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Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Wasp Factory(1984) by Iain Banks

Illustration of the Wasp Factory itself from the novel The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

Book Review
The Wasp Factory(1984)
by Iain Banks

  The Wasp Factory, the debut novel for Scottish writer Iain Banks, is a nasty little bit of work; the novel equivalent of a bare-bones noir which introduces the world to a talented film maker.  There is much to like in The Wasp Factory, and just as much to hate, certainly just as much to offend.  Like many early works by notable British authors in the 1980's and 1970's, The Wasp Factory combines sensible, economical prose with thematic concerns that border on the grotesque, with a heavy dose of the gothic and macabre.

  Set on a remote Scottish island, The Wasp Factory is told from the perspective of a psychopathic teenager, living alone with his aloof father.  Frances(the narrator) calmly discloses to readers that he has already murdered three people- including his brother and a female cousin- before he hit puberty.  He professes to have left that behind as a "stage" and he now contents himself by wandering the island and murdering animals in creative ways.

  The Wasp Factory of the title is a mechanism Frances constructs out of an abandoned clock face, which gives captures wasps 12 different ways to die.  The major action concerns the escape of Frances' more floridly psychopathic older brother Eric from a local insane asylum.  It's hard to discuss much more without at least hinting at the plot twist which appears at the end of the book. Banks went on to make his name as a science fiction writer, and received much critical and popular acclaim in that world (Elon Musk has named several space related projects after starships in his sci fi books.)

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