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Literature / The Wasp Factory

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Two years after I killed Blyth I murdered my young brother Paul, for quite different and more fundamental 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. Three. I haven't killed anybody for years, and don't intend to ever again.

It was just a stage I was going through.

The Wasp Factory is a 1984 novel written by Iain Banks. It tells the story of Frank Cauldhame, your average sixteen year-old murdererous sociopath who lives with his highly secretive father on an isolated island in North East Scotland. Frank's daily routine consists of disturbing shamanistic rituals, which include brutal animal sacrifice, that he believes give him control over the island. In addition to this he has also murdered three members of his family.

Frank's horrific and insular world is disrupted when he begins receiving calls from his older brother Eric who has escaped from his mental institution. As Frank begins to relate the circumstances which led to his brother's breakdown, he also begins to dig deeper into his father's secrets, leading to several deeply unpleasant revelations...

Provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Ax-Crazy: Our beloved narrator. In a big way. Bombs, fires, catapulting weapons at victims, catapulting victims at weapons, snakes, kites... about the only thing he doesn't use is an axe.
  • Berserk Button: For Eric, pretty much anything involving dogs.
  • Coming of Age Story: A dark, horrific, and deeply warped one, but one nonetheless.
  • Creepy Monotone: Deadpan, intellectual, not-supposed-to-be-ironic musings on the nature of democracy and its similarities to Frank's defunct conscience, squeezed in between unsentimental, matter-of-fact descriptions of being a seven-year-old serial killer? Definitely qualifies on this trope.
  • Enfant Terrible: Frank used to be one.
  • Freudian Excuse: Frank's childhood accident. Subverted at the end.
  • Groin Attack: Very much Played for Drama in Frank's backstory.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Fail to keep up with Eric's deranged trains of thought and he smashes up phone boxes and does unkind things to puppies.