Iain Banks
The Wasp Factory

Everyone got into a terrific tizzy about this somewhat unusual first novel: reviews are divided between Guardians of Purity and Truth (who jump up and down shouting "sick – obscene – salacious – repulsive") and an equally energetic band proclaiming a new literary messiah ("astonishing – brilliant – exceptional"). I thoroughly enjoyed it, but ...

Young Frank is an interestingly obsessive personality, fond of torture (small animals/insects) and killing (small contemporaries) by way of revenge on the cruel and literally castrating world. A likeable character with a nice line in irony, observation and matter-of-fact insanity, Frank keeps the tone determinedly light – making the book highly readable at the expense of conviction, true obsession being characteristically devoid of witty self-deprecation. Horrors are either understated in brief epigrams or forced clear over the top into ghoulishly funny Grand Guignol. Great fun. Don't miss.

But ... what was the fuss about? Has a diet of far more intentionally horrible horrors left me unable to see Banks's alleged vileness and depravity? Has Ramsey Campbell corrupted my very soul? I must get on the hotline to Mary Whitehouse, and ask.