September 10, 1984 12:00 PM

by lain Banks

The setting, on a forbidding Scottish shore, is in a house that looks like a skull staring out to sea. Frank’s older brother, Eric, escapes from a mental hospital where he has been sent for setting dogs on fire. He calls Frank on the phone periodically to say he is coming home, as the suspense in this unconventional horror novel builds. Frank, 16, is a monster, too. He plays on an island where he sticks animal heads on poles. He has turned his lonely life into secret, sick rituals, and in a bunker on the beach he worships the remains of the dog that maimed him in some unspeakable way. His crippled father, a scientist who keeps his study locked at all times, cannot climb to the attic. So it’s there that Frank has set up the wasp factory, where he foretells the future with games of torture and death involving the insects. This compelling first novel was written by a 30-year-old Scot who works in a law office in London. Beneath the surface of brilliantly described details is a fearsome tale about our era’s love of violence and the perversion of technology. It is well worth reading, but don’t even open it late at night if you’re alone. (Houghton Mifflin, $13.95)

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