Book Review – The Wasp Factory

by Iain Banks

Started: 19th October 2014

Finished: 20th October 2014

I’d heard many things about The Wasp Factory and I’ve wanted to read it for a while. I was very pleased to have it added to my uni reading list, as now I’ve finally had the chance to see what all the fuss is about.

Our protagonist, and narrator, is sixteen-year-old Frank. From the very start the reader is exposed to Frank’s fascination with violence and death. It is even revealed to us that he has already killed three people, amongst many animals. His father is quite absent and doesn’t seem to realise how twisted Frank is. That’s because all the attention is on Frank’s brother, Eric, who has escaped from the mental hospital and on his way back to the island.

It’s very difficult to explain my feelings towards the characters. Every part of you knows that you shouldn’t like Frank because of what he does. But despite the fact he has killed three people (children) and tortures animals (and kills them for his ‘sacrifice poles’) – there’s something about him that makes you want to keep reading and even like him in a way. There are even some moments where I felt sorry for him (especially in the final chapter). The same can be said for Frank’s brother Eric, especially when it’s revealed as to how he ended up going mad. The one character who I couldn’t find at all likeable (and I’m pretty sure you’re not meant to) is Frank’s father. It’s hard to think of a redeeming feature about that man.

There is a loose plot to this book, Eric’s escape from the hospital is what drives the story along however it isn’t always the main focus. The story is told through a first person narrative, which I really liked. I doubt that the novel would have had the same impact if it was told in a disconnected third person narrative. This novel is one of the most graphic, in terms of violence, novels that I have ever read. There were times where I felt uncomfortable with the mental images Frank presented us with, but I just had an urge to carry on reading it. You’d think this kind of violence would deter you, but in truth it makes you more eager to see what will happen next and how the story will develop.

There is a lot of mystery in the book. It’s this mystery that has you gripped, right up until the final chapter where we finally get some kind of explanation. The ending is shocking but fantastic, it comes out of nowhere but at the same time it makes sense and doesn’t seem totally out of place. The final line is also one of my favourites.

Despite everything Banks puts you through over the course of the book, it is a great read. However, if you are squeamish, easily scared or an animal lover this probably isn’t the book for you!

Rating: 4/5

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