Sue Arnold, The Guardian, Saturday 5 April, 2008
THE WASP FACTORY, by Iain Banks, read by Peter Kenny (7hrs unabridged, Hachette, £16.99)
At last, only 24 years after it was first published, I've finally got hold of a version of Banks's extraordinary first novel with a reader who does it justice. It isn't often that I have to abandon an audio because the reader is driving me to distraction - beggars can't be choosers - but there are a few authors whose novels simply don't make sense without the right person reading them. This is one of them. It's the story of 17-year-old Francis Cauldhame, whose family makes the Starkadders sound run-of-the-mill. At three, Frankie was savaged by a dog, losing most of his genitalia; by the age of nine, he had killed three young relatives, recalling his part in their deaths with the amused nostalgia usually reserved for anniversaries and reunions. His older brother, Eric, has just escaped from the mental asylum where he's been locked up for setting dogs on fire, and, while he waits for the renegade to show up, Frankie carries out his daily ritual of torturing wasps and inspecting his "sacrifice poles", topped with the skulls of animals he has throttled, stabbed or shot. No, it doesn't sound funny, but believe me it is - it has to be, otherwise it would be too grim to contemplate. Peter Kenny is the one reader (I've heard five) who brings out Banks's glorious sardonic wit. Good things are worth waiting for.
TRANSITION, Iain M. Banks, read by Peter Kenny
In an alternate universe, an organization called The Concern is run by people who "flit" from body to body and world to world. They work, ostensibly, for the betterment of mankind, but the heads of the organization are attempting an enormous power grab while a rogue member works desperately to stop them. Peter Kenny gives a virtuoso performance, juggling multiple narrators of various genders, ages, and accents. American, British, Scottish, Russian, French, middle European—his mellow tenor handles all these accents and ensures the listener is never lost for a moment. Kenny also helps the listener keep track of all the twisty threads as they weave together the intricate story. This is speculative fiction at its finest, with a narration to match. G.D.
Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2009, Portland, Maine [Published: DECEMBER 2009]