Warning. I almost threw up reading this book!
I am a self-confessed lover of gore. I started reading Stephen King at a young age and authors like Christopher Fowler and Robert Brockway have been fixtures on my shelf for some time now. I’ve never had a problem with reading about violence or horror and the majority of this book didn’t cause any kind of problem. But one scene in this novel is so horrifically described that the passengers on the met line service to Ruislip Manor almost received an unwelcome addition to their journey. I’ll leave it at that but if you do read this, make sure you stay well away from public transport.
For the life of me I cannot remember who recommended this book to me. Part of me wants to thank them and part of me wants to kick them hard for not warning me. If you’re reading this, mystery reader, then thank you, But maybe stay silent.
Iain Banks wanted to write Science Fiction. When no one would publish his works he wrote a science fiction story without any of the science fiction. The result is breathtakingly awesome. It has the feel of an alien life watching humanity, trying to fit in and yet struggling to understand exactly how we work.
The story follows Frances. A Scottish Teenager living on an island with his father. Due to his father never registering his birth Frances doesn’t go to school or have much interaction with other people at all. His brother is in a mental asylum and his mother has been gone for years. There’s one more thing. Over the years Frances has murdered three relatives including his younger brother. He shows no remorse for this but does state that it was merely a phase he was going through and that he didn’t feel like killing anyone else. At first glance Frances is a sociopath, but there’s a lot more to him than that. He’s undoubtedly a highly intelligent person although his maturity seems a little stunted. His cruelty to animals seems sickening and yet with the past that’s explained it’s not as surprising as you might think. Frances is a perfect example of Nature versus Nurture and how we are all products of our upbringing and the people closest to us. For Frances that means his obsessive compulsive father and the occasional phone calls from his brother. As the story develops you learn more and more about why Frances is the way he is.
The only thing I found troubling with this story (despite the aforementioned potential chunder scene) was that some of it seemed incredibly farfetched. Yes, this is meant to be a science fiction story told in the real world but that means you have to leave out the majority of more fantastical elements we come to expect from those tails. Reading is in itself a way to suspend your feeling of disbelief and enter a whole new world. This means that anything that jars you from that mind-set is taking you out of the book. There were a couple of times reading this that made me stop reading to puzzle over the ridiculousness of what I had just read. If it had come up in a fantasy or even a horror novel it wouldn’t have worried me. With this book it just didn’t seem to fit in.
So who should read this book? Anyone with a strong stomach! I’m not joking people, if you’re squeamish in anyway then I really wouldn’t recommend this. Students of Psychology and the human mind will love the reveal of Frances’s character. Any Science Fiction fans will really enjoy this as well. If you like Robert Heinlen or Frank Herbert I’d definitely give this a go.
Finally, if you are the person who recommended this to me then please do let yourself be known. I promise not to hurt you……Much.