jazzy_dave: (bookish)
[personal profile] jazzy_dave
Iain Banks "The Wasp Factory (Abacus)




Do not really know what to think of this book. It is very creative, but I somehow felt that it lacked something driving the story forward and I did not get drawn into the action, despite all the good things I have heard about it. Maybe another time.

Frank lives with his father on a small island in Scotland. He mounts animal skulls on poles, embeds wasps in candle wax, hunts rabbits with a flame thrower and keeps the skull of his enemy, Old Saul, in a bunker. The island is his domain and he rules it like a god. Now his brother, Eric, who sets dogs on fire, has escaped from his asylum and is on his way home.

Frank's a monster, a fledgling serial killer who capriciously decided on a different career track after his first three victims. His rituals and his ceremonies and his totemic objects make sense of the world and make sense of his own mind. His voice is sane, articulate, witty and intelligent. He uses it to describe his odd activities, makes them seem strange, unhealthy, perhaps, but essentially harmless. Then he seamlessly uses that same voice to describe catapulting small animals into river mud, the murder of his brother and two cousins or his attitude to women. One clings to the voice as a sign of potential redemption, but redemption is something you do, not something you are, and Frank is utterly aware of what he is and of what he has done. Or so he thinks.


The writing was very good, and the atmosphere was very engaging. I loved the way the suspense built as the story unfolded. I liked the descriptions of ceremony and obsession. It was intense at times and I found much of it to be disturbing. But the way the story fell apart at the end made it seem a little like a cheap slasher film. At first I was turned off by what I felt was shock tactics. Then I was convinced that it was justified, being part of a bigger meaning. By the end I'm not sure if it was just violence porn or not,much like I felt about "American Psycho".

I found the ending to be really unsatisfying. Mostly I thought "And?..." I understand what he was trying to do, and can somewhat appreciate it, but I would have liked it a lot more if it had been executed less clumsily. It almost felt like someone else had come in to finish the last part of the book and didn't really know how the story went. It's a weird combination of not tying up all the loose ends and over-explaining the thoughts and rationale of the main character that seemed out of step with the rest of the book.

So, in my final estimation, not a great read at all, and hence i will try and stick to his science fiction in the future.



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