“For years,” says Frank Cauldhame laconically, “I believed Pathos was one of the Three Musketeers, Fellatio was a character in Hamlet, Vitreous a town in China, and that Irish peasants had to tread the peat to make Guinness.” Fair enough since Frank is 16, keen on corpses, and tends to the Wasp Factory, which involves real wasps, jars, and foretelling the future. Banks’ sets this psychosis on a ruined island off Scotland owned by Frank’s father, who lets Frank be Frank. Killing relieves the boredom.
Banks’ first novel is a homicidal Freudian ritual — vicious, funny, and maniacal, with a truly nasty kicker. Labeled repulsive by much of the mainstream British press when released, it extends a Gothic palm to the test of time.