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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. Well, that and his name was often circulated with the likes of Ian Rankin, Walter Scott, Irvine Welsh, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, etc. as one of the pillars of Scottish literature. The book I kept hearing about (as a starter) was The Wasp Factory, so...
Published 10 months ago by Troy Parfitt

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Cobblers
The reviews that are emblazoned across the opening pages of this book are both good and bad. The one constant in all of them, however, is the use of words such as "grotesque" and "sadistic". I can only help but think that printing all the reviews is a ploy by the publishers to intrigue would-be buyers into finding out just how depraved this book is. Of all the...
Published on Aug. 3 2000 by moosifier


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5.0 out of 5 stars (Eventually) Brilliant, Sept. 9 2013
By 
Troy Parfitt "Why China Will Never Rule the W... (Canada) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Wasp Factory (Paperback)
I never heard of Iain Banks until I moved to Scotland. In Scotland, several people recommended I read him. Well, that and his name was often circulated with the likes of Ian Rankin, Walter Scott, Irvine Welsh, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, etc. as one of the pillars of Scottish literature. The book I kept hearing about (as a starter) was The Wasp Factory, so I decided to start there. For a while, I didn't know what to make of it. The (fictional?) island the protagonist Frank lived on was not far from Edinburgh, so I had little trouble imagining the setting, but I found Frank's rituals (bombing things, burning things, killing animals, etc.) disturbing and boring. The comedic bits seemed to fail. I thought about giving the novel up. However, I kept going and realized the story was a bizarre work of genius. It's amazing the writer also kept going; certainly most would have thought, "No, this is too out there," and abandoned the project. What is The Wasp Factory about? It's difficult to say. Essentially, it's about Frank, a troubled young man whose father has not registered his birth and has schooled him at home. Frank is clever, but sinister. He is also insane. So is his brother Eric, who has been institutionalized. Madness, it seems, runs in the family. Frank admits to homicide (early in the novel; and the back-cover copy tells you this) and you wonder if Diggs, the local cop, will ever put together that Frank is a killer. Or is Diggs only concerned about Eric, who has escaped from the mental ward? Questions form and Banks artfully answers them, but not in ways the reader could predict. Once I realized there was method to Banks's madness, I got stuck into this read. It's well-written; hard to believe it was the author's first.

Unfortunately, while I was reading The Wasp Factory, Iain Banks died.

Troy Parfitt is the author of Why China Will Never Rule the World
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Cobblers, Aug. 3 2000
The reviews that are emblazoned across the opening pages of this book are both good and bad. The one constant in all of them, however, is the use of words such as "grotesque" and "sadistic". I can only help but think that printing all the reviews is a ploy by the publishers to intrigue would-be buyers into finding out just how depraved this book is. Of all the reviews on show, The Times is the most accurate when it describes this first novel from Scottish author Iain Banks as "rubbish".
The gist of the story is that Frank is a 16 year old boy living with his father on an otherwise uninhabited Scottish island. Frank is unusual in that he does not officially exist and has made a habit of killing other children in his recent past. Frank is obsessive about his island defences as well as his routines and of-course, his fascination with death. Added to the story are the unusual father, a mad older brother, a dwarf called Jamie, policeman Diggs and Mrs. Clamp. All are odd and all, except Diggs, are in the story to add a degree of non-normality. Mrs. Clamp, as far as I can tell is only present so that Frank can think about how easy it would be to lock her in the freezer.
The book is aimed to shock. At its release in 1984 it caused quite a stir. As one of the reviews notes, there is no label for this book. It is not a horror because the author makes light of any possible situation in a way that leaves the "horror factor" to a minimum . It is not a psychological novel because there is not enough depth to the issues of the mind. Instead the author goes somewhere between the two, leaving the reader with a confused piece of work that is too unbelievable to ever frighten and far too simple to make the reader think.
At the end of this novel there is a short chapter entitled "What happened to me". This is the final nail in the coffin as Banks proceeds to tell the reader why Frank did the things he did. I personally would have preferred to sit back and come to my own conclusions, whether they are right or wrong. I do not appreciate having things explained to me. That to my mind is a sign of weakness on the part of the author. I think it shows that an author believes in their own mind that they have not expressed themselves well enough in the story. That is akin to failure and "The Wasp Factory" certainly fails.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Instant debut classic, Aug. 12 2009
By 
A. Mabley (Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Wasp Factory (Paperback)
WOW...that's basically how I can sum up this book. It was awesome and completely exceeded my expectations. I have this habbit of reading one star reviews of books before I buy them. Reason being, it tends to lower my expectations just a little bit. In the case of 'The Wasp Factoy' there were a lot of mixed feelings, so I wasn't sure what to expect, but what I got was definitely better than I had imagined. For this being Banks' first novel I have to say he hit it outta the park. The way he describes things in such vivid detail makes you feel like you are there on the island with this disfunctional (small) family. If I start going into detail about the plot I could go on for pages, not only that, it's hard to describe the plot without giving away the ridiculously smart and shocking ending. In a nutshell it's about a killer without a conscience and I find it to be a very beautiful novel and plan to read it again in the near future. If you like surprise endings then you will love this book. Pick it up, you won't regret it!!!
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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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3.0 out of 5 stars Crass yet Captivating, Oct. 3 2011
This review is from: The Wasp Factory (Hardcover)
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. Banks's descriptions weren't as macabre as I was expecting, but I continually found myself thinking "what kind of twisted mind thought up this obscure story line?"

"The Wasp Factory" has a very unique feeling; as if you've just picked up at a random, although somewhat monumental, moment in "Frank's" life, and then end off almost as arbitrarily. Of course it has a continual story running through it (Eric) but almost everything that happens has little to do with furthering the plot in any way. You just get to know dysfunctional, but somehow likeable, Frank.

All things considered I hardly know how many stars to give this book, and for that strange quality alone, it may just be worth reading.
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4.0 out of 5 stars You are cooking them, aren't you ?, May 9 2007
This review is from: The Wasp Factory (Paperback)
Iain Banks was born in Scotland in 1954 and published his first book - "The Wasp Factory" - in 1984. In the years since, he's won critical acclaim, topped best-seller lists and has even written Science Fiction books under the cunning nom-de-plume 'Iain M. Banks'.

Frank Cauldhame is sixteen yeras old and hasn't quite had what you'd call a typical upbringing. In fact, he doesn't officially exist : Frank was never registered, has no birth certificate, no passport and no national insurance number. The upside is that, as a result, he's never had to attend school - though he was educated at home by his father. (Angus, Frank's father, did occasionally embellish parts of the curriculem - for example, Frank believed for a time that there was a character called Fellatio in "Hamlet"). Angus is a scientist : the discipline is never clearly identified, though he does appear to be involved in the biomedical sector. These connections have also apparently allowed Angus to provide for Frank's medical needs - despite his son's official non-existance. (These needs were increased at an early age, following a devastating encounter with a dog). Angus' study is strcitly off-limits to Frank and is permanently locked - though Frank is determined to make it inside someday.

The pair are pretty comfortable, whatever it is Angus does for a living. They live on a small island, just off the coast of Portneil in Scotland. Frank never knew his mother, Angus' second wife, as she left shortly after he was born. (Apparently, she didn't care much for children). It's probably lucky for her that she didn't stick around : Frank has turned into a very strange kid whose values and beliefs don't really overlap with those held by 'normal' society. He's very fond of general destruction and killing - so far, he's dispatched two cousins, one brother and various animals. (He's yet to be caught out). He is also very inventive and has essentially created his own belief system - involving a Wasp Factory, some Sacrifice Poles and the Bunker (a pillbox on the beach, a relic from the Second World War). He also has his own name for various parts of the island, depending on what he's done there - for example, the Snake Park, Black Destroyer Hill and the Bomb Circle.

The events of "The Wasp Factory" take place over a couple of days - beginning with the news that Eric, Frank's half-brother, has escaped form hospital. (Eric was committed several years earlier, for setting dogs on fire). The book sees Frank looking back over hsi life, in the build-up to Eric's expected return. This isn't something that causes Frank any great amount of stress, despite the fact that Eric clearly still isn't firing on all thrusters. (Frank's is more than a match for his brother : the worrying this is that he sees himself as being the "somebody sane who still likes" Eric.) Unsurprisingly, the book can be a little gruesome at times and it isn't one I'd recommend if you're feeling a little queasy. However, if you're feeling up to a challenge, it's certainly well worth reading !
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5.0 out of 5 stars Glad I found it., June 9 2002
By 
Alan Papka "nassic" (Louisville, Kentucky) - See all my reviews
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. It is a fantastic piece of literature, especially for teens and twenty-somethings.
It's about a boy, the feeling that he's missing something, and his "adventures" in finding out his truth in a completely different manner than books like Catcher in the Rye.
Bizarre, twisted, and great beyond measure. I have a new found love for Scottish literature.
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5.0 out of 5 stars banks best by far, May 10 2002
By 
simon gurney (london United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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.
on the strength of this book many have plowed through banks other fiction, but this is deservadley a cult classic.
every plot device works to beat a frenzy toward the end of dark malicious humour and a delicious sting in the tale.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing...not for the faint of heart, March 30 2002
By A Customer
This is the first book by Iain Banks and the only one I've read. It is graphically violent and disgustingly twisted. It describes murders of young children and torture of small animals. And in all of this it manages to be a very captivating novel with an air of mystery that only resovles itself at the end of the book. Narrated by a psychopathic 16 year old boy, Banks takes the reader on a tour of a family with a psychotic past, a town where no one's dog is ever safe, and the mind of a killer. In the final chapters, the book switches it's focus, and the lines are blurred between victim and torturer. Because of the graphic descriptions of terrible acts (massacre of a group of rabbits, burning of dogs, the sight that drove Eric crazy) 'The Wasp Factory is not for everyone. But if you can wade through the blood and stomach the descriptions, you will end up with a story that will disturb and shake up your beliefs.
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4.0 out of 5 stars CULT CLASSIC, March 29 2002
By A Customer
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.
Very good with a great twist that has become a hallmark Banks' novels.
Not for animal lovers.
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