The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

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Am I the only one classifying this book as YA? Good. It is.

The Wasp Factory isn’t just an ordinary book. Frank Cauldhame isn’t just an ordinary teenager. Living in the outskirts of the suburban Scotland, disfigured as a child and an unregistered citizen, it provided him a level of anonymity to do certain kind depravities, like having hobbies that soothed his sadistic traits and killing his relatives. Oh, that’s just a childhood phase. Unconventional but he couldn’t help it.

Along with the book, I listen to the audiobook narrated by Peter Kenny who is a talented voice-over actor who gave the book a level of realism with a Scottish accent. While originally I rated it 4 but the audiobook bumped it to full five. It was genuinely spectacular story although the content was told in the most morbid way imaginable for a child serial killer to commit heinous acts but get away with it and still think he’s sane. It is a story of teenage psychopath and is a psychological drama around this character and his story and the way he tells it and Kenny did more than just narrate Frank, he became Frank. Also he voiced Erik so convincingly that he is a different person than the narrator and the father character was distinctive. Even his female voice was so realistic. No ordinary narrator can do this okay. He did cleverly use various expressions and varied tone that made the narrative doesn’t sound anywhere near passive.

The only near comparison I had was Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange’s Alex and teenage Micheal C Hall’s Dexter but the character became more than just being evil and sadists for the sake of the story. Frank is an unconventional human who sees things and have urges he can’t understand. Who did sympathise with abused dogs although he is familiar with his animal sacrifices and rituals. The character almost fit to the traditional view of psychopath but although Frank is antisocial, have a degree of narcissism, lack of empathy, often bored and imaginative enough that he did what he thought was necessary and justified and didn’t know what was right and wrong especially about him deciding to kill his relatives just because he get off from it, to him, whatever he did constitute to a balance to his world and it complement his needs. As everything he did was as a child and the story was told retrospectively, he did escape a lot of things easily. Somehow that empowered him in a way that it sustained most of his life with his unconventional family. As the story goes on, he did undergo some change that was so significant it changed his life completely that in a nutshell, it isn’t just a flat-tone story, but the one with many sides of the story.

It is a weird book and not for everyone but if you can stand Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange, then it shouldn’t be an issue if the protagonist isn’t a good person. But the book is very well-written for a first Iain Banks novel. Personally, it wasn’t a horror story. Psychological book but not anyway horror. There’s nothing supernatural about an unconventional character. Most of the things he did and that happened to him did carry some bits of realism in it although the author insisted its all his imagination. Well, all great authors do.

Do listen to this afterwards.… Apparently, this isn’t his first story but he did give a good writing advice about brushing the skills up.


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