The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks is a messed up, twisted little horror of a book. Delightfully so.
This brisk tale takes us into the world of Frank Cauldhame, a sixteen year old Scottish boy who might be described as troubled, if gross understatement is your thing. Told from his perspective, Frank lives with his ex-hippie Father on a remote island in Scotland. Owing partly to an accident when he was a child, and to the isolated nature of his Father's home-schooling, Frank's active yet cruel adolescent imagination has lead to the creation of his own private mythology surrounding his life, his island home and his extended family.
The book draws readers inexorably deeper into a world of animal cruelty, homebrew religion and murder, and the results are enthralling. I've always been fascinated by fiction that delves into the human psyche to explore the line between sanity and madness, and Iain Banks does a fantastic job of presenting the bizarre logic of his book's protagonist in a way that the reader can perfectly understands his motivation, whilst being simultaneously horrified by his actions.
This book is not for the faint hearted. If you shy away from animal and human cruelty (as you should) then you'll find this a difficult read in places. If you find these things intolerable, then you'd best turn back at the gate. However, though the subject matter of the book is fire, torture and death, it's also very funny. The author's dark humour often had me laughing despite my best intentions.
The greatest strength of The Wasp Factory is in my opinion it's originality. It's darkly entertaining, humorously macabre, and brutally imaginative, and I recommend it to anyone who's got the balls.