The Wasp Factory: A Novel

The Wasp Factory: A Novel

Book rating: 03 Paperback

By (author) Iain Banks

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  • Publisher: Prentice Hall & IBD
  • Format: Paperback | 184 pages
  • Dimensions: 132mm x 201mm x 13mm | 159g
  • Publication date: 28 September 1998
  • Publication City/Country: Hemel Hempstead
  • ISBN 10: 0684853159
  • ISBN 13: 9780684853154
  • Edition statement: Scribner PB Fic.
  • Sales rank: 40,475

Product description

Meet Frank Cauldhame. Just sixteen, and unconventional to say the least: Two years after I killed Blyth I murdered my young brother Paul, for quite different and more fundamental reasons than I'd disposed of Blyth, and then a year after that I did for my young cousin Esmerelda, more or less on a whim. That's my score to date. Three. I haven't killed anybody for years, and don't intend to ever again. It was just a stage I was going through.

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Author information

Iain Banks came to widespread and controversial public notice with the original publication of his first novel, "The Wasp Factory, " recently selected in a British poll as one of the top 100 novels of the century. Since then he has gained enormous popular and critical acclaim with further works of fiction and, as Iain M. Banks, science fiction. He lives in Scotland.

Customer reviews

By Marianne Vincent 05 Mar 2013 3

The Wasp Factory is the first novel by Scottish author, Iain Banks, and has been listed as one of the top 100 novels of the century by The Independent. Seventeen year old Frank L. Cauldhame is the second child of Angus Cauldhame, a somewhat reclusive doctor living on a firth island by the Scottish coast. Frank, by his own admission, has murdered three people and his brother Eric is in a mental hospital for setting fire to dogs and terrorising young children. As Frank narrates, almost emotionlessly, the events that occur after Eric escapes, it becomes quickly apparent that this resourceful youth is seriously disturbed. This novel has been described as brilliant and compelling, but also as rubbish. Banks has a brilliant imagination and knows how to make the reader gasp and squirm. All rather bizarre.

By Chia Pi Wo 11 Apr 2011 3

In a nutshell:

Is it hard to put down? No.
Is it a rewarding read? It's ok.
Did it inspire me? No.
Will I read it again? No.

Overall: 3 out of 5.

Full review:

What made me pick up "The Wasp Factory" in the first place was its audacity to print positive AND negative reviews at the back cover. On the top it said, "One of the top 100 novels of the century" (by The Independent) and as you read downwards, it said, "Rubbish" (by The Times London). Clearly, it's a book you either love or hate.

But after reading it, I have to say that I love AND hate the book.

On one hand, I love it because it explored many ideas that I found really fascinating.
For instance, how we have a tendency to construct our little worlds with rituals, routines and codes. Are we doing it to hide from reality or are we doing it to make sense of life around us?

Of course the narrator of the story (16 year old Frank Cauldhame) constructs his little world LITERALLY using dead animals he kill, skulls and dead bugs... to which he placed like pilgrimages around the island he lives in

It also dwells into other ideas such as the consequences of isolation, the desperate need for identity and senseless violence (he claimed to have killed 3 kids... which he said he'll never do again because it's just a phase he was going through). Fundamentally, the search for a "higher power" that explains the actions we do. In the case of the narrator, he is guided by "The Factory". I won't go much into details on that coz I will really spoil it

Why do I hate it then?
First and foremost, a lot of readers complain about the violence and how dark the book is or how it has no proper plot... which I don't really have a problem with. I've enjoyed books that are way darker, more violent than this. I also enjoyed books with no plot at all. It doesn't really bother me.

My problem is that most of the ideas explored don't lead anywhere. In many cases it doesn't add any depth to the characters or the story. It makes me feel nothing for the narrator in the end. I don't hate him, I don't love him and I don't hate to love him. I feel the same for all the characters in the book. Everyone seem to be just there... moseying along and occupying pages.

I also feel that the author tried too hard to shock and provoke. I don't doubt that it worked well at times (when the narrator speaks so non-chalantly about the murders he committed). However, in most times, the attempts to shock and provoking feels very juvenile. As you read on, you will also find that the murders has nothing to do with anything (which also annoys me)

It feels as if the author had lots of interesting random thoughts and he desperately tried to put a plot to make his ideas gel (kinda like watching Matrix Reloaded)

The book tried to provide a really surprising ending. Well, I was surprised. But the journey to get there didn't make it feel very rewarding or revealing.

Anyway, in summary, The Wasp Factory is an ok book. There are some gems here and there but it definitely not deserving to be crowned "top 100 novels of the century". If you are a teenage boy who likes to pretend that he has darkness in his soul... well, this is the book for you.

Review quote

"Punch""The Wasp Factory" is a first novel not only of tremendous promise, but also of achievement, a minor masterpiece perhaps.