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The Wasp Factory (1984)

by Iain Banks

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
7,1422031,309 (3.76)1 / 524
Fiction. Horror. Literature. Humor (Fiction.) HTML:The polarizing literary debut by Scottish author Ian Banks, The Wasp Factory is the bizarre, imaginative, disturbing, and darkly comic look into the mind of a child psychopath.
Meet Frank Cauldhame. Just sixteen, and unconventional to say the least:

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.
… (more)
  1. 152
    We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (taz_)
    taz_: I suspect that Iain Banks' "Wasp Factory" character Frank Cauldhame was inspired by Shirley Jackson's Merricat, as these two darkly memorable teenagers share a great many quirks - the totems and protections to secure their respective "fortresses", the obsessive superstitions that govern their daily lives and routines, their isolation and cloistered pathology, their eccentric families and dark secrets. Be warned, though, that "The Wasp Factory" is a far more explicit and grisly tale than the eerily genteel "Castle" and certainly won't appeal to all fans of the latter.… (more)
  2. 74
    Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk (arthurfrayn)
  3. 30
    God's Own Country by Ross Raisin (Clurb, chrisharpe)
  4. 41
    Lord of the Flies by William Golding (SqueakyChu)
    SqueakyChu: children being creepy
  5. 31
    Complicity by Iain Banks (heidijane)
  6. 20
    The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe (hubies)
  7. 43
    Geek Love by Katherine Dunn (wandering_star)
    wandering_star: Grotesqueries, family life and sibling rivalry.
  8. 00
    Tan dulce, tan amargo by Roberto Carrasco (nosoyretro)
  9. 00
    The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches by Gaétan Soucy (hubies)
  10. 12
    The Bridge by Iain Banks (xtien)
    xtien: Banks's debut novel.
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» See also 524 mentions

English (198)  Spanish (2)  Swedish (1)  Italian (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (203)
Showing 1-5 of 198 (next | show all)
The Wasp Factory is Iain Banks' first published novel, and is a doozy. I read it half a dozen years ago for the first time, and was stunned and enthralled. Knowing what was going to happen this time dulled the sparkle a little, but I remain convinced that it's an important book, and has had much influence upon psychological fiction/horror.

Frank is a 17-year old, rabidly insane, a young man who killed three children before he was ten years old. He dismisses this crimes as a stage he was going through. Frank and his none-too-normal father live on a tidal island in Scotland that looks out on the North Sea. I think one of the more interesting things about the novel is that Frank's birth was never registered. He doesn't exist. His father has taken great pains to keep the authorities from discovering his non-personhood. I think the whole idea of Frank not existing in the law's eyes is a way of drawing attention to the little heed that is paid Frank's crimes, his drunken escapades, and most of all, his big brother, who has just escaped from a mental institution.

I have no way of describing how troubled this book has made me, or how much I worry about authors who can write about madness with this sort of conviction. It's a novel I recommend, but which I do with warnings that there is gory violence, madness, shamanistic ritual which may offend some readers, and some devastating truths ferreted out by the end of the novel. It is certainly a book that no reader will ever forget, for good or ill. ( )
  ahef1963 | May 9, 2024 |
This is a very dark book. Beautifully written and bizarre, cruel and witty, it was very difficult to put down. There are some haunting images that will stay with me.
Not to be undertaken lightly, but this is a very good novel. ( )
  CraigGoodwin | May 9, 2024 |
Disturbing, genial novel narrated by the most unpleasant narrator character ever created, after Humbert Humbert and the guy in American Psycho. I was looking, in my deep ignorance, for some brain chewingum. I was given brain food, hard and chewy, but definitely nutritious, and divinely tasty.
Years after reading it, I still don't know what to do of this story. The plot, if I were to summarise it, would sound so improbable to become ridiculous. Yet, the psychology behind it is so punctual and realistic that, by the end of the novel, all seems perfectly fitting. Fitting by the point of view of a psychotic, murderous teenager whose last problem is the habit of torturing wasps. In the end of the day, he just does it in search of spiritual answers to the nonsensical world around him. You could not say better of the habits of most religious leaders.
A novel of devious survival to a horrible childhood. Coming of age, yes. Into what? ( )
  Elanna76 | May 2, 2024 |
My first Scottish book. Sadly, not good. The setting and characters definitely worked. However, the entire story is dull and worthless. Another one of those "waiting" stories. The main character does a bunch of similar random tasks all day, but nothing happens. The last third of the book clarifies that the only thing that is really important is that the brother is coming. Is that sufficient for the story? Absolutely not. I would recommend someone abridging the book down to a very short, 20-page story. It still would not be very good, but short stories generally do not have that requirement.
Will still read an Iain Banks science-fiction book, because they are highly recommend. ( )
  MXMLLN | Jan 12, 2024 |
This isn't really my kinda book. I don't generally like books that are "snapshot of a period of time in someone's life" types of stories, which is what this one is. Also, not so enjoyable reading about torturing animals and killing children. No thanks. ( )
  PurplOttr | Dec 1, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 198 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Iain Banksprimary authorall editionscalculated
Kenny, PeterNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marcellino, FredCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I had been making the rounds of the Sacrifice Poles the day we heard my brother had escaped.
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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.
Eric was crazy all right, even if he was my brother. He was lucky to have somebody sane who still liked him.
After I'd come to understand evolution and know a little about history and farming, I saw that the thick white animals I laughed at for following each other around and getting caught in bushes were the product of generations of farmers as much as generations of sheep; we made them, we moulded them from the wild, smart survivors that were their ancestors so that they would become docile, frightened, stupid, tasty wool-producers. We didn't want them to be smart, and to some extent their aggression and their intelligence went together.
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Fiction. Horror. Literature. Humor (Fiction.) HTML:The polarizing literary debut by Scottish author Ian Banks, The Wasp Factory is the bizarre, imaginative, disturbing, and darkly comic look into the mind of a child psychopath.
Meet Frank Cauldhame. Just sixteen, and unconventional to say the least:

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.

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