by Iain Banks
Meet Frank Cauldhame. Just sixteen, and unconventional to say the least:
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.
My reaction? Occasional moments of "squirm", "well, yuck", and "please stop" sprinkled over long periods of "resounding meh".
I began reading the book knowing that it was going to be "dark"-- more than dark, probably disturbing. I wasn't sure how I was going to react to that. I thought I might decide to stop reading. As it turns out, I reached the end of the book by skimming a few sections. Sometimes I skimmed paragraphs because the story was getting to me (or rather, I was afraid it was about to do so), but at other times, I skimmed because nothing interesting was happening.
Parts of the book-- or maybe I should say aspects of the book-- are well-written (never pleasant to read, but well-crafted), but it is far from a masterpiece, in my humble opinion.
It's not really scary, by the way. Much more "disgusting" than "terrifying". I'm not sure how much of what Frank believes about his family is true (because he gets most of his information from such an unreliable source), but I kept wondering why nearly everyone in his family seems to be (or have been) extremely lacking in mental stability. I know these things "run in families"-- but some of these family members were only related by marriage, so... Anyway, just wondering.
Most of the story felt like it was building for a big, explosive (*coughcorditecough*) ending, but the actual "bombshell moment" was... just weird. I didn't see it coming, but I wasn't really wowed by it, either.
I won't go into greater detail, because... well, I don't want to! I finished the book because I wanted to know what happened-- and now that I do, I'm ready to wash my hands of it and find something that doesn't leave me feeling filthy.
I think this book has (temporarily?) cured my wish to peek into this genre, so at least some good came of it. ;o)
ETA (with SPOILERS):
One more thing... Frank's murders all have an air of unreality-- or at least unlikelihood. First, he just happens to find a venomous snake. Second, he just happens to find an unexploded bomb. Third, he builds a kite big enough to sweep a little girl into the air and out to sea. I suppose it's all possible, but it seems like luck was really, really on his side.
...In some ways-- apart from how downright disgusting he often is-- Frank is much less terrifying a character than Rhoda from The Bad Seed. Now that seems like a realistic portrait of a child psychopath! Much more highly recommended than this novel.