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The Wasp Factory Hardcover – 5 Jul 2001

445 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown; New edition edition (5 July 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316858560
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316858564
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.3 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (445 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 664,009 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Iain Banks came to widespread and controversial public notice with the publication of his first novel, The Wasp Factory, in 1984. He gained enormous popular and critical acclaim for both his mainstream and his science fiction novels. Iain Banks died in June 2013.

Product Description


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

Read it if you dare. (DAILY Express)

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

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

Book Description

* Hardcover reissue of Iain Banks' momentous first novel, published in 1984.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 68 people found the following review helpful By R. Weir on 28 Jun. 2001
Format: Paperback
Having read some of Banks' SF, and then started reading his fiction as well, I still shied away a little from reading "The Wasp Factory". It says much that the bad reviews as well as the good are included on the sleeve, and while it may sometimes not seem as extreme as you might have been lead to believe that's more through the changes to our society and what is now considered acceptable in a work of fiction.
The story focuses on Frank, a 16 year old living with his father on a small Scottish island, part of possibly the ultimate dysfunctional family - all of whom seem to be to varying degrees insane. As Frank's horrific history is revealed, there's the prospect of an even more horrific future as his brother - lately escaped from a secure hospital - makes his way back for a visit....
Much of what you may have heard about this book is true. There are horrors upon horrors, it goes all out to shock at some points, and is definately not for the squeamish. The fact that it doesn't descend to being yet another trashy horror shocker is entirely due to the quality of the writing and Banks' unique way of hooking his readers so that one simply has to carry on and find out exactly what it is that he has planted the seeds of. There is much (very) dark humour in some of Frank's descriptions of the events he has participated in, and throughout there's the blackly comic undercurrent of Frank's assumption that he is in fact the only sane one in his family - despite all the evidence to the contrary.
Much is said about "the twist" and the brilliance of it, but I found it not nearly as startling as some others seem to have, and in fact it ends in an almost tame way - albeit, as with many a good yarn, with an open-endedness that allows you to think about what may follow.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Some Bloke on 24 May 2006
Format: Paperback
It's a horror story but doesn't rely just on the blood and guts to shock. There's a heavy psychological aspect to this book. What amazed me is that it's Banks' first, and shows the difference between a developing skill and sheer writing ability that makes the rest of us puke with jealousy.

Writing in the first person like we're all told never to do, Banks creates this remote world where the central character, clearly rather unhinged, spends his insular life committing brutalities towards animals. It seems important, and the only thing that isn't met with disdain and suspicion.

His disjointed life in remote Scotland has centred around this and three successful, pointless murders he's acheived.

Banks creats the character excellently and builds their world and their mindset in clear demonstration. Personally I equate deliberate cruelty to animals with perversion, but identified well with Frank despite his actions. Banks makes it a page turner, he brings every expression and event to life, and it's a thoroughly enjoyable tale.

A massive twist at the end, I didn't see it coming, some readers do. The sickness runs right through this book. It seems to me the product of a sick and depraved mind, who also happens to be a genius.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By JK TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 3 Jan. 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
The Wasp Factory was originally published in 1984 and was the first novel by Ian Banks.

Told in the first person by key character 16 year old Frank Cauldhame, a thoroughly disturbed and sick young man, Frank has spent his life on a small island isolated from most of the rest of the world.

'The Wasp Factory' is Frank's account of his childhood and an insight into a series of weird and wonderful torture/murder rituals he invents as a way of predicting the future of the island and the weaponry he makes to keep it protected.

Some of the torture/murder scenes are visceral and completely over the top. They stand out from the rest of the narrative like jagged glass. They're shocking and that's the point but; I found the animal brutality incredibly hard to read and stay with. Made me cringe.

On the other hand what I enjoyed about the novel was the concept of a crazy boy living in glorious isolation and making 'magic' with an old clock face. Reeks of Gothic horror and those elements come into their own when Frank's older brother, Eric, escapes 'the asylum' and begins a journey back to the island.

There are some real gems and in places the atmosphere crackles with tension unfortunately; most of the book is flat and grey. Only the 'horror' makes the novel remarkable but it's also the horror that makes it almost unbearable.

I'm leaving 3* because the reading experience was so difficult. Would I recommend?. Only to those looking for the surreal who aren't easily offended.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 25 Aug. 1999
Format: Paperback
My introduction to the wonderful world of Iain Banks came a couple of years ago when someone recommended I read The Wasp Factory - it has stuck in my mind as the most memorable book I have ever read since then. It was recommended by a friend, with much giggling and raising of eyebrows - I assume in anticipation of my shock and horror at its contents. Shocked and horrified at The Wasp Factory? Never! Delighted, amazed and over-awed at such wit and clever writing is more how I would describe my reaction to this perfect piece of literature. I went on to read every other book by Mr Banks I could get my hands on and even though I have enjoyed every one of them, I don't remember any of them with as much fondness as I do The Wasp Factory (the closest I have come is with The Crow Road and Whit). I agree that maybe anyone who has led too sheltered a lifestyle may be a little perturbed by the detailing of Frank's more-than-a-little warped personality, but if you read the book without any previous misgivings (hard to do I know) and try to keep an open mind and your sense of humour, you should be pleasantly surprised. (The exception to this rule may be my Mum (sorry Mum) who gave up halfway through as she just didn't "get it" - but that's Mums for you!).
Give it a go, you really don't know what you're missing.
.... And anyone who reads the back page of a book first should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves!
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