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Cannonball Read V: The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

By popcultureboy | Book Reviews | October 28, 2013 | Comments ()


waspfactorycover.jpg

When Iain Banks passed away earlier this year, there was naturally a huge outpouring of platitudes for him and his work. I realised that the only book of his I had ever read was Dead Air. And really, I should say tried to read, as I gave up on it a few chapters in, finding it intensely boring. But his debut from 1984 is one of those books that you never hear a bad word about so I gave it a whirl. And yeah. Everyone is RIGHT.

Narrated by sixteen year old Frank and set in a remote Scottish village, this is no ordinary coming of age novel. Abandoned by his mother, his older brother in a mental hospital, Frank whiles away his days with his father by indulging in some delightfully twisted games and rituals. Then word reaches them that Eric, the brother, has escaped from his confinement. Suddenly all bets are off and Frank’s offbeat but somehow cosy existence becomes a lot more fraught.

If you boil it down to its parts, The Wasp Factory is nothing more than a dysfunctional family dealing with the fallout of its own fucked up-ness. Even twenty years ago, that was hardly a groundbreaking story to tell. What set pulses racing then (and now) was both the way Banks tells the story (Frank’s voice is spot on) and the brilliantly macabre detailing and embroidery Banks piles on to the basic plot. I defy anyone to read the description of exactly what it was that sent Eric off the edge of the mental cliff and not be both utterly repulsed and completely awed.

Such jaw dropping moments of brilliance are all over this novel, but I don’t need to tell you that, do I? I imagine, like the rest of the world, you have already read it. Everyone knows what an insane talent Banks was. That he didn’t even make it to sixty years of age is just horribly sad. If you’re one of the few people who hasn’t read this yet, do it. If you have, read it again.

This review is part of the volunteer Cannonball Read V. Read all about it, and for more of popcultureboy’s reviews, check out .

(Note: Any revenue generated from purchases made through the amazon.com affiliate links
in this this review will be donated in entirety to the American Cancer Society.)



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Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • Johnny9

    TWF is garbage. Find a better book to read; TWF is a waste of time, paper and ink.

  • popcultureboy

    Care to elaborate on why you found it to be garbage?

  • Steph

    Great book. The kite thing was particularly disturbing.

  • popcultureboy

    It was the stone cold and straightforward way he laid it all out that got to me the most.

  • llp

    I have not read it, but will soon. Thank you!

  • His_Chiefness

    "the description of exactly what it was that sent Eric off the edge of the mental cliff"

    Yep - probably the only time I have actually felt physically ill while reading a novel.

  • popcultureboy

    It's beyond grim. The "Bad Blood" chapter of Trainspotting still takes the prize for my most visceral reaction to a piece of writing, but this came quite close.

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