Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Wasp Factory

Consider [ The Wasp Factory ] (Pretty please :)

When we think of Scotland, we usually think of ‘The Highlander’, single-malt Scotch, Scrooge McDuck, and kilts. I’ve been there, but all I remember is being bitten by a dog. A Scottish dog, though, which is kind of exotic. Anyway, Scottish author Iain Banks had a different Scotland in mind when he wrote his controversial but highly acclaimed first novel, The Wasp Factory.

The Library of Congress uses the following keywords to categorize The Wasp Factory: fathers and sons, Scotland, serial murder, teenage boys, psychopaths, murderers. Just wait—it gets better. The novel is set in a small island near Scotland, where a boy and his father live their bizarre lives isolated from the rest of the world. The boy is a secret. There is no legal documentation proving he was ever born, and his father keeps him on their private island for fear of being thrown in jail. The boy, Frank, practices his own violent religion and regularly stages wars with the other inhabitants of his island, namely the rabbits. Oh, and he’s a sociopath and a murderer. His brother is too, but his brother doesn’t live on the island anymore—he is in an asylum for lighting sheepdogs on fire and then…well, use your imagination.

If you are already wincing at the thought of reading about burned dogs, let me tell you that I was also very resistant at first. I never would’ve heard of The Wasp Factory if it hadn’t been for the recommendation of a library patron who warned me that some people might find it disturbing. You mean everyone? She gave the same basic introduction I’ve given, to which my reaction was NO WAY! Even as I made my way warily through the first dozen or so pages I thought seriously about returning it to the shelf. But I stuck with it, and it turned out to be one of the most interesting reads I’ve ever had. I promise.

In addition to his normal fiction—and I use the word normal loosely—Iain Banks also writes award-winning science-fiction (see Consider Phlebas) under the name Iain M. Banks. So, please consider Mr. Banks for your own sake, and check out The Wasp Factory from my Favorites shelf at WTD.

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