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The Wasp Factory


Pirate Kate
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I read this book as part of my book club and it wasn't something i would naturally pick up. To begin with i thought it was just REALLY weird, and i still do having finished it, but the further you read, the further you get drawn in.

You start to wonder what happened in the character's past to make them like they are. The story was weird, not just content-wise. I thought it would be about Frank's mad brother Eric coming home and setting light to dogs, but the unexpected twist at the end means it ends without Eric having any direct influence on the story.

 

I think that this is a good book, but if you're REALLY squeamish, then there is only one gruesome bit.

:)

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I read The Wasp Factory soon after it came out in the mid-80s, and didn't like it very much. I thought it set out to shock, and I suppose it got him noticed. As a result, I dismissed Iain Banks for a few years until I read The Crow Road in 1993. I was completely blown away by it. I would put it in the Top Ten of the most enjoyable novels I have ever read. It stays with me still, and I also loved the TV adaptation.

 

After reading The Crow Road, I read all of Iain Banks's back catalogue and all his novels since, with some mixed reactions. I very much enjoyed Espedair Street, Whit and Complicity. I couldn't stand A Song Of Stone and couldn't finish The Bridge. His last novel Dead Air I did enjoy, but I thought it was written on auto-pilot. The Business was enjoyable but without hitting any great heights.

 

My brother-in-law is a big fan of the Iain M Banks books, but I can't get on with them at all. The Culture and all that. This world is enough for me - I don't need to escape to another.

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The Wasp Factory is quite a read, it must be said. I read it around 1991 and found its imagery interesting in that it seemed too comically gruesome to take too seriously. Underneath all that, you have a pretty decent read.

 

Have not read 'Dead Air', but will do so. (I agree that his sci-fi alter ego leaves me a little cold, too...)

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  • 7 months later...

I love The Wasp Factory, though I can quite see it's not everyone's cup of tea. I enjoy any novels that examine the darker side of the psyche and this certainly does just that, though with a streak of black comedy that, as has been noted earlier, makes the more violent aspects easier to handle.

 

Frank's remarkable way of life on his island home is compelling and, as with such novels as Fowles' The Collector, viewing disturbing behaviour through the perpetrator's eyes is fascinating. We will never truly sympathise, but do we understand, and does it reveal something interesting about ourselves? I also think the whole debate about nature versus nurture is given a thoughtful new outing here - especially after the twist at the end - as is the question of fate.

 

I seem to have the opposite tastes to Mad Dog and Glory, who goes for Banks' more conventional tales. I enjoy the outlandish, the stories that push at the boundaries and perhaps therefore make the most of the novelistic form's imagined realm. Consequently I found The Bridge very interesting with its creation of a mental landscape inhabited by a man in a coma after a car crash. It tailed off for me after the unnamed central figure left the bridge, losing its way, somewhat. I also enjoyed Song of Stone, though if Banks could be accused anywhere of writing something shocking almost for the sake of it, it is here. The revelation about a particular relationship was rather near the knuckle (though again, interesting!) and the conclusion - well, words rather fail me! :eek:

 

Yet to read Dead Air. Am I imagining it, or did Banks declare this was his last 'Iain Banks' mainstream novel, having said everthing he wants to say in that genre?

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You know I've always wondered if there's a gender difference here. I've yet to come across a woman who likes the Banks novels I mention above. Of course, harking back to another thread, I'm not entirely sure of Mad Dog's gender and it wouldn't be true to say that all men I've discussed it with enjoy the more outlandish Banks. It would be reasonable to assume Pirate Kate is female, though a younger reader - does being a teenager make it more likely to interest?

 

Any thoughts?

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I am female and at one time would have rated The Wasp Factory as my all-time favourite book. I love the black humour and the style, how the main character is so strange, but doesn't seem to realise it. It's not my favourite now, probably because I read it when I was about 20 and my tastes have changed.

 

I have read nearly all of Banks' books, and particularly liked this one, Complicity (sick again) and Espedair Street. The Bridge was a bit too allegorical for me, I don't really think I understood it. The more recent books strike me as being written with less care and less invention. Dead Air could have been a Ben Elton book (sorry Iain!), nuff said.

 

As for a male/female divide, much as I hate to say it, I wouldn't be surprised if there is. I don't like the Culture novels, but my husband loves them, they are about the only books he reads.

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Thinking back, it definately has only been blokes who have raved about 'The Wasp Factory' to me. I'm female and another girlfriend of mine recommended I try 'The Crow Road'. But as you didn't mention that one I'm assuming you aren't including that book in the theory and I've never read the others you mentioned as well as never trying any of his Iain M Banks books.

MD&G is 'Bill' in another guise so I guess he's breaking your theory.

I think I tried to read 'The Collector' as well years and years ago, I might have JUST been a teenager, but I can't remember anything more about it than butterflies in a jar on the front cover or something like that, so I must have given up on that too.

However I have read other books with squemish passages in them and didn't mind them but I was older so I think maybe it might be to do with age but on a more personal level rather than general. Maybe it depends on the individual reader and where they are at in their lives....maybe if I tried again I'd be able to read it.

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The Collector tells the story of a man who kidnaps and imprisons a young art student. The first half of the book tells the story from his point of view, the second runs over the same events from hers. It's not as outrageous as those Banks novels, but is perhaps even more disturbing for that, since it has an eerie credibility. Worth another attempt!

 

Hadn't realised that about MD&G. Shades of Me, Myself and Irene!

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Hadn't realised that about MD&G. Shades of Me, Myself and Irene!

 

I've not seen that film, is it about some form of schizophrenia? Jim Carrey.. I seem to have an allergic reaction to... its all those teeth!

 

I'm might just try The Collector again, if I can find the box its in!

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I've not seen that film, is it about some form of schizophrenia? Jim Carrey.. I seem to have an allergic reaction to... its all those teeth!

Had to be, really, didn't it! It's not at all bad, though I suppose that depends on whether you're a fan of the Farrelly brothers (if not, the combination with Carrey might set off a lethal allergic reaction!). I know what you mean about Carrey, but he's not too bad in this. When he's given the right material he can be very good. He serves The Truman Show well and I really enjoyed him in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which is a quirky and some might say 'out there' film, thereby taking us back to - Iain Banks!...

 

:)

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The Wasp Factory is quite a read, it must be said. I read it around 1991 and found its imagery interesting in that it seemed too comically gruesome to take too seriously. Underneath all that, you have a pretty decent read.

 

Have not read 'Dead Air', but will do so. (I agree that his sci-fi alter ego leaves me a little cold, too...)

 

Deino sums Banks up for me nicely.

 

I prefer the more straightforward of his novels. He is about the only novelist I can think of who is almost cursed with too much imagination. Sometimes his books spin off into territory so esoteric it can alienate this reader. However, when he manages to keep himself in check he's probably my favourite living Scottish novelist (apologies to Messrs. Welsh and Rankin).

 

In summary, I rate "The Crow Road", "Complicity" and "Espedair Street" as his best works, and the sci-fi stuff does nothing for me.

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  • 1 year later...

Recovered Thread

 

17th August 2005, 07:17 PM
Grammath

 


Originally Posted by Deinonychus
The Wasp Factory is quite a read, it must be said. I read it around 1991 and found its imagery interesting in that it seemed too comically gruesome to take too seriously. Underneath all that, you have a pretty decent read.

Have not read 'Dead Air', but will do so. (I agree that his sci-fi alter ego leaves me a little cold, too...)

 

Deino sums Banks up for me nicely.

I prefer the more straightforward of his novels. He is about the only novelist I can think of who is almost cursed with too much imagination. Sometimes his books spin off into territory so esoteric it can alienate this reader. However, when he manages to keep himself in check he's probably my favourite living Scottish novelist (apologies to Messrs. Welsh and Rankin).

In summary, I rate "The Crow Road", "Complicity" and "Espedair Street" as his best works, and the sci-fi stuff does nothing for me.


#17 18th April 2006, 10:55 PM
deirdreofthesorrows


Just finished 'The Wasp Factory' today and was compelled to say something. I can't say that I enjoyed this novel at all, but as usually give up with books I don't like, it probably says something that I stuck with it. I think that I had to finish this just to see where the hell it went . Strange does not begin to describe this. I didn't find it particularly disturbing or 'gory' just very, very weird, but strangely compelling. I am going to the library tomorrow to find Crow Road, it will, judging by the comments on this thread, be an interesting comparison. And if nothing else it has proven once again that I should think outside the box more often.


#18 25th May 2006, 08:49 AM
Phoebus


I finished this a couple of weeks ago and was disappointed. People who had recommended it to me had hyped it up telling me that it was amazing by being compelling and disturbing, when in fact I didn't find it fitted either category.

Conclusion: Alright, but nothing to rave about.


#19 2nd July 2006, 12:50 PM
katrina


Just finished The Wasp Factory and I have to say I didn't think it was as good as it was made out to be. Maybe the effect of Frank's world would have been more shocking when this book was published in the 80s? I thought Eric would be more involved in the final outcome of the story, I waited the whole novel knowing that there was going to be some big twist but the twist at the end seemed fairly irrelevent - Frank was stilled a screwed up kid living in a screwed up family.



Yes the books about the nature / nurture debate but not really on the
gender scale, more about isolated kids and violence.
And why did Mrs C let
all this happen, and comply with the fathers lies, I had through out the book a
suspision that she was going to be revelaed as Franks mother






#20 2nd July 2006, 07:55 PM
minxminnie


I hadn't discovered this thread before, and it's been an interesting read.

I too was convinced to read The Wasp Factory by a man (who I was, at the time, keen to impress / please. How sad.) I could not tell a lie, though, and confessed how unsatisfactory I had found it.

Earlier this year, a very bright and literate (male) student made a very good job of an individual study of it - proving that it really is a bit of a bloke's book!

The Crow Road is one of my all time favourite books, and I enjoyed Whit and, to a lesser degree, Complicity. I haven't enjoyed anything he's written for a while (Dead Air, and, I think, The Business?) I think the hunger has gone now that he's successful.

I find Iain Banks a really interesting person (wasn't he on Question Time recently??). He is, I believe, a member of a campaign group I'm in, and I always think we should get him to speak at a conference - really just so I can get him to sign my copy of The Crow Road!

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I've just started Thae Wasp Factory this afternoon, I'm 60 pages in. I can't tell if I actually like it, but I'm morbidly fascinated by it. I've tried not to look at this thread too closely, for fear of finding spoilers. (Which might need to be hidden in the rescued portion of this thread.)

 

This is a huge departure from my normal reading tastes, mostly thanks to David's many mentions of this book throughout the forums.

 

I'll post once I've finished, or before then if I need to vent.

 

Time to get back to Frank's strange world...

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This is a huge departure from my normal reading tastes, mostly thanks to David's many mentions of this book throughout the forums.

I feel the responsibility now! ;)

 

At least you don't hate it yet! Morbid fascination's okay; I've got plenty of that. Looking forward to hearing what you think at the end.

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Finished it...

 

Long pause for thought...

 

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...

 

I did NOT like this book... but it is one of the best I've ever read.

 

I was completely enthralled by it. The character of Frank is so deep and twisted, I couldn't stop.

The experience of reading this book made me feel so many different ways. Fascination, repulsion, horror, anxiety, discomfort. It made me cringe. recoil and oddly, laugh (this book has the best written description of drunkenness I've ever read.)

Reading this book is uncomfortable and disturbing so I can't say I enjoyed it. However, I believe that truly great books should make you feel things that you might not, or even should not, feel in your everyday life and The Wasp Factory certainly does this.

 

My sister works in the mental health profession and once commented that: "The mentally ill don't sit around all day wondering if they are crazy."

This book seems to sum up that comment. Frank has his own thought processes, they result in some extreme actions but the logic makes sense. That was one thing that I found the most unsettling.

 

To sum up, this is a fantastic book that tests the reader.

 

The twist is good, but I already had an inkling of it so I wasn't too surprised.

 

I would be interested to know if anyone has re-read this book? Does it still shock? Does Frank come across differently if you know the ending?

 

At the moment I can't see myself re-reading this book, although it is an amazing experience it would smack a bit of masochism.

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Very interesting thoughts, Krey20, and I'm sure that is very much the reaction Banks would have wanted to provoke. I think your observation about the fact that all the remarkable and disturbing actions are given a precise logic and bizarre 'rationale' is spot-on, and part of what makes the book so intriguing. Great books that delve into dark psychologies certainly don't just go down the road of voyeurism and easy judgement, they take us into that psyche and we're given a disturbing but compelling vision of an utterly different perspective on the world and its workings. Even on morality.

 

I'm glad you also found it funny (in places!). This sort of black humour provides a difficult tightrope to walk for an author, but I think Banks judges it perfectly.

 

I haven't read it a second time yet but certainly mean to. I'll be interested myself to see if my reactions are any different!

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Waking up at about 02.30 this mornung I caught a book programme called 'The Word', on The World Service of the BBC. Part of the programme is taken up with an interview with an author about a specific book, and apparantly next week the author will be Iain Banks, and the book will be The Wasp Factory.

You don't have to have insomnia to hear it, I believe The World Service is available at other times on other frequencies, or on DAB radio, or, indeed, online after the initial broadcast.

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