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53 of 57 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Grotesque and yet compelling
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...
Published on 28 Jun 2001 by R. Weir

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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Wasp Factory
It is difficult to generically pigeonhole Iain Banks' debut `The Wasp Factory'. Such labels as `horror', `satire' or `bildungsroman' are inadequate and fail to appreciate the full extent of the novel's dark aesthetic. It has even been slapped with the blanket identifier `Edinburgh Gothic'; a wholly naive and facile attempt to describe a disparate collection of Scottish...
Published on 14 April 2010 by TomCat


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insane but awesome, 24 May 2012
By 
Laura "@ Scattered Figments" (NEATH, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Wasp Factory (Paperback)
The Wasp Factory is a disjointed Bildungsroman which follows the first person protagonist, Frank Cauldhame, a sixteen year old Scottish lad who has had an odd upbringing.

Frank is a character whose proclivities bend towards the violent. He has built his own sort of primitive ideology which he has come to rely upon in a way that he has never been able to rely on his family or his luck. But it's a system which works for Frank far more adequately than any sort of organised religion would.

Frank's father is an introverted, secretive man who has his own peculiarities. He has a fondness for labelling household items with their capacities and measurements, which he tests Frank on instead of indulging in more rational, "normal" conversation. Frank's mother is an absent figure and we see that this (along with Frank's father's distaste) has added to Frank's dislike of the female of the species. This hatred is key to the narrative, but let's not spoil anything for you...

Frank's brother, Eric, is the character who fuels much of the book's conflict. It is his escape from a mental hospital which acts as the inciting incident of the book. Eric's evident instability (brilliantly voiced by Kenny) makes Frank seem more level. Our first person protagonist seems pretty normal next to his brother. I suspect that Banks might have been questioning the common consensus of exactly what "normal" is. After all, many of Frank's little hobbies might seem bizarre because of the way Banks gets his narrator to describe them in an obsessive, almost ideological way.

The plot engaged me in a way that reminded me of the time I read A Clockwork Orange. After reading that particularly insane narrative, I found my brain wandering off and thinking in Burgess' marvellously invented dialect. After reading The Wasp Factory, I find my (evidently impressionable) mind thinking odd thoughts in a Scottish accent. It's not a very good Scottish accent... I'm not very good at accents (no matter what Michael McIntyre says!).

Overall, I loved this book. It is a short read, but it has something about it that demands you only nibble at it and chew on each little mouthful to savour the taste. I can see why it popped up when I asked for recommendations for the boys as I've never read about a character's toilet activities in such detail... is it judgemental for me to chalk that up as something a lad might giggle at? Sorry if it is, but I think Banks made certain aspects of his narrative overtly "male". Frank tries very hard to be seen as a manly man...

I'm not sure my review can do this book justice as I feel reviews shouldn't give too much of the game away. I feel like I could go back to my roots a bit and thoroughly enjoy analysing this book, quotes and bibliography and all! If that isn't praise then I'm not sure what is!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A true classic? Or merely an entertaining read?, 15 July 2009
By 
This review is from: The Wasp Factory (Paperback)
Whilst writing his first novel Iain Banks seems to have resorted to the tried and tested method of trying to illicit shock in order to create an impact. This is unsurprisingly achieved through the cataloguing of various atrocities and other incidences of bizarre and grotesque happenings. One could argue that the excessive violence and gore is pointless. Unlike in other novels it's not used to present a deeper philosophical moral. Yet one cannot dismiss this as simply perverse as throughout the novel runs an undercurrent of an irresistible, maniac humour. Banks never fails to provoke laughter as he details the various unlikely, yet amusing, fates of Frank's unfortunate relatives. This is all derived from an originality and skill that draws you into the mind of Bank's obsessive madman. The Wasp Factory cannot be described as an enlightening and edifying novel. However, it is an entertaining read and guaranteed to satisfy anyone's appetite for the bizarre.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sheer Brilliance, 16 Aug 2006
By 
Mrs. L. Goldie "Loz" (North Berwick, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Wasp Factory (Audio Cassette)
I never imagined a book could be like this. A deep insight into the mind of Frank, a brutish and disturbed child who takes pleasure in causing suffering to innocent animals and the ending of his cousins lives, and how he has learnt to live with the fact his brother is in a Mental Institution. In the way the book is written, by the end it actually makes you feel sorry for Frank. A brilliant read which I have been recommending to all my friends. Well Done Iain Banks.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Black, disturbed, bizarre and amazing, 10 Jun 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Wasp Factory (Paperback)
I was given 'The Crow Road' to read and loved it, so I looked up Iain Banks' other books and the synopsis of this jumped out at me. However that does not do it justice, this is absolute cracker of a book. The character of Frank is quite possibly the best character in any novel I have read, a superlative creation from one of Britain's greatest comtemporary novelists. Banks as ever shows us that what we imagine to be black is merely a shade of grey in his mind. His humour is so dark you feel that you should not find it funny, the plot so twisted you should not care about it's characters but it is so well written you cannot help yourself, this is truly a modern classic.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic, 9 Sep 2003
This review is from: The Wasp Factory (Paperback)
Enter the strange world of Frank. It certainly is an invitation living up to its words on the backside of the book. Frank is weird, he doesn't even exist officially, as his father never registered him after his birth. Many things happened in his life, during his story he tells all the significant details of his life up until then. And when reading them one surprise follows the next, the strange mind of the main character makes for an entertaining book, although you wonder quite often if people like this really exist. Just a quote: "Three. I haven't killed anybody for years now, nor do I intend to kill again. It was just a phase I had to get through." This is a teenager speaking, just to emphasise the weirdness of it. Still this is not a book about murders, nor is it a crime novel. It is about the mind of this youngster, his family, his world. This world is a small peninsula on the Scottish coast. Frank has a brother who competes in absurdness with him, setting fire to pet dogs being a speciality. There is just too much happening, it is very difficult to put the book down. It certainly proves why Banks is one of my favourite authors. It is impossible to actually describe Frank, you just have to read the book to know. One of the best novels by Banks, which says a lot as most of his books are great.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 12 ways for a wasp to meet its maker., 17 Mar 2006
By 
Ms. N. C. Turnill "nickyturnill" (Newcastle, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Wasp Factory (Paperback)
The Wasp Factory is told from the perspective of Frank Cauldhame, a sixteen year old who lives on a tiny and remote Scottish island owned by his reclusive father. Frank does not officially exist. His birth was never registered and he does not attend school. His father lets him run wild in return for his silence about his official non-existence. Frank's life on the island primarily involves the ritualistic killing of small animals. In addition to this he has killed three small children. Two of his cousins and his younger brother. He has cleverly made these killings look like freak accidents and although sometimes he is wracked with guilt because of what he has done, he views the killings as 'necessary experimentation'.
The title of the book comes from the 'Wasp Factory', a home-made machine into which Frank feeds wasps he has captured and sedated overnight in a jar. The wasp enters the factory through an old clock face and then faces one of 12 possible deaths, for example death by drowning in Frank's own urine, by burning alive, by being sliced in two or eaten by the Venus Fly Trap. Frank uses the wasps outcome to predict the future.
Frank uses the wasp factory to tell him about his elder brother 'Eric's' homecoming. Eric escaped from a mental hospital but now he is on his way home to see the family. Running wild across the countryside but calling to update Frank on his progress along the way....
I really enjoyed reading this book. At first I was a little taken aback by the sheer weirdness of it all, although this did draw me in and make me want to keep reading further in order to make sense of it all.
If you do want to read this book you should be aware that it is a little 'sick' to say the least and contains some graphic images of killing. Sheep, rabbits and dogs are burnt alive. Animals are sacrificed and their dried heads displayed to warn away others. For this reason the book is clearly NOT suitable for children and some may be offended by it. For this reason also I have decided to give the book 4 stars.
However, in its defence this is a truly fascinating and obscure read, the characters are interesting and diverse, the setting wild and unusual. The ending is incredibly clever and I certainly didn't see it coming.
It is a relatively short book, around 200-250 pages and it is easy to read throughout. I read it quickly in just a few days.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark but funny, 26 Dec 2013
By 
Mr. P. S. Mcleod "PSM" (Glasgow, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Wasp Factory (Paperback)
Possibly not for everyone, but I really enjoyed this book. The humour is dark, but the story kept my attention throughout.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappoinment, 15 Dec 2013
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This review is from: The Wasp Factory (Kindle Edition)
Heard a lot about this author and this book in particular. Came as something of a disappointment-not so much the violence and the bleakness of it, but the central twist in the tail was not convincing. Was not sure what the book was trying to achieve.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WHAATTT?! Never read anything like it!, 15 Nov 2013
This review is from: The Wasp Factory (Paperback)
A very dark, macabre, insane, unsettling and disturbing book. How do you rate something like this? It certainly can't be described as enjoyable. Then why couldn't I put the damn thing down?! Why did I allow myself to be drawn in to the violence, even as I'm trying to imagine what could possibly drive someone to do such sick things? If I said I thought this book was simply outstanding, what does that say about me? Ah, damn it! enough with the questions. I'm going to rate it 5* and I'll worry about the state of my mental health later!

Iain Banks passed away from cancer in June 2013, aged 59. The Wasp Factory was the Scottish author's first novel and it has become his most famous. A 1997 poll of over 25,000 readers listed The Wasp Factory as one of the top 100 books of the 20th century. It is also included in the 1,001 book challenge. When it was first released, the book was initially greeted with a mixture of acclaim and controversy, due to its gruesome depiction of violence. Banks dealt with the controversy brilliantly however by placing a selection of reviews, good and bad, on the inside cover. The Times Literary Supplement's verdict, "A literary equivalent of the nastiest brand of juvenile delinquency", was proudly displayed alongside The Financial Times' "Macabre, bizarre, and impossible to put down". A reviewer for the Irish Times wrote "It is incomprehensible that a publisher could have stooped to such levels of depravity".

The Wasp Factory is written from a first person perspective, told by sixteen-year-old Frank Cauldhame. Frank is a psychopath. He has a penchant for violence and killing, small animals mostly, but he also killed three younger children before he was ten. As he describes it: "[...] That's my score to date. Three. I haven't killed anybody for years, and I don't intend to ever again. It was just a stage I was going through." Frank's life is dominated by his strict adherence to personal rituals and totems--the wasp factory, built from an old clock face, being the most significant. To Frank, the wasp factory guides him through life. Frank has one surviving half-brother, Eric, whom we are informed is crazy, after experiencing something very unpleasant while working in a hospital. It is Eric's escape from the asylum that precipitates the action of the novel.

This is a brilliant, caustic, breath-taking novel that will not appeal to all. As is evident by critics, this book has scared the bejesus out of some, sickened others and captured fandom of a great many. With respect to the latter, the Wasp factory recently made its debut at the Bregenz Festival in Austria and will be showing at the Royal Opera House in London in October 2013. Yes, you've read right, it has been transformed into gripping music theatre.

If you have a tolerance for violence and madness, I urge you to read this book. If for nothing else, the twist in its tail is simply fantastic.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not really my type of read., 31 Oct 2013
By 
Amazon Customer "John" (Oswaldtwistle near Accrington, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Wasp Factory (Kindle Edition)
After reading the book I can’t say whether I liked it or not, I don’t like cruelty to animals not even to spiders so on that point I hated it, but the rest of the story was well written and explains how two brothers became so disturbed, there’s some dark humorous bits so that kept me reading. I will purchase another book of Iain Banks but try to find one without animals in it.
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The Wasp Factory
The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks (Paperback - 1 April 1992)
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