Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The Wasp Factory, Iain Banks

Publishers: Abacus

Pages: 256

Main Characters:

Frank Cauldhame, Eric Cauldhame

The Wasp Factory follows the life of a seventeen year old boy called Frank. But unlike other boys his age Frank is different. Firstly he is from an old Scottish family which has owned land in the Porteneil area of Scotland for centuries, however their land is now limited to a small island off the coast of the town of Porteneil where Frank lives with his father. His father is an ex-hippy doctor who decided during the summer of love not to have Frank registered when he was born, therefore legally not making him exist! Frank’s older brother Eric is in a psychiatric hospital for setting people’s pet dogs on fire. Unfortunately, Frank also seems to have the crazy gene that runs through his brother and father. Frank believes himself to be the Lord of the island and will do anything to protect it. One way Frank does this is by capturing and killing the wildlife on the island and using their heads as a spiritual barrier to stop enemies from coming on his island!

Frank believes his life is going ok. He likes living on the island with his father as he is given a free reign to do whatever he likes (after all he can’t work or go to school because he does not officially exist!) This all changes when Frank and his father discover Eric has escaped from his hospital and is on the run from the police. To make sure his island is safe, and to make sure Eric doesn’t harm any more dogs, Frank consults the Wasp Factory to see what is going to happen in his and Eric’s future. The result of the factory is fire, a bad omen with Eric’s past. Frank must come to terms with the return of his brother and seek his own, sometimes violent, way with how he will cope and protect his island.

I decided to read this book as it was suggested to me by one of my friends who claimed it was the weirdest book that she had ever read! I thought this was a good reason to give The Wasp Factory a try and after reading it I’d have to agree it was weird but very enjoyable!

I thought Frank was an interesting character. From the start you think that he is not mentally sound as the first paragraph describes him checking his grizzly Sacrifice Poles and later goes on to mention him murdering a whole colony of rabbits by setting them on fire. However as you read further into the book, you discover that he is a clever person. When he is describing his feelings for his brother he is loving, compassionate and thoughtful and you think that this is a different person to the one who sets up Sacrifice poles and burns rabbits for fun. Later in the book you find it is not Frank’s mind that is different to everyone else’s, but his opinion on life and death. He sees death as a path that everyone is heading towards (The Wasp Factory) and can do nothing about and therefore he has no issue with murdering people or animals for his own needs and satisfaction.

The book was also interesting because it didn’t go the way I thought it was going to. Banks builds up the preparation Frank does for Eric’s return, making bombs and checking the Wasp Factory. I thought he was building up to a standoff between Frank and Eric as Frank tries to protect his world from the destruction Eric could bring. However what happens is totally different and much better! I was not expecting the book to end the way it did!

This was a great book but was a little weird, which for me wasn’t a bad thing! I have never really read anything like it so I wouldn’t know what other books I could compare it to, possibly The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon because of the psychological side to the book? (and the murder of a dog!) I’m not sure, but if you want a good general fiction read give The Wasp Factory a try.

For author’s official website click here

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