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Iain Banks – The Wasp Factory

Title: The Wasp Factory
Author: Iain Banks
Year: 1984

Before reading The Wasp Factory I was thoroughly convinced that Iain Banks was a skilled author and, even though some books did not suit me very well, he could definitely write books (Look to Windward and Player of Games are still favourites of mine). But what about his non-science-fiction books? And what about written 25 years ago? Still wonderful, it turns out!

The Wasp Factory is set on a small island where the teenager Frank lives, secluded from the rest of the world with only a few neighbours and his somewhat eccentric father for company. Frank has developed an intricate system of mysterious symbols and rituals on the island, placing the skulls of animals he has killed to ward of enemies. He also consults his Wasp Factor, which can tell him important things about the future. As the story begins, the future seems to have something to do with Frank’s mentally ill brother, who has escaped from the mental hospital and is now on his way back to the island.

There are several reasons why I think this novel is brilliant. First, the story is told entirely from Frank’s viewpoint, which is credible, interesting and fascinating in almost every respect, from his descriptions of his rituals to his casual attitude towards killing people (to which he refers to as only a stage he was passing through). His relationship to his brother and father is also highly unusual and further adds value. As if this weren’t enough, the story itself is also good, although it is perhaps the least important of the merits I mention here.

Do I recommend The Wasp Factory? That depends on who you are. I recommend it to readers who are like myself (otherwise I wouldn’t have given it the four and a half snails it deserves), but I’m a bit hesitant to issue a general recommendation. The violence in this novel is explicit and casual, depicted with an obvious sense of dark humour. If the reader is not on the same wavelength as the author, this book will be a horrible read. However, I and Iain Banks are definitely on the same wavelength and I will continue reading his books!

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  1. Svante’s avatar

    Fan, nu påminner du mig om att jag måste läsa Banks någon gång (typ den här eller Player of Games). Och jag som har bokhyllan full av oläst …