I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
Two years after I killed Blyth I murdered my young brother Paul, for quite different 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.
I haven't killed anybody for years, and don't intend to ever again.
It was just a stage I was going through.
Enter - if you can bear it - the extraordinary private world of Frank, just sixteen, and unconventional, to say the least.
The inaugural entry on my “Horrible Humans” bookshelf. To be fair, I knew going into this book what the subject matter was—and I chose to read it anyway. What I didn’t realize that was two such books would come in at the public library for me mere days apart! So the second entry is waiting for me at home, when I’ve finished a couple of books with nearer due dates.
What an interesting first (published) novel for Mr. Banks! It is extremely well written—there were parts which made me cringe as I read them, I even set the book down and walked away for a while. But any devoted reader of true crime books will tell you that Frank is pretty mild in his awfulness compared to other, older (and real) offenders. One of the reasons that I gave up cable TV (and eventually TV in general) was an unhealthy obsession with true crime series which were seriously messing up my ability to trust the people around me. I may still be a little less trusting than the average person, but living in a city of over a million people, that seems to me to be a reasonable state of affairs.
And should I admit that I recognize many of Frank’s behaviours? What country child hasn’t spent hours outdoors, picking around old rubbish heaps if they are available, splooshing through water (I filled many pairs of wellies full of cold water during the run-off each spring), and developing my own little rituals to celebrate the seasons. Unlike Frank, I spent many happy hours just watching wild animals in our farm pasture land—convincing ground squirrels that I wasn’t going to do anything untoward and that they could go about their usual activities while I watched. Frank, however, has taken these childish past-times and given them a dark, heinous twist. He has taken the natural world and his violent thoughts and made his own private “religion” out of them, horrifying in its complexity and personal logic.
I can see where Banks considered this to be a work of almost-science fiction, getting into the head of someone who is confused and violent. Not recommended for those who are squeamish about scenes of animal cruelty.