Book Review: The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

Genre: Contemporary, Thriller/Horror

Publishing Info: 2013 by Abacus (first published 1984)

Pages: 244

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

Two years after I killed Blyth I murdered my young brother Paul, for quite different reasons than I’d disposed of Blyth, and then a year after that I did for my young cousin Esmerelda more or less on a whim.
That’s my score to date.
I haven’t killed anybody for years, and don’t intend to ever again.
It was just a stage I was going through.
Enter – if you can bear it – the extraordinary private world of Frank, just sixteen, and unconventional, to say the least.

The Wasp Factory is certainly an interesting read. When I started reading I wasn’t sure if I liked it but as I read it grew on me as I became more intrigued and realised how clever it is. It is most certainly an odd book, with some very strange goings-on.

The plot revolves around Frank, and the events that follow when he discovers that his mad brother has escaped from the institution where he was living and is heading back to the island in Scotland where Frank and his father live. The book is a sort of self-discovery for Frank as he finds out about his true identity, but I can’t say any more as I don’t want to spoil it.

The character of Frank is quite disturbing. He sacrifices animals and enjoys blowing things up with bombs. Yet he isn’t a villain or an anti-hero. He’s one of those characters you can’t categorise. And despite the awful things he does and has done I wanted to follow his journey. I quite like reading unreliable narrators and Frank is certainly one of those.

Apparently, what I’ve heard from other people who have read it is that it is a subtle dark comedy. I didn’t really see any comedy in it at all. But then dark comedy isn’t usually my thing so maybe I just couldn’t see it.

There was only one thing holding me back from giving this book five stars. There is a scene (which I can’t explain without spoiling the book) which I found particularly graphic and upsetting. It’s an image I won’t be able to get rid of now that I have read. Something which I can’t unread. Personal circumstances probably made this scene more upsetting for me then it might for other people. I just thought I ought to explain why I only gave it four stars.

I would really recommend this book. It’s unusual (in a good way) and such an interesting, dark read. It wasn’t what I was expecting, and there were a few twists and turns along the way that were very surprising. It’s probably not for everybody, but I would recommend having a stab at it. It will be worth it in the end.

Film Review: Spectre

Release date: 26th October 2015

Director: Sam Mendes

Starring: Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Naomi Harris

Runtime: 148 minutes

Genre: Action

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 3/5 stars

Usually at the beginning of my film reviews I provide a quick synopsis of what the film is about. In this case, I’m not really sure what to say. It’s your typical Bond affair really.

For all the hype surrounding this film I found it disappointing. The opening sequence in Mexico was the best bit, but it went downhill from there. I was expecting the tension/suspense and excitement to build but the whole thing just stayed very flat. I’m not saying this was a bad film, it was good, but I didn’t exactly come out saying ‘oh wow that was great!’.

I’m not a fan of the theme for this film – Sam Smith’s ‘Writings on the Wall’. It lacked the same oomph and impact a James Bond theme usually does. It wasn’t exactly a stand out tune and not at all memorable.

The plot was okay but nothing new, just the same old stuff really. The one thing I did very much like about the plot is how they tied it to the previous Daniel Craig films, linking them all together. I thought that was clever and liked that aspect of it. There were a lot of allusions and nods to older Bond films which was a nice touch. There were also moments of greatness glimmering through and moments of humour that were good.

Some of the acting was better than others. Ben Whishaw as Q was great and Lea Seydoux was also quite good. I’ve not been the biggest fan of Daniel Craig as James Bond so maybe that didn’t help my impressions of the film. The writing wasn’t as strong as it could be. It felt like the script needed more work before they started filming.

Overall for me it just fell short and I’m not sure why. It just didn’t have the same ‘wow’ factor or impact that Skyfall had. It’s almost like they were trying too hard to make it better than Skyfall and it didn’t come off as well, at least in my opinion anyway. I didn’t feel excited, I wasn’t on the edge of my seat. This one just didn’t come together for me I’m afraid.