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The Wasp Factory

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  37,711 ratings  ·  2,092 reviews
Frank — no ordinary sixteen-year-old — lives with his father outside a remote Scottish village. Their life is, to say the least, unconventional. Frank's mother abandoned them years ago; his elder brother Eric is confined to a psychiatric hospital; and his father measures out his eccentricities on an imperial scale. Frank has turned to strange acts of violence to vent his f ...more
Paperback, 184 pages
Published September 10th 1998 by Simon & Schuster (NYC) (first published 1984)
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American Psycho by Bret Easton EllisLord of the Flies by William Golding1984 by George OrwellA Child Called "It" by Dave PelzerA Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
The Most Disturbing Book Ever Written
34th out of 1,558 books — 5,510 voters
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Best Twists
60th out of 1,845 books — 4,044 voters

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Community Reviews

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mark monday
a gentle coming-of-age tale set in rustic scotland, depicting the charming misadventures of a precocious lad and his idiosyncratic older brother as they struggle to understand themselves and each other.

this is some hard stuff, and by "hard" i mean Hard Like the Marquis de Sade Is Hard. do not read this if you cannot stomach depictions of animal torture. do not read this if you cannot stomach the murder of children. this one was hard for me to read at times, and i read some pretty terrible things

Now we all know that dating a fictional psychopath or a sociopath can be a lot of fun. While it is true that these individuals rarely make viable candidates for a long term commitment, short term relationships have been shown to have some real upside. For example, dating a psychopath can be a “breath of fresh, adventurous air” following the end of a stale, boring and unsatisfying relationship as they are much more “uninhibited” and willing to experiment than the typical person. In addition, a p
Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Rating: 4.95* of five

The Publisher Says: Frank--no ordinary sixteen-year-old--lives with his father outside a remote Scottish village. Their life is, to say the least, unconventional. Frank's mother abandoned them years ago: his elder brother Eric is confined to a psychiatric hospital; & his father measures out his eccentricities on an imperial scale. Frank has turned to strange acts of violence to vent his frustrations. In the bizarre daily rituals there is some solace. But when news comes
Lynne King
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I've read this too many times to give a straight up reaction review, and I feel like any significant writing I might attempt on this book would necessarily become an essay. It's too late at night for that, so maybe next time. Instead, here is what I was thinking this time through:

• I love Frank. I don't mean I love to hate him. I mean I love to love him. And I think it is one of the greatest achievements of Iain Banks' career that he makes me love Frank. I empathize with him as he maintains his
Maggie Galvin
Jan 06, 2008 Maggie Galvin rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: posers and sociopaths
Recommended to Maggie by: someone currently in therapy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
K.D. Absolutely
Jan 09, 2013 K.D. Absolutely rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010); 100 Best English Novels in the 20th Century
Shelves: 1001-core, gothic, first
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 11, 2012 Paul rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: novels
Huh, what? Oh no – tell him I'm out. It's the guy who rang last week – no, I don't want to speak to him, no---HI IAIN!! Great to hear from you. Yeah, yeah. How's it hanging? Yeah. So. What can we do you for today? Well yes, you told me that last week. You've written a novel, great. Oh yes, ha ha, that's what we do here, we publish books. Yes but – you know, first novels are not that easy to sell. You have to have an angle. What's that? You've got an angle? Great. Great. Listen, er ---- oh what? ...more
I said I was going to listen to it the next time I read it and here I go.

Later ....

An intelligent man I know is also an incorrigible literary snob who believes that the last author of any true literary merit was Faulkner, and that anything that has come since must be poor by definition (himself excluded, though I suspect I am not). He reads more recent texts because he must (for school or pedagogical purposes), and his feelings about them are predominantly negative.

So he read the Wasp Factory a
Nandakishore Varma
Question: Are violence and cruelty innate to human nature – or is man inherently civilised?

This is the question posed by that most controversial and loved/ hated novel, The Lord of the Flies. The same question is posed in this book too. However, whereas the canvas was a huge one there, in The Wasp Factory, the reader is viewing things under a microscope. Rather like watching bugs.

From chapter one onwards, Iain Banks invites us into the head of Frank Cauldhame, who is one seriously disturbed teen
Apr 12, 2011 Shovelmonkey1 rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: dog haters and budding psychos everywhere
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list
Holy Shit! American Psycho meets Lord of the flies with a little bit of Countryfile thrown in! It took me one commute to read this book and it may be telling of my own psyche that I didn't actually consider Frank to be that crazy. Eric the dog burner was blatantly bat shit crazy but Frank, despite his slightly odd proclivities relating to the collection of animal heads on sticks and wasps in "future telling" mazes appeared to be eccentric at best. Ok he did have a fairly alarming body count unde ...more
Feb 06, 2013 Manny rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Scots teens with mutilated genitals who ingeniously torture animals and commit untraceable murders
I admit it's a narrow demographic. But if this is you, then I promise you're gonna love it.
WHAATTT?! Never read anything like it! A very dark, macabre, insane, unsettling and disturbing book. How do you rate something like this? It certainly can't be described as enjoyable. Then why couldn't I put the damn thing down?! Why did I allow myself to be drawn in to the violence, even as I'm trying to imagine what could possibly drive someone to do such sick things? If I said I thought this book was simply outstanding, what does that say about me? Ah, damn it! enough with the questions. I'm ...more
Six thoughts on The Wasp Factory:

1. Yes, The Wasp Factory has a lot of disturbing images of a psychotic youth committing violence on people and animals.

2. Yes, it's worth it. Everything has a reason, a purpose. The book is full of physical and emotional violence, but it's decidedly not gratuitous.

3. Iain Banks is once again inside my head, but this time it disturbs me rather deeply. I'm mildly OCD. (A good tax lawyer has to be OCD to some extent.) I say "mildly" because my OCD doesn't interfere
Aug 08, 2007 Adam rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: not the feint hearted
For all the so called controversial works out there, few truly shock. I can honestly say Wasp Factory is in this limited company. I wasn't reading for shock value though, and I was still rewarded,weird characters, great narrator, good satire,pitch black humor, and a tale of bizarre Scottish gothic. Lots of unanswered questions and in many ways resembles the slow unvealing of a nightmare(there are scenes of such horror in this book I had to put it down for a minute after reading them.)My first Ba ...more
Gloria Mundi
Things I learned from this book:

- there are vicious killer rabbits out there, so watch out;

- you can make a bomb out of pretty much anything, even a five year old can do it;

- if you let a psychotic hippy with a penchant for psychological experiments bring up kids on an isolated island, the kids will invariably turn out to be looneys (well, duh).

This was good overall. I enjoy Banks' writing style and the characterisation was superb. The demented world of a teenage psychopath is delightfully reali
Chilly SavageMelon
Previously having reviewed some of Banks sci-fi, I was eager to delve into the “straight fiction”, and this was his first novel. It is certainly stunning, sort of the Columbine version of Holden Caufield, were the reader is given entry into the first person mind of a kid who’s not all there, at war, and doesn’t mind if the world knows it. Frank has murdered three of his siblings, and currently his older brother is on the lamb from a mental institution. He has a unique existence, having grown up ...more
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

“The Wasp Factory is part of life and – even more so – part of death. Like life it is complicated, so all the components are there. The reason it can answer questions is because every question is a start looking for an end, and the Factory is about the End – death, no less. Keep your entrails and sticks and dice and books and birds and voices and pendants and all the rest of that crap; I have the Factory, and it’s about now and the fu
Sep 29, 2008 Shedim rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Shedim by: Chad
Shelves: novels
The Wasp Factory, Bank's clever and unwinding thesis on nature versus nurture, is often accused of sensationalism through shock. While one might consider the events and actions of the characters disturbing (despite their spartan descriptions), the author's attempt to mirror the brutality of the real world builds the foundation to the paradox and paradigms exposed in the story (the brutality which also serves as inspiration for Frank's creation of the Factory).

This is a story about the power of m
Jan 07, 2009 Caris rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2009
Frank's dad thinks he's a little off. And he's right. Frank is constantly at war with the natural world, hates women, and centers his understanding of the future on his Wasp Factory. But, really, his father doesn't have much room to talk. After all, why does he have to keep his office so securely locked all the time? Why does he allow his obviously disturbed son to run along by himself while maintaining something of a disgusted detachment?

Frank's life is more and more frequently disrupted by cry
Jan 18, 2011 smetchie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to smetchie by: Hugh Foster
I've read stories sort of like this before - stories where you really get inside a character's head and the character is a self-centered murderer and crazier than a shithouse rat to boot. But I didn't like any of those characters! I hated them. I spent the whole story disgusted with them.

I actually like Frank. Jesus, I might even kind of understand him. That's really scary! So this book gets 5 stars from me because it got in my head and twisted up my perception and turned things around on me. N
Adam Light
This is one of those books you will either love or despise.
I belong. to the first camp.
What makes this book so relentlessly engaging is the expert execution of the writing. This tale begins at a leisurely enough pace, then mercilessly accelerates as it races toward its famed (rightly so) twist ending, so hold on tight.
The first person perspective is utilized to disturbing effect.
Frank, the narrator, is a deeply disturbed individual with a flair for describing events in the most graphic terms.
David Katzman
Mar 18, 2012 David Katzman rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Fans of grim inner monologues
Recommended to David by: Lea
A well-written intriguing inner monologue but eventually neither complex nor deep as a whole work.

I went into this novel expecting it to be science fiction. Dead wrong. Once I have an inkling that I want to read a certain book—such as if I hear about the author, read the beginning of the summary, or skim a review by one of my Goodreads friends—then I dig no further. I prefer to read the book cold so that no promotional chatter interferes with my impression of the work itself. In the case of The
Sometime during my English Lit A Level, in one of my textbooks, there was an extract from The Wasp Factory, and my English teacher gave us a rambling synopsis of the book, telling us it's "really very weird and [he couldn't:] imagine why anyone would want to read it". Of course, I got curious, but never enough to buy the book. Browsing the library for some books to read, I spotted The Wasp Factory and decided I'd get it. I read it today. It's easy to read all in one go, I think. I probably took ...more
The whole of this book was written from Franks POV and this makes it a very strange book. Its filled with his superstitions and bizzare rituals. It aslo includes animal torture to a large extent.

The book is set on a remote island in Scotland and in one part of the book frank is out at the pub with his friend and he gets drunk and I can't understand what he's saying because of a broad Scottish accent. Its written really good and it got my laughing which was good as there's not much of that here.
Hannah Young
Jan 04, 2015 Hannah Young rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Psychopaths
Grotesque, sick and twisted, I did not enjoy this book at all. I had been expecting horror and macabre after hearing various reviews and recommendations, but instead of being entertained by the gruesome content I was purely disgusted that anyone could find this a pleasureable read. I couldn't get much further than the half way mark after being particularly horrified by a disturbing incident involving an old War bomb. This is perhaps the first novel I've ever been able to leave unfinished without ...more

‘Perhaps it’s all a joke, meant to fool literary London into respect for rubbish’ - The Times

‘A silly, gloatingly sadistic and grisly yarn… bit better written than most horror hokum but really just the lurid literary equivalent of a video nasty’ - Sunday Express

‘No masterpiece and one of the most disagreeable pieces of reading that has come my way in quite a while… Enjoy it I did not’ - Sunday Telegraph

‘A repulsive piece of work and will therefore be widely admired. Piles horror upon h
Well, this certainly was a memorable piece of work. Most characters (if not all) in this book were scary, nuts and out-of-this-world!

Frank, a sixteen-year old boy, is not quite normal (understatement). He himself believes he is the sanest member of his family and he is almost right. The atrocious acts he commits against animals and people alike, and his line of thinking are upsetting at the very least!

While Frank awaits the inevitable arrival of his insane half brother Eric who escaped from a p
Frank is an unsympathetic mother fucker but you feel for him by the end.
Jennifer D
i am really having trouble unpacking my thoughts about this book and i am not 100% certain yet what i am feeling. but i can tell you, i feel like i am having ALL THE FEELINGS.

this was banks' first book. HIS FIRST BOOK, and it's an amazing debut work. there are some big subjects covered here: religion (via ritual), gender issues (a whole lot of hating on women going on here), psychopathic people (not just one psychopathic person), family secrets and power & abuse issues too. which is a lot o
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This author also published science fiction under the pseudonym Iain M. Banks.

Banks's father was an officer in the Admiralty and his mother was once a professional ice skater. Iain Banks was educated at the University of Stirling where he studied English Literature, Philosophy and Psychology. He moved to London and lived in the south of England until 1988 when he returned to Scotland, living in Edi
More about Iain Banks...
The Crow Road Complicity The Bridge Whit Espedair Street

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“All our lives are symbols. Everything we do is part of a pattern we have at least some say in. The strong make their own patterns and influence other people's, the weak have their courses mapped out for them. The weak and the unlucky, and the stupid.” 20 likes
“A death is always exciting, always makes you realise how alive you are, how vulnerable but so-far-lucky; but the death of somebody close gives you a good excuse to go a bit crazy for a while and do things that would otherwise be inexcusable. What delight to behave really badly and still get loads of sympathy!” 11 likes
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