1980s Classics Horror

The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

The Wasp Factory

Five words from the blurb: killed, brother, unconventional, bizarre, cruel

I have had The Wasp Factory on my shelf for a long time, but I’d been too scared to read it. How could I possibly enjoy a book about a child who enjoys murdering children and torturing animals? In a bold moment I decided to give it a try and I’m almost ashamed to admit that I loved it.

The book follows Frank, a disturbed teenager who admits to murdering three people.

A death is always exciting, always makes you realise how alive you are, how vulnerable but so-far-lucky; but the death of someone close gives you a good excuse to go crazy for a whale and do things that would otherwise be inexcusable. What a delight to behave really badly and still get loads of sympathy!

I was completely gripped to the text, desperate to know why he killed members of his family and how he managed to get away with it.

I admit that there were a couple of gruesome scenes, but for some reason they didn’t disturb me. I’m sure that some people will be disgusted by this entire book, but I thought that Banks did a good job of lifting the mood with humour. I was also impressed by how much I enjoyed seeing inside Frank’s disturbed mind, despite hating the majority of his actions.

I loved the ending. This is one of those wonderful books where clues are sprinkled throughout the text, but it is impossible to guess the outcome. The resulting moral message of the text added to my appreciation.

I can see why this book has become a modern day classic. It is unique, bizarre, clever and compelling. I don’t think I’ll ever forget this story, but I’m very glad I don’t know anyone like Frank!

Highly recommended.


Did you enjoy The Wasp Factory?

Which is your favourite Iain Banks book?

2009 Horror Recommended books Thriller

The Strain – Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

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< ?php echo amazon('0007310250','The Strain’); ?> begins with a plane arriving in JFK airport, New York. The landing proceeds normally, but shortly after touch down all contact is lost. Confused and frightened the airport employees approach the plane to discover what has happened. What they discover is beyond their worst imagination….

This initial section is one of the most chilling pieces of writing I have ever read. I was genuinely scared, my heart rate racing as the story unfolded. The tension was built perfectly – just as the climax was approaching the scene would switch, leading to the  tension mounting all over again.

Unfortunately the book did not manage to maintain the level of fear throughout. Once the cause of the disaster had been identified the book lost much of its appeal to me. I won’t reveal what happens, but I’ll just say that it isn’t very likely to occur and therefore I didn’t find it scary any more. There were still moments of tension, but they were nothing compared to the first few chapters.

This book is very well written and the scientific analysis was accurate and intriguing. I found the descriptions to be very cinematic, but that isn’t surprising given the fact that Guillermo del Toro is the Oscar winning creator of Pan’s Labyrinth. I can picture this book being made into a film without the need to change anything.

One big drawback was that the source of the problem, when it was explained in detail later in the book, did not bare any relation to the events in the plane. This is just nit picking though. The Strain is an amazing book. Perfectly paced, chilling and intelligently written – a perfect choice for Halloween, (or the RIP Challenge!).




NB. This is the first book in a trilogy. It worked as a stand alone novel though, and I can’t imagine how they will make the next in the series as good as this one. I’ll be interested to find out though!!

Are you a fan of scary books?

If you’ve read it – did you think that the events on the plane were related to the rest of the book?