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Lukeozade100

The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks

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It's been a while since I wrote a review here or anywhere but i'll start with the blurb from Amazon;

 

'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.'

 

So this book is something i've often looked at in book shops but never bought, mainly because Iain Banks also writes sci-fi as Iain M Banks and i've read one of those books and it was alright but not really my sought of thing and also because frankly i've always seen other books that i'd prefer. But I was in a small village that had a very small bookshop and I wanted something to read on my journey home and this was the only thing in there not about the village or one of those paperbacks you see in bins that always have the overly elaborate front covers and cost two quid (basically the books my mom reads). So I settled down to read this not really having any idea what to expect other than that it was meant to be pretty dark.

 

And that might be an understatement. It's not dark to the point it's egregious, it is in fact incredibly well written, but I found some parts hard to read (mainly there's a lot of burning dogs and I got a puppy in Easter and I think it's made me overly sensitive to that) and I don't really get uncomfortable ever so that was a real surprise.

 

It's also a very interesting exercise as almost a coming of age style book but with someone who is clearly not a good person, or at least someone who doesn't have the moral boundarys that are required to not be put in prison.

 

It is definitely a page turner and the ending was very clever, but it is a dark dark book and so I hesitate to recommend it to anyone. It won't scare you, it's not like that, but it will make you uncomfortable, and if it doesn't I really expect you to have a wasp factory of your own.

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I read this some years ago, and it was the first Iain Banks I had read at that point. I agree completely with your thoughts on it - a very clever, very dark book with a surprising ending. I particularily remember that the copy I had (borrowed from the library) had the usual review quotes on the inside cover, but it was all negative reviews saying how worthless and horrible the book was!

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I read this some years ago, and it was the first Iain Banks I had read at that point. I agree completely with your thoughts on it - a very clever, very dark book with a surprising ending. I particularily remember that the copy I had (borrowed from the library) had the usual review quotes on the inside cover, but it was all negative reviews saying how worthless and horrible the book was!

 

What a professional way to promote a book :rolleyes::D

 

I read the book some years ago, not really knowing what I was getting into. I don't think I liked it at the time, it was pretty dark as you said, and gross, even. But it's one of those books that keeps haunting me years after reading it, and I've actually acquired a copy of it some time ago because I really want to re-read it, knowing the twist in the end. I want to see what I will make of it knowing the whole deal of the main character and the family.

 

I wouldn't know if I would recommend it to anyone, either, I think it's one of those books that one's either gonna love or hate. It's definitely no ordinary, easy-going story!

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I wouldn't know if I would recommend it to anyone, either, I think it's one of those books that one's either gonna love or hate. It's definitely no ordinary, easy-going story!

 

Have to agree, I'd hesitate to recommend it, but I still think it's his best book so far. Some of his later work leaves a lot to be desired IMHO.

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I t's actually the only Iain Banks book I have read, many years ago when on holiday. Was Ok I thought. But I can't have been hugely impressed as I have not sought out any of his other books since.

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I've recently finished this one and I have to agree with all of the above. I'm still not sure what to make of it, whether I like it or not...but one thing is certain. It's a powerful, well written book which gets under your skin, but sits uncomfortably there. Good ending and it's made me want to read more of his material (I've got some of his sci-fi books but I was left a little underwhelmed by Consider Phlebas).

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This is the review I've just written on amazon which pretty much sums up my thoughts:

 

I think this is the first review I've ever written about a book where I really don't know what to write. I've recently finished The Wasp Factory having only ever read one of Iain Bank's books before (Consider Phlebas, under his sci-fi moniker), and his debut has left me somewhat stunned. Stunned is a strong word, but yet that's what this book is...strong, and in many ways. I don't know whether I loved it or hated it, but one thing's for sure. It's left an impression.

 

By turns both dark, disturbing and daring (especially in the context of when it was published), The Wasp Factory tells us the story of Frank, a boy who appears utterly normal but who lives in his own little world with a moral compass that's clearly not on the same magnetic plane as the rest of us. I was horrified by the book, by the matter-of-fact descriptions of murder and animal cruelty, yet compelled at the same time. And therein lies the strength of the novel. Though you'll be disturbed and perhaps even disgusted, you'll want to find out what exactly the Wasp Factory is, you'll want to see what is in Frank's father's study, and you'll want to see how it ends.

 

The twist caught me completely by surprise and though it added to my sense of confusion (is this just an awful book or a masterpiece, or something in between???), it's somehow fitting. Make no mistake this is a Marmite book, but in my opinion it's worthy of a read even if I'll never revisit it again.

 

Recommended (hesitantly).

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Personally I think it's genius. Very very dark as people have pointed out but everything is so well written and so convincing in its insanity. Its also his best along with The Bridge and Use of Weapons.

 

And the other thing about it is that rereading it is a really good idea. Once you know the twist you can see the really clever way Banks has patterned Frank's thoughts and voice, all the clues you missed. Would definitely be in my top 100 novels of all time.

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And the other thing about it is that rereading it is a really good idea. Once you know the twist you can see the really clever way Banks has patterned Frank's thoughts and voice, all the clues you missed. Would definitely be in my top 100 novels of all time.

 

I agree, I've probably said it in this thread before but I'm looking forward to re-reading the book some day, to see all the things I either missed or misinterpreted. It's still my only Banks though, I should get to reading more books by him.

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I agree, I've probably said it in this thread before but I'm looking forward to re-reading the book some day, to see all the things I either missed or misinterpreted. It's still my only Banks though, I should get to reading more books by him.

 

I recommend The Crow Road, Complicity or The Bridge though The Bridge can be a bit weird for some people so you might want to check out some reviews in case it isn't to your taste.

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I recommend The Crow Road, Complicity or The Bridge though The Bridge can be a bit weird for some people so you might want to check out some reviews in case it isn't to your taste.

 

Thanks! Coincidentally I have both The Crow Road and Complicity on my TBR so I'm definitely going to get to reading them some day.

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I read The Wasp Factory two years ago and find one of youru points striking, the element of oversensitivity to things you normally find that you can read without discomfort.  I found that there were parts I struggled with as of the realism and grittiness of the descriptions.  It was a dark novel but well written so you ended up reading it regardless.

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This was a strange book to read - especially how some of the actions carried out by Frank were explained so matter of factly. When I first read it, I was a bit disappointed by the lack of descriptive language, but thinking about it now, I think a Banks writing style was perfect for the story. It just showed how little empathy Frank had for both animals and humans, making his behaviour all the more unsettling.

 

The twist at the end was done well, and explained a lot about Franks behaviour.

I always wondered what happened to Eric though. Can something like the maggots scene (which I thought was horrifying, I couldn't stop thinking about it!) go so far as to flick a switch in someone's brain? Eric's personality before and after that incident are almost polar opposites, it made me wonder whether Eric was always predisposed to insanity, or if that was a normal reaction to what Eric witnessed - almost sort of regressing into a childlike state. Sounds like a Freudian explanation. :P

 

I don't think its a novel I'll read again, but I think it would be interesting to pick up on the little things throughout the story that hint at Franks secret.

Edited by Angury

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