Category Archives: Modern Classics

A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess

For most people, A Clockwork Orange brings to mind a Stanley Kubrick film rather than an Anthony Burgess book and everyone seems to know about the infamous rape scene which saw the movie banned and achieve cult status at the same time.

The actual story of A Clockwork Orange is actually much deeper than this one horrific scene, although it is hard to think of anything else. The story follows 15 year old Alex and his 3 droogs as they rob, fight and even murder for fun.

They have no cares, they own the night and no one can stop them. That is, until the state steps in to “reform” Alex, using an unconventional technique that takes away his choice to be good and instead forces him to be the “ideal” member of the state.

Even by today’s standards, A Clockwork Orange is very controversial, graphic and downright sickening at times, but with the underlying commentary on socialism, troubled youth and the state it is not just a gore fest but rather a highly political novel that uses the violence to emphasise its point.

What’s more, by using the young hoodlum Alex as the narrator of the book and a strange slang that is half cockney, half Russian, Burgess creates a truly unique text and dialogue that is rather addictive (I now find myself using a few of the made up words!).

Altogether, A Clockwork Orange is highly entertaining, brilliantly written and very clever. However, I do have one criticism (and it’s a bit of a big one).

During the novel we are taken to the extremes of both crime and punishment, with both seeming horrific and unjust, but then all of a sudden ends rather “nicely”. Not only does this not really fit in with the rest of the novel, it seems rather morally wrong, as if everything is just suddenly absolved by someone from nowhere.

A couple of chapters before the end there is a brilliant moment when all this torture of good and evil comes to a head which would be a perfect time to end a brilliant novel! But instead we are left with this flat, middle of the road end as if it was all just a strange, crazy dream and I hate that!

However, I’m sure there will be those who disagree so feel free to tell me why I am wrong below:

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Filed under 1001 Books, Modern Classics

The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

With his mother gone, his brother locked up in a psychiatric hospital and only his eccentric farther for company, Frank has by no means had an ordinary childhood. But then again Frank is by no means an ordinary child.

Although smart, inquisitive and by no means aggressive in his normal day to day manner, Frank is capable of truly dark and terrifying acts. He has already killed his younger brother and 2 other family members, and although he insists that it was just a stage he was going through, his love for guns, explosions and torturing animals is quite disturbing.

But then again, Frank’s brother Eric makes him look like a saint, and he’s just escaped from the psychiatric ward and is on his way back home…

Dark, Disturbed and at times downright disgusting, The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks is by no means for the faint hearted reader. With a strong realism in his writing, Banks is able to draw the reader in and play out these shocking scenes as if they are happening in front of your eyes.

However, what is most bizarre about this book is how he is able to make the reader like Frank and sympathise with him, despite what he is capable off. He is a killer, but he is also lost and alone, something we have all felt at least once in our lives.

By far the most enjoyable thing about this book is Bank’s writing style, which draws you in, flows and is effortless to read. However, if you scare easy or prefer your books a little more light hearted The Wasp Factory probably isn’t for you.

One final point with this book is that it is one of the most modern on the list of 1001 Books to Read Before you Die, first published just 26 years ago in 1985, and although I enjoyed it and it is widely praised I was slightly surprised to see it on the list. So what do you all think? Is The Wasp Factory worthy of its place on the list? I can’t decide!

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Filed under Modern Classics