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The Wasp Factory Paperback – Mar 19 2009

4.2 out of 5 stars 85 customer reviews

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The Wasp Factory
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus (March 19 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349101779
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349101774
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.7 x 19.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 200 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 85 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #175,227 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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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.


A Gothic horror story of quite exceptional quality...macabre, bizarre and...quite impossible to put down―FINANCIAL TIMES

Read it if you dare.―DAILY Express

One of the most brilliant first novels I have come across.―DAILY TELEGRAPH

A brilliant book, barmy and barnacled with the grotesque.―New Statesman

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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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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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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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Format: 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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