Iain Banks had been rejected by publishers when he presented his science fiction novels. The Wasp Factory was his 'main stream' book, and this one was accepted. What surprises me is that the publishers did not call in social services.
This story in one way seems very mundane as it follows the daily events of a teenager. There are the usual things: eating, carefully shaving, making explosions, getting drunk, making kites.The relevance comes later. But this character goes a bit further. In his matter-of-fact style he explains how he tortures animals and the murder of young children. Without sensationalism or being overly gory, sometimes I had to re-read sections because I wasn't sure what I had just read, as it was so bizarre with a strange logic. Totally unexpected twist at the end, too.
Oh yes, and the actual 'wasp factory' itself. How on Earth did he dream up that concept?
Banks has an easy style, very much the voice of the narrator. I was grabbed from page one, always wondering what would happen next. It is a disturbing and sometimes harrowing story, in places quite horrific, unpredictable, very dark. It is just a uniquely odd story.
In many ways I can understand why Banks decided to go down the science-fiction route, creating strange worlds obviously came easy to him. But I wish that he had written more mainstream books (if that is an appropriate term for someone as gifted as him), as sci-fi generally isn't for me and makes his work a little exclusive.
Iain Banks is one of our most talented writers and his crisp, skilled, original style and imagination make this a really good book.
Published by MacMillan on 16 February 1984.