My first thought after reading The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks was ‘What a fascinating muddied depraved book’. It is set on a Scottish island, bare save for Frank, their father, and the housekeeper. I am still not sure if this science fiction book that is definitely a science fiction book is even in fact science fiction at all. I suppose it is. I am forced to believe it, because Banks creates one of the most immersive settings – turning a dreary island into an alien planet, million miles away and Frank- it’s alien. It is definitely an absurd gore thriller. The Wasp Factory doesn’t follow any standard traditional way- bending genre. 

Frank, the psychotic serial killer doesn’t let you out of their sight or save you their brutality. All actions calculated and thought through. Although his brother, Eric, recently escaped from the insane asylum, always seems to call Frank’s house the few times when he is off guard and the absolute craziness that ensues is pure dark comedic gold.

When not resenting his father for being vegetarian and for smelling Frank’s farts and then for commenting on the fragrance; Frank spends his time building dams, maintaining a litany of arms including a flamethrower. Frank reveals the details of his killing with matter-of-factness. Though it is mostly animals that he murders (Banks spares no details) he also includes all of the children that he had killed. 

The Wasp Factory is not for the faint of heart. If you have loved ones, may you stay away from this book forever. That being said I am glad to have read it. I am interested in other works by Banks. As Banks dunks you into his misogynistic nightmare where wasps are used in divination rituals and gruesome violence is the currency; you are glad that you do not have to live in Iain Bank’s head.

Picture of Iain Banks
Picture of Iain Banks