"I haven't killed anybody for years and don't intend to."
If you seek some relaxing holiday reading, then The Wasp Factory, should probably not be your first port of call. Teenager Frank, is, quite frankly not what he seems except to the extent that he is a nasty piece of work. It’s not often that a protagonist begins his tale with claims of committing the murder of three children before the age of ten.
Set in a strange desolate, Scottish Island, the novel reeks of death, the unknown and a sense that the world has just all gone wrong. Perfect reading for this miserable age, perhaps that’s why I finished it towards the end of 2016. I know my reviews are a little behind.
Frank’s older brother, Eric, is another frightful character who escaped from a mental institution after having lost the plot, quite understandingly, when he tries to feed a brain damaged baby, missing a skull cap, whose brain is being attacked by maggots. Oh Sorry, that should have come with a “don’t read this line before lunch” warning.
I don’t want to give the game away as to what actually transpires at the end, other than it was unexpected and enhanced my perception of the novel as a whole. The author reflected on his work as a way of publishing his writing and passion for Science Fiction by considering the Scotland of his youth as a jumping off point.
“In the end I went for something that kept me closer to my by-then comfort zone: a first-person narrative set on a remote Scottish nearly-island told by a normality-challenged teenager with severe violence issues allowed me to treat my story as something resembling SF”
Particularly of interest was his commentary that the book was -
“supposed to be a pro-feminist, antimilitarist work, satirising religion and commenting on the way we're shaped by our surroundings and upbringing and the usually skewed information we're presented with by those in power”
which makes it firm fodder for a post-Trump world where fake news is part of the daily narrative.
The novel’s extreme violence within the constraints of childhood makes for confronting reading and yet anyone who has been bullied at school knows how evil other children can be. Banks further posited that he
“was also trying to make the point that childhood innocence isn't - and wasn't - as most people seem to imagine it; children probably harbour quite as many violent thoughts as adults, they just don't usually possess a sophisticated moral framework within which to place them”.
I’m not sure the sophisticated moral framework helps that much, as I read the news sometimes I think we are living on that island populated by crazy kids with guns, trying to be something they’re not and wreaking havoc on the planet. On that dire note I think I need a lie down.
4 out of 5 ways to put a dampener on your holiday cheer.