When you feel like plunging into a piece of modern (or is it post modern now, or post post modern even?) literature, you could do much worse than testing the unsettled waters of The Wasp Factory. The titular factory itself is explored in the book, so don’t worry, or perhaps, do worry after you’ve read about it.
The protagonist is Frank Cauldhame, a haunted figure who recounts the deaths of various family members with matter-of-fact readiness, and informs us about his still living, but not all present, family, including his eccentric father with whom he is encarcerated, his mother who abandoned him, and his very unbalanced brother, Eric.
Events develop in a perplexing, asymmetrical fashion, with Banks taking a delicious delight in wrong-footing the reader at almost every step (every step would have been too easy and predictable, but this is just right).
The crackling first-person prose sweeps the reader along on an assured journey, giving us a modern (or post post modern or whatever) classic and one of the more satisfyingly strange experiences of recent times. Not for those with a nervous disposition or a weak stomach.
There aren’t many books like Naked Lunch by William Seward Burroughs. Some might say that this is a good thing. Others might not. Whatever the case, this book is an incendiary piece of modern literature. It was scrawled in the burning pits of passion of post WWII Beat era bebop prose New York. All the rules of literature are destroyed in one fell swoop, swallowed whole, and then defecated out again in a small, but luxurious pile in a corner of a run down, cockroach-infested, rented apartment.
The characters featured in the book are searingly original, based somewhere between weird science fiction, exotic, dystopian wasteland dwellers, or decadent, deviant party-goers at the edge of oblivion. Many of them exist in The Interzone, such as AJ, with his raucous antics, the irascible Dr Benway, and many more, come screaming from the page.
The words in this book are like firecrackers exploding in the night. Wild imagination fizzes off every page from every line. This book just keeps on inventing, and is more cinematic than any film could achieve, far more than any book that has ever been released before or since. The humour is scorching hot too, as piercing and honest as any Lenny Bruce skit, but shot through with a psychotic, psychedelic mania.
This book is a node at the intersection of reality. If you read it, your brain will never be the same again.