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54 of 58 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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14 of 16 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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54 of 58 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Grotesque and yet compelling, 28 Jun 2001
By 
R. Weir "pooliealbatross" (Liverpool, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Wasp Factory (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.
Not a book for everyone by any means, and maybe not as fulfilling a read as some of his later works (especially Complicity) but nonetheless an absorbing, grotesque, horrifying, captivating novel.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark, depraved brilliance., 24 May 2006
This review is from: The Wasp Factory (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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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Wasp Factory: Iain Banks, 19 Nov 2002
This review is from: The Wasp Factory (Paperback)
...This is one of the best debut novels I have come across in some years now. It is obsessive, gory, cruel, repellent and gut churningly unsettling. Yet you will also find examples of brilliant dialogue, dark humour, surrealism, and writing of extraordinary clarity and attention to detail. The only thing this book lacks is purpose - the thought that these ideas were simply floating around the authors mind is a worrying one. This book will no doubt encompass some of your worst nightmares and lay them out clearly for you on the page. I strongly advise people with delicate stomachs and people who are easily offended to avoid perusing the pages of this book. You cannot love this book due to the violence and gore it contains. But you will enjoy it, you will be repulsed in parts, you will want to read more, and you will develop an immediate respect for the author. A courageous smack on the nose for literature as we knew it.
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83 of 94 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark and mysterious, 22 July 2006
By 
J.R.Hartley (NW England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
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This review is from: The Wasp Factory (Paperback)
I first read this book about 8 years ago and have since read it several times as the brilliance and originality of it make it a rewarding read. That's not to say it's a happy book because it most certainly isn't. The Wasp Factory is a darkly twisted first person narrative of Frank, a profoundly disturbed teenager whose principle sources of entertainment are torturing animals and bumping off unwanted cousins. And we're not just talking about incinerating ants with a magnifying glass or a bread knife in the back, we are talking DIY flamethrowers, bombs, kites, snake venom and The Wasp Factory - a device of psychopathic genius.

I've never read another book like this and to be honest I'm not sure I want to. Frank's simple yet warped logic is brilliantly explained by the author and gives the reader a new way of seeing the world and seeing connections between seemingly unconnected events that were never obvious before until you've taken a trip in Frank's mind.

Banks isn't renowned for subtlety and that charge could be made here but that would be to miss the subtle way the book builds to a climax as Frank's mentally ill brother makes his way home to an explosive endgame after escaping from the secure hospital where he is detained.

The Wasp Factory is darkly comic, truly horrifying and well-paced, but most of all it's expertly written and you'll just want to read more and more. Well, that is if the battle with the rabbits near the beginning doesn't put you off. I'd say read it if you dare but don't say I didn't warn you.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A grotesque tale of dark humour that is simple yet brilliant, 27 Aug 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Wasp Factory (Paperback)
I read this book when it first came out in the eighties (when I was a teenager) and I thought it wasn't bad. I reread it last year and it suddenly hit me! The brilliance and dark humour totally passed me by the first time I read it. It is one of the most compelling, hideously twisted stories you might ever meet. The Wasp Factory lets you inside the mind of a young lad growing up on a remote Scottish island. At first you dislike the character as is quite natural - but towards the end of the book, you actually grow to pity and get fond of him (a bit like wanting Norman Bates to get away with the murders in Psycho - I always want him to!). There are a few twists and turns and the dialogue is absolutely hilarious! WARNING - Do not read towards the back of the book before you get to it or you'll spoil the lovely ending... I would recomend this book to anyone who wants to read an original, funny and grotesque story of a misfit and an anti-hero. It is cynical and truthful and once you start reading it, you'll only put it down after you've got to the end.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb!, 25 Aug 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Wasp Factory (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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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Wasp Factory, 14 April 2010
By 
TomCat (Cardiff, Wales.) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Wasp Factory (Paperback)
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 writings. However, the less specific term `modern gothic' falls somewhat close to the mark in describing this violent, gruesome and darkly comic story.

`The Wasp Factory' seems to be a blatant and total attack upon a romanticised artistic vision of Scotland (as might be found, for example, in the work of Walter Scott). The novel's narrator is Frank, a sixteen-year-old serial killer who lives alone with his father on a remote island off the Scottish coast. Perhaps in an attempt to extricate himself from a national cliché, Banks has Frank construct, in miniature, tranquil scenes representing an idealised, peaceful Scotland, and then destroy them with controlled floods and explosions. Frank is king on his island and, without remorse, tortures animals, murders children and engages in quasi-religious, perversely ritualistic activities with the `wasp factory'; a torturous contraption he has constructed to guide him through life.

The novel lacks any traditional `plot' and is difficult to describe without giving something away; suffice to say it's a story of a twisted and perverse boy whose narration is as gruesomely detailed as it is comically evoking. Yet Frank is an imperfect protagonist; he is frequently too self-aware to protect himself with pleas of naivety, and the manner in which he describes his schemes demonstrates a level of contrivance not conducive to the presentation of a confused individual.

Overall this is clearly a first novel; violent and attention-grabbing: it's an exercise in `look what I can do' shock, and is not without its flaws. Frank's final act of self-discovery is symbolically externalised by the very clichéd image of a locked room that, once gained access to, reveals all. The heavy-handed final turn lacks any of the subtlety that Banks has developed later in his career. Worth reading, and morally intriguing, `The Wasp Factory' is a good if imperfect first effort.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars never understood what the fuss was about, 31 July 2013
By 
Susan Duncan "Bat" (Edinburgh Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Wasp Factory (Kindle Edition)
I know Iain Banks is no longer around to defend himself, and I am sure for his many fans he is a loss, but in 20 years of trying I only ever finished one of his books, and I abandoned this one three quarter way through. The prose is at best workaday, the characters poorly developed, the plot unbelievable. Most of IB's works remind me of being back at school when the boys would submit essays full of violant mob scenes and poorly realised space operas - Banks never got beyond that stage.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing effort, 7 Dec 2009
By 
Ms. J. Francis "Chamee" (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Wasp Factory (Paperback)
This is a disturbing, twisted and morally unsound book. The logic and justification throughout rabidly defies any principles that I am ingrained with and I found myself saying 'no no no! that's not right, I hate this character!!'.

But then... the author finds ways to unravel the story, reveal more detail, give history in a way that not only leaves you sitting on the edge of your seat, but actually has you almost understanding and empathising with a character whose behaviour, on face value, is abhorent!

This is what makes it so unnerving. The authour has carefully - and with succinctly scheming - led you around the labyrinth of his conceptions and knows exactly how he wants you to feel at each and every point of the novel. It's pure craftsmanship and feels deeply manipulative and clever. If any author has left me with such a whirlwind of emotions and left me confused about my own beliefs, then he has really created quite an ingenious story!
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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
(REAL NAME)   
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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The Wasp Factory
The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks (Paperback - 27 Jun 2013)
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