The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

Shocking and unconventional. Nothing about The Wasp Factory will fail to impress upon your mind. Enter if you dare.

At a very young age Frank suffered a terrible, life altering accident. The particulars of this incident are ambiguous but it’s clear that it’s deeply scarred and shaped him into the boy he is.

To say the least Frank is a peculiar boy. Living on a small island in Scotland with just his father, he spends his days isolated from the local boys his own age and instead fills his time tormenting and chasing the local wildlife. He sets fire to rabbits and captures wasps only to torture them in a contraption called ‘The Wasp Factory’.

Not only this but by the tender age of 16 he has murdered three children. Of course Frank doesn’t intend to be a murderer, it was a phase. He had to do it; the factory told him.

Severely out of touch with reality Frank guards his tiny strip of land as a king might his castle. Any perceivable threats to his precious world must be treat with the most serious and more often than not violent actions.

When news travels to him that his older brother has escaped from a mental institution and is heading back to the island Frank goes in to over drive. Panic stricken, his tightly controlled world is under threat. Consulting the wasp factory for aid means sacrificing wasps, raining terror on the local animals, creating sacrifice poles and consulting the skull of an old dead dog.

But if your reading this and thinking what a gruesome and awful book this must make then think again. Yes the content can be a little heavy and there certainly are parts of the story that you might need to put down and start again. But for me these moments weren’t without purpose; Banks uses the character of Frank to exhibit the many contributing factors that have led to him being such a lonely, violent and unusual person.

I was particular harrowed by the way his father raised him; a past hippy he chose never to officially announce Franks birth, therefore for all intents and purposes he is a visiting cousin to the family. There is no official record of his existing and all of this has led Frank to be a boy extremely detached from the real world.

To me Frank seemed like an intense exaggeration of an ordinary boy in a damaging world. An example perhaps of the effects such a masculine and violent culture can have on young boys. All little boys are taught to be fighters, to play with toy guns. But Frank and his unusual circumstances seems to have propelled in to deeper more serious depths.

Or maybe there is no reason for Frank’s insanity? Maybe he is just an extreme and singular case?

I finished the book a few weeks ago and still I find myself debating and thinking about the many meanings of the book and the reason why Frank is the way he is.

From start to finish the book had me riveted. I felt beyond intrigued by the world Banks creates.

On paper I thought I would hate this book, overly violent just to shock the masses. That’s what I thought The Wasp Factory would be.

But in reality this book is an excellent, original and important exploration of the human mind, the effect of society upon in it and the dark more intricate habits of human nature.

Thank you to Sammy Dee from Manchester Meanders for recommending this book to me. In all honesty I probably would have just disregarded it otherwise.

What about everyone else? Have you read this book? Do you love it or loath it? I’d love to hear what everyone else thinks.

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7 thoughts on “The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

  1. I’ve probably read less than a dozen books that have emblazoned themselves in my memory. This is one of those books. (The Shadow of the Wind is another). It was probably about 10-12 years ago when I read the Wasp Factory for the first time and I’ve been recommending it ever since. It is disturbing but it’s also compelling. When you start reading it its hard to put down. I’ve gone on to read several Iain Banks book since but this is still my firm favourite.

    I think I gave you two others by Banks: Complicity and The Bridge. I hope you get around to reading them. I’d like to hear what you think of them in comparison.

    • It’s impossible to forget this book, and not just the shockingly violent content. The relationhsip between Frank and the outside world really touched me and will stay with me. He’s such a lonely, complex character.

      You gave me Complicity I think, I’ll definitely read it, can’t believe I’ve waited this long to read Iain Banks work, I wont wait this long again.

      Thanks again.

    • It is definitely disturbing, I had a few moments where I had to put it down and start again, but the novel does also have heart. Would you consider giving it another go?

  2. I read this novel in just two hours, it is brilliant and one of those books that becomes embedded in your mind. Excellent review!

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