Book Review: The Wasp Factory

There is no doubt that Iain Banks’s ‘The Wasp Factory’ is one of the most controversial novels of our time, following the unconventional life of Frank, an isolated 16-year old who appears to be suffering from some form of psychological disorder.

On simply reading the blurb, it becomes clear from the offset that the themes Banks raises in this novel are likely to be disturbing and distressing for many readers, as Frank states:

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.

Although this shocking statement may discourage many people from picking up a copy of the book and reading on further, for fear of more disturbing events, there is no doubt that a character like Frank is extremely intriguing, which is likely to be why this book sold so well. Nevertheless, despite first impressions of the novel, this is a undoubtedly fantastic read that will present you with moments of astonishment throughout, so much so that you may be left speechless by the end – and we’re not even exaggerating!

While many authors often attempt to tackle controversial themes through their writing, in order to support or conflict society’s attitudes, Banks surpasses all of the typical limits by producing a text that takes you on a rollercoaster of ups and downs, through shock and dismay to confusion and mystery and everything else that you can imagine. Yet, Banks still manages to leave us questioning society’s norms and attitudes, going far beyond a simply entertaining storyline, a key feature that many authors do not seem to achieve quite as well.

However, the most shocking moment does not arise until the very end of the novel (yes, it it was possible to be even more shocked than we already were!) so keep reading and be prepared for the unexpected. It will be worth it.

Rating: 4.5/5