauded as genius and derided as drivel by its critics. The same could be said of many works that have retained their character and individuality -- and their ability to stir controversy -- for many years after they first appeared.
To state the inescapable conclusion: this book is definitely not everyone's cup of tea. That being said, I think it's also safe to say that, once read, it will never be forgotten.
Iain Banks has produced here, like it or not (and there are few opinions that inhabit the no-man's land between these two extremes), a little masterpiece of psychological horror, and a pretty compellingly-told mystery as well. Even if, as some reviewers maintain, the ending is not a surprise, this novel is still a firghtening, vivid read -- a look into a mind that is twisted (from within and without) to the breaking point, with hell to pay for almost everyone in the general vicinity of the young Frank Cauldhame, Banks' unforgettable protagonist with the very appropriate surname.
Take Golding's LORD OF THE FLIES, Burgess' A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, McGrath's SPIDER, Russell Banks' RULE OF THE BONE -- and any other well-written portrait of alienated and abused youth, and you might have the beginnings of Iain Banks' disturbingly maladjusted Frank, playing out his fantasies of just deserts in his head and in his world. There is unimaginable cruelty at work here -- on and by the youngster at the center of this literary maelstrom. The pace of the story is never rushed, but the reader is incresingly unable to put the book down as it travels unflinchingly to its climax.
Love it or leave it -- it will return to haunt you again and again.
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3.0 out of 5 stars So-so, Jan. 30 2001
After reading an excerpt of Wasp Factory in an anthology, I was pretty excited to buy the book and find out what else it had in store. Although at times it was compelling in terms of painting a scenario, there was something two dimensional about the main character/narrator. Banks seemed to not have a fully realized sense of this narrator, hiding that fact by bombarding us with the extremity of "his" circumstances and actions. Banks described the world of his character at times rather beautifully-- but ultimately that's just being artful and doesn't make the grade to being a truly developed novel. The real difficulty in writing a good novel is that it leaves us with a lasting sense of this fictional person/s. With this I felt like I was coldly observing someone's very dangerous choices (I know the narrator has that detached tone but as a reader I feel I shouldn't have that detachment), and some peripheral family dysfunction that becomes rather montonous. When the big bad secret comes out at the end I was bored and dissatisfied.
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5.0 out of 5 stars This can not be an Ian M. Banks book, Oct. 8 2000
I have not read this book, but I will. My only reason for writng this is that this is supposedly an Ian M. Banks book.
As far as I know this is not an Ian M. Banks book, i.e. its a Ian Banks book.
This means it is a book written by the exact (I hope for his sake) same man, but written in a different tradition. Does that really matter, you may ask. Yes it should, because this is not a science fiction book! Banks write "normal" books under Ian Banks and science fiction under Ian M. Banks; just check the cover on the top of the Amazones page and you will seee that I am right - or the cover is wrong (whatever).
Ian Banks writes science fiction under the name Ian M. Banks. Thats well known. I was lucky enough to hear him talk about his books in Edinburgh a couple of months ago where he got a question about why he uses the M. He told us that it was his publisher who wanted him to use the M. to send a signal to readers that these books were different (science fiction). The M. he explained came from his grandfather who was a miner, and whos name was Banks Mingus, and who at some time had to flee the law. To be sure that he would not be found he switched the names and became Mingus Banks, so thats where the M comes from.
As I have to give it stars I will give it 5. If I am wrong, I will write a new review and recify it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Then he was a she., Aug. 20 2000
By 
S Smyth (Belfast, Co Antrim United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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On a small island, joined to the mainland by a narrow bridge, in a remote part of Scotland Frank Cauldhame is the Laird of his domain. He surrounds himself with his Sacrifice Poles, which he ritualistically adorns with small-animal body parts, and his ultimate contrivance, The Factory, sited in the loft of his father's house. The Factory is made up of a scrapped clock-tower clock face laid flat, and modified to incorporate trap doors leading to an acid bath, a flame pit, and so on. The Factory is safe from his father's interference because Frank's father has a bad leg - the result of being mown down by his determinedly departing ex-wife on her 500cc BSA motorcycle, its petrol tank emblazoned with the Eye of Suaron, a few days after she has given birth to Frank's younger brother, Paul - and can't climb into the loft.
Up to a point Frank is pretty much in control, and, by way of various schemes, kills Paul, his cousin Esmerelda, and another boy, Blythe. The consequences of a phase he was going through, Frank tells us in conjunction with the telling of how he attends to the destruction of a local rabbit colony using catapulted steelies ( ball bearings), and a flame thrower made up from a plastic squeeze-bottle. Frank's only sign of remorse from the rabbit episode is directed towards his catapult, The Black Destroyer, irreparably damaged when he has to club one of the flamed rabbits to death with it, when the injured rabbit tries to attack him. Frank buries The Black Destroyer with the aid of his trowel, Stout Stroke.
And then there's Eric, Frank's older brother, an ex-medical student with a habit of setting animals, mostly dogs, on fire. He's on his way home to the island, a trail of destruction in his wake. But Frank has been forewarned by The Factory, and subsequently, Eric's lunatic phone calls.
The Wasp Factory was the first of Iain Bank's books I read, and re-read recently to see how it compared to the others that I'd read since. It's not quite as polished as his later works, yet demonstrates the power that has become his trademarks: the strong literary drive, and those really articulate descriptions of things and scenes. On the other hand, The Wasp Factory has saddled him with the need to imbue a lot of his output with what can best be described as obligatory horror. For example: The chair in Use of Weapons. The millstone, and cannon scenes in A Song of Stone. With The Business he has managed to break away from this tendency, without any problems that I could see.
The Wasp Factory isn't really a work of horror, but it's streets ahead of most of those who are credited with the writing of such.
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4.0 out of 5 stars You could fit an Alsatian in there!, July 21 2000
By 
mellion108 (Michigan, USA) - See all my reviews
Banks is a literary master. His books are filled with incredible language, humor, suspense and detail. THE WASP FACTORY, narrated by teenaged Frank, is a surreal journey through the mind of a very disturbed boy in an even more disturbed family. Frank tells us of the gruesome measures he has taken to protect the island which he calls home. He also talks about the series of murders he has commmitted, his reserved, eccentric father, his friend, Jamie, the dwarf, and his revered but completely insane older brother Eric. It seems that Eric has escaped the hospital and is making his way back to the family home. We get glimpses into Eric's psyche through phone calls he periodically places to his younger brother.
I know that this novel originally met with a great deal of controversy. It actually seems rather tame in comparison to other slasher/gore novels. However, it is immensely disturbing to read as Frank gets closer and closer to discovering his true self just as Eric gets closer and closer to home. You'll find animal torture and killing in this one. The wasp factory itself is an amazing bit of literary creation; Banks is either warped or a genius (or a warped genius) to have invented this contraption! I liked reading this one. It is at times sad, unsettling, hilarious, numbing....a jumble of emotions to go along with the images and experiences of these characters. If you only know Banks for his science fiction, this is definitely worth checking out. If you haven't read Banks at all, stop depriving yourself of an incredibly talented author!
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5.0 out of 5 stars One heluva whiz bang roller coaster ride, July 9 2000
By 
Jack Krackety (Chiquirikirkitia, Southern Bouganville) - See all my reviews
This book was definetly everything i didn't expect. My South African uncle, who is of British decent as well as an illegal alien recommended this book to me last harvest season. The book's not very engaging in the first 40 pages, but afterwards, you better hold on to your hat. Because this baby's pulling out all the stops and ain't goin' to halt even if you cry for mama.
Iain Banks paints a somewhat absurd, but extremely entertaining portrait of a 17 year old named Frank. I will refrain from speaking about Frank, as anything i say will ruin the plot, which has been crafted with more twists and turns than an expert knot tier sees in a lifetime. The only downside to this book is that it never really captivates females, as it seems a bit male-orientated, which all changes in the end of book.
I've read a few other works by Iain Banks, and this is by far the best. For those of you interested in something a different, and an experience similar to having the top of your skull removed, brains thrown in a blender, set to frappe, and then reinserted into the bloodied, empty cavity, this ones for you. For all you other's out there who want to "play it safe", may i recommend the fine works of Dr. Seuss. Of course green eggs and ham doesn't sound very appetizing after the process described above.
Good day
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