Review: The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks

Last year around September I had a little accident ... I was innocently washing up, absentmindedly scrubbing out the inside of a stained drinking glass, staring out the kitchen window mildly fretting about my upcoming 10k run in Edinburgh the following month when the glass broke in my hand. I don't mean cracked ... I mean completely broke in half, slicing into my hand in two places. I'm not ashamed to say I panicked. I was alone in the apartment, my boyfriend had nipped downstairs for some milk and instead of remembering my first aid training and calmly applying pressure to the merrily bleeding wound I proceeded to wave my bloody hand around the kitchen, yelling and splattering blood all over the counter tops, the floor and the walls. Luckily, my boyfriend arrived home at this point to be greeted my this macabre scene, complete with hysterical girl. By this point I was feeling rather green, sick and shaky. Being the level-headed nurse that my boyfriend is he told me to calm the hell down, wrapped my hand in a dish towel and drove me to the A&E department of our local doctors surgery where they patched me up and ordered me not to work or run for two weeks.

From this little debacle you can probably gather that I do not have a very strong stomach or a particularly high tolerance for gore. Therefore, The Wasp Factory was not for me .... Far too much shock factor for the sake of simply blowing the readers mind without actually adding anything to the story. Pages and pages and pages of animal torture, violence and the disturbed thoughts of a crazy teenager - did you get that? Frank is crazy! Want me to remind you of that point AGAIN?!! Frank is crazy! Got it? Shall I repeat? Frank is CRAZY!!! This aspect of Frank's character was emphasised so often that I felt like I was being beat over the head repeatedly with it. The problem was that is all that Frank is: insane. There was nothing more to him than his madness. It made the whole story feel stilted and awkward and reduced him, in my opinion to nothing more than a cartoon character.


Now, you may think that after this description of the book being littered with crazy that it's a nonstop riot of shenanigans ... You would be wrong. It is dull. Because all we are provided with is crazy, then violence then back to crazy the whole thing becomes seriously watered down due to the sheer volume of episodes and ultimately descends into listing things. Being set in Scotland however I shouldn't have been surprised - nothing exciting ever happens here! There's a dwarf sidekick, a mysterious locked study and rabbit warfare but at the end of the day the strongest reaction I could muster was meh. It's just tediously written and becomes such a slog that by the time I reached the "shocking" revelation all I could think was who cares?!


The book is supposed to be fascinating, thought-provoking and disturbing but this all went over my head because there's no emotional connection. It's just a case of Frank killed this, Frank had these odd thoughts and then Frank discovered this deep, dark secret ... So what?! By the time the truth was revealed I was so done with Frank I honestly couldn't care less. I know some people love Iain Banks, but Frankly I don't know what all the fuss is about (did you see what I did there?) ....