Title: The Wasp Factory
Author: Iain Banks
Genre: Contemporary, Thriller, Fiction
Number of Pages (Paperback): 244
Date Published: April 1st of 1992 (first published in 1984)
Synopsis (via Goodreads):
Frank, no ordinary sixteen-year-old, lives with his father outside a remote Scottish village. Their life is, to say the least, unconventional. Frank’s mother abandoned them years ago: his elder brother Eric is confined to a psychiatric hospital; and his father measures out his eccentricities on an imperial scale. Frank has turned to strange acts of violence to vent his frustrations. In the bizarre daily rituals there is some solace. But when news comes of Eric’s escape from the hospital Frank has to prepare the ground for his brother’s inevitable return – an event that explodes the mysteries of the past and changes Frank utterly.
Rate: 3.5 of 5
Get a copy: Book Depository (Paperback)
If I said that I was “conflicted” with my rating on this book, it would be a huge understatement. It’s a good book but I don’t know if it’s cut for my tastes just yet. I do acknowledge the fact that this is one of those controversial books to which my reaction was purely a roller coaster ride.
I thought the synopsis was really interesting and that got me hooked into it in just a snap. Needless to say, I had high hopes for this book. The copy I had acquired was a 25th anniversary edition so I was confident that this would wow me since it has managed to survive for more than 25 years now. What left me was a conflicting reaction to it.
This is certainly not for the soft-hearted reader. If you just want a light-hearted read, well then, get off this because my friend, this is not cut out for you. This has left me, perhaps eighty percent of the time, feeling disturbed–as if there was something over the horizons. It’s really not a nice feeling, I’m gonna tell you that.
There were so many channels of “mystery” for the story to go through and I was a little disappointed because I felt like there were too many pages that were wasted to the everyday life processes of Frank. I wanted to know more about his dad, his mom, Eric, his friends, etc. So many channels that may have been given the chance to be explored. But oh well. Half the time, the prospect of Eric and his backstory was the motivation for me to finish this book. I’ve picked this up and chucked it off in my bookshelf more than three times because I found myself as someone who cannot handle it. But then! Sixty pages away from the end of the book, shit started going down! THAT WAS A PLOT TWIST I CANNOT HANDLE AND IT CERTAINLY IS EXPLOSIVE (wink, wink). I didn’t expect that, no, it didn’t even pass through my mind–not once.
Don’t get me started on the last paragraph of the book. It is so–just what an ending. It’s weird how the novel comes together in just that simple way, even a little childish in some sense. HOW?! *warning: don’t read the quote below if you don’t want spoilers*
“Poor Eric came home to see his brother, only to find (Zap! Pow! Dams burst! Bombs go off! Wasps fry: ttssss!) he’s got a sister.”
If there was any redeemable thing about it, I would say the ending. The beginning of the book up until the middle was kinda idle for my taste. It didn’t keep me engaged all throughout it. But, I refused to make an opinion of a book if I didn’t even had the guts to finish it. Sometimes something is there in the end. And that proved to be right in this book’s case. So yeah, even though the ending was fire, I sure did hope that the beginning was more of a throat-getter.
Further, I must confess, I am still confused as to what really constitutes “the wasp factory” here. I know there is some sort of symbolism somewhere there but I’m still trying to reconcile my thoughts on this because so many ideas are swirling around my head as of the moment.
This was certainly a horrifying read. There was something about the particular deeds of killing that seemed to pass it off as something ordinary, e.g. doing the laundry, doing the dishes, taking a walk, etc.. It was even deemed as a “phase”. God, that gave me goosebumps.
I give this 3.5 because it was certainly more than something that’s okay but less than something I would deem 4-star worthy. I guess I still am not in that stage where I can further appreciate this. Or the genre is not something I would really fancy but it’s a book that I know is good, but did not like at the same time. But I must tell you, this. This is certainly literature. There were some sense of reality in it and I loved how raw it is and how it did not romanticize things but something that certainly made you think; disturbing, thought-provoking.
Do I recommend it? You know what? I don’t know, really. Okay, let’s come to a compromise. If you think you’re not too soft-hearted and you want to think, sure go on ahead and pick up a copy, trooper. On the other hand, if you think that you are more of a light reader, don’t even dare. Because, my man, your head will be twisted in odd directions. You have been warned; this is hard–straight-up. Although, maybe picking this up would heighten your horizon in some way. Well fuck, even in the recommendation part I’m still conflicted.
*Cover image and Synopsis via Goodreads; Gifs via Giphy.