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The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
Member Name: bilbobaginz
The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
Date: 12/12/12, updated on 12/12/12 (65 review reads)
Advantages: Story, characters, ending!
Disadvantages: A tad short.
After a childhood fraught with abnormality, his lack of identity, the unfortunate incident with Old Saul, Eric, the separate and inventive murders of Paul, Esmeralda and Blythe, Frank (16) remains the sane one - that he is utterly convinced. Living with his father, posing as his uncle, Frank lives a wholly strange and self-expressive lifestyle unlike any other...
Frank spends his days managing and maintaining a deep shamanistic ritual which dominates his life. Sacrifice poles are positioned around the small Island on the Scottish coast where he lives, decorated with the bones of slain creatures and the remains of captured insects. All around the island are places of great importance, areas where significant things have happened - deaths and attacks. 'The Skull Grounds', the 'Bunker' where he used to play, all now linked into the system that is his life. Perhaps the most important entity he owns though, is something buried in mystery (and misery) which the reader knows little of for the majority of the book. It's the 'Factory', a seemingly mechanical thing locked in the loft (away from fathers influence) which can be tinkered with, and which has levers and numbers.
Frank has one friend, Jamie, and one (remaining) brother, Eric. The former a friendly dwarf of about the same age as he (who he enjoys being normal with - drinking, watching bands in the local towns pubs), and the latter a deranged mad-man of a few years senior, someone who takes centre stage in Frank's life, someone he admires and fears, and someone who is coming closer and closer to home all the while. Eric's past is explained in full quite far into the book (and it goes far deeper than you might have thought), but the general background to his character is one filled with burning dogs, eating maggots, and taking drugs - he is a 'loony', unstable, late teen who is supposed to be in a mental hospital.
The three murders which Frank commits all happen prior to the books setting, and all before the fictional character reaches his 10th birthday. Paul, his younger brother, he kills because he feels the child will grow to become dangerous as a adult. This, a theory linked into Franks 'religion' and the tellings of the Factory. Cousin Blythe is killed because of what he did to Franks pet rabbits one summer when he and his parents were visiting the island. Esmeralda, another cousin of Frank's, was killed too, but after the final death, Frank gave up on the idea of killing, effectively retiring from it (at age 10!). All three die in incredibly strange, intellectually thought-out ways which you can tell Banks had fun creating - I won't spoil anything here (but see my title for a hint of one). The deaths are significant, they tie into the story well and help to form some of the blue-print for his unusual ways!
The Wasp Factory is a first person horror which resides its reader to the mind of Frank, and gradually lets you into his ritualistic present, and saddened, disturbing past. As you learn of the 16-year old and all of his unorthodox ways, you have to almost stop yourself from latching onto his logic, residing to his reasoning. He is so convincing, the way he thinks so realistic, that you don't (a lot of the time) question his sanity, you go along with it. It is only remembrance of the brutal, personal, 'necessary' deaths, and (to a lesser extent) the nonsensical, time consuming traditions he has accumulated, that you stop yourself from falling for his subtle charm.
I really enjoyed Iain Banks' first work. I have now read four of his Sci-Fi books, and this is first of his 'M'-less stuff I've read. I have to say, it is very different, but it is also very good. Though short and simple, the plot keeps the pages turning, and elements of dark humour mixed with excellent dialogue make the story even more appealing. The ending is exceptional, and the book deserves to be as highly thought of as it is. A highly recommendable read!
PRICE: £4.95 (paper back)
AVAILABILITY: amazon.co.uk (for price above) FREE DELIVERY
Summary: Dark and upsetting in places, a deeply enthralling read from my new favourite write, Iain Banks.