June 18, 2009

Iain Banks - Wasp Factory

The Wasp Factory is one of those novels with the soul intention of literally hitting you in the gut.

"What do you mean literally, oh you exceedingly bald man?"

Well, literally in the sense that the book can actually cause you pain by the sheer power of its dense prose. Author Iain Banks makes absolutely no apologies about it - in fact, he seems to revel in every single one of his words.

"Oh... OK. Any other books that might want to hit me in the gut?"

Well, there are plenty but only few succeed at the level where Mr. Banks does. Clive Barker's early novels are a good example, and, of course, there is Chuck Palahniuk (whose short story Guts is something I will go back to in future posts) but that's about it. What makes The Wasp Factory particularly amazing is that it was Banks' debut, a fact that seems bizarre in face of the masterful confidence displayed throughout the novel.

"Anything else to add?"

Well, The Wasp Factory is a first-person narrative coming from the heart and soul of one 17-year old Frank Cauldhame who seems to be a bit bonkers, behaving like the king of an island with all the shamanistic rituals that come with the title. As the novel develops, his brother's escape from a mental hospital and impending return lead on to a violent ending and a twist that casts a long shadow over Frank's visions of life as such. Looks a bit too simple? Well, let's just say that despite his young age Frank has already gathered quite a few skeletons in his closet...

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