Customer Review

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "All our lives are symbols.", 30 Jan 2014
This review is from: The Wasp Factory (Paperback)
It is unfortunate that the first time I heard of Iain Banks was when he released a press statement, saying that he had terminal cancer, and that the next book he released would in fact be his last. Yet, as terrible a circumstance it was, It was through this (and the subsequent recommendation from a dear friend) I came to read The Wasp Factory.

I've heard this described as horror and to an extent can understand why. Though there is very little linear progression throughout the story, each chapter, through its mix of horrific events retold and mundane day to day musings, holds a sense of suspense which is almost effortlessly created. Questions constantly plagued me throughout; who is Frank, what is the Wasp Factory, why did he kill the people he did, who were those people to him...the list goes on and on. It is a book built on the inquisitiveness of the reader and your own psyche creates the tension, the slow build up to whatever event the ominousness seems to be hinting...

Reading as borderline psychopathic Frank (he probably is in fact actually fully, over the line, psychopathic but after reading from his point of view I find it hard to commit to that verdict) is uncomfortable. That's the best way I can describe it - there are times when, seeing events unfold through his eyes, you feel empathy, horror, hatred and occasionally genuine affection for Frank. These moments of light were made almost grotesque to me when compared to the dark and there were several passages, describing Frank's offhanded approach to killing or maiming, which made me feel distinctly unclean for ever feeling any empathy for him at all.

I found the end surprising. There was no chance, absolutely none, that I'd have ever seen it coming. After using the entire book to build up to what I assumed would be a certain ending, that conclusion is blown out of the water swiftly and without ceremony. I admired that, myself, as being fooled by the author after being given all the clues is something I think only great writers can do.

And Iain Banks is great. His style, his plot, his characters...there is originality and darkness there which, combined with flares of humanity, make The Wasp Factory an incredibly absorbing read. I am deeply saddened that the literary world has been robbed of such a man, to have written something so very memorable. Though despite the tragedy of his situation his work will, I have no doubt, live on as an immense and brilliant tribute. Highly recommended.
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