This is basically a mystery, and mysteries live or die based on their final acts, and this is a super wack final act.
For like the first 90 percent, Banks does a pretty fair job here. He sets up a bunch of intriguing questions:
- When and how is the brother coming back?
- Why is this kid such a psycho?
- How did both of these kids end up psychos?
- What's in the study?
- Holy shit, did that kid say he killed three other kids?
- What's the wasp factory?
He doles out some answers at a good clip, so you're kept entertained. And the protagonist's voice is original and interesting: a scary smart little whackjob who's constructed an elaborate fantasy world in his isolated Scottish surroundings, with long-standing political feuds and alliances(him v. bunnies; him v. birds) and some sort of religious system.
But you're still wondering about the basic question: how did this kid happen? And the answer to that question is stupid. He's a lady? That's the reveal? And if I'm following this flood of malarkey at the end, he turned into a psycho killer because his feminine soul overcorrected in its attempt to conform to masculinity? Seriously? That is super fucking dumb, dude.
It's dumb intellectually, for one thing: gender dysmorphia, which is I guess what this sortof is, doesn't lead in any logical way to lighting bunnies on fire. It leaves the fact that both brothers are murderously insane as more or less a coincidence, for another. And finally, even granting the ending, there haven't been enough hints to make it a satisfying reveal. A good mystery presents a sudden explanation for a number of clues; there have not been good clues here. Yeah, a brief mention of the kid being unhappy with his body, and the fact that his brother occasionally cross-dressed for cloudy reasons, but nothing that logically leads to this.
It's a deus ex vagina, and this book is dumb.