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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks 
19th-Jan-2009 04:16 pm
Banks, Iain. The Wasp Factory. 1984. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998.
          Summary: Frank Cauldhame always believed that a dog castrated him at the age of two. And since then, he has wreaked vengeance on his island home that involved the killing of three people and innumerable animals. But now his brother Eric has escaped from the insane asylum, and Frank is about to learn something about himself that render the elaborate rituals and semi-religious symbolism he has constructed around himself meaningless...
          Comments: I can't remember the last time 184 pages of reasonably well-written prose took me so long to finish. We're talking, like, five freakin' days. Because this book stank. Most of it details the various creative ways that Frank goes about killing people: 1) a childhood rival (poisonous snake in his artificial leg), 2) his little brother (tricks brother into detonating a bomb), and 3) his female cousin (tangles her up in a huge kite and lets her fly away). And animals: 1) putting bombs in rabbit holes, 2) stuffing wasps into mazes and turning them into homemade candles, and 3) slinging various rodents to a muddy death. Everything is narrated in the first person, and there is an oddly aloof tone to it all. You aren't made to love or hate this character--you're just informed that he is doing it to compensate for his castration. Ya know, as in, if I don't have a dick anymore, well, I can be the man's man by defending my scrap of territory and killing innocent creatures left and right. Then, at the very end, we find out that Frank's little fantasy world was all a big fat lie; "he" is actually a she, and Daddy Dearest has been dosing his daughter with male hormones because he feels burned on women. Pardon me if I fail to find any of this remotely profound.
          Rating: 3/10 - If I could have those five days back and forget about this unfortunate excuse of a novel, I'd take the days back in a heartbeat.
19th-Jan-2009 10:37 pm (UTC)
Bleh - I read about the first twenty pages of this and just couldn't read any more. One of the few books that I actually couldn't read all the way through.
19th-Jan-2009 11:53 pm (UTC)
I KNOW, RIGHT?! *gargh*
20th-Jan-2009 06:52 am (UTC)
If I could have those five days back and forget about this unfortunate excuse of a novel, I'd take the days back in a heartbeat.

I like his science fiction novels, but I agree that The Wasp Factory is an appallingly silly and unconvincing mess.
20th-Jan-2009 07:25 am (UTC)
*sighs* Maybe I should take this as a lesson never to start at the beginning of a veteran writer's literary career.

Any of his SF novels in particular you'd recommend?

Edited at 2009-01-20 07:26 am (UTC)
20th-Jan-2009 07:41 am (UTC)
My favourite of his SF novels is Excession, but very few people agree with me! Most people seem to prefer The Player of Games or The Use of Weapons. The latter deals with some of the same themes as The Wasp Factory, but much more successfuly.

But you really have to begin with Consider Phlebas, the first of his Culture novels. Otherwise you'll end up with a distorted view of The Culture. It reveals things about The Culture that you need to know, but that you won't find in the other books. Unfortunately it's also by far the weakest of the Culture novels. If you're serious about SF you do need to read him however. The Culture is the most successful science fictional utopia ever created.
20th-Jan-2009 12:22 pm (UTC)
I picked this one up at a Goodwill this past fall. I found it amusing that the book jacket and first few pages are plastered with reviews - every last one of which is negative. One of the critics is quoted as saying that the only reason he finished the book is because he was obligated to for his work. Despite the fact that this weird [anti] marketing ploy kind of tickled me, the things the critics said (more allusions than the specifics included in your review) led me to believe that I may never have the stomach to actually read the thing.

I can't stand the idea of people harming animals. Everyone has their own fiction bugaboos (I can't tell you how many people have told me they refuse to read stories with rape scenes), and harming animals is mine. You're a better man than me that you got through it. Hats off to you.
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