Graham Trevennan is one of those people who coast through life without great aspirations or desire to own the world (or even a secret hollowed out volcano). Having split with his girlfriend he's mooching about pretty aimlessly when he get's the shock of his life - secret lumps of rock, shady and armed goons and his interior re-decorated with brain-matter grey (courtesy of the poorly timed appearance of his ex teacher).
Being framed for said murder isn't even the worst part as previously dormant volcanoes begin erupting around the world and impossibly complex crystal meteorites begin falling out of the sky.
The first thing that strikes you about this novel is the way that it manages to disarm and draw you into the story, the first person narrative feels like it's really speaking to you directly but not just that it's like a close friend having a chat over a pint or a coffee. This friendly dialogue is matched by the quality of the prose and fun, slightly meandering style that makes the book a simple joy to read.
The sense of humour is brilliant, not too caustic but with a slight sarcasm and almost innocent charm that causes you to loose all sense of time and become completely immersed in the story. Once you are hooked the atmosphere slowly changes, too slow for you to notice right away but it does become a bit more thoughtful, more pensive and credit has to go to the author for managing to create this transition without it becoming clumsy or graceless.
There is little time spent with back-story or lengthy character building which means that the pace remains pretty speedy through-out and there's a real danger of getting so sucked in that you forget to sleep / eat etc - I started the book then realised 20% of it had sped by without me looking up once.
The story itself involves these cataclysmic volcano eruptions and alien-esque meteors falling from the sky and the further into the journey the book travels the more the authors' ideas become clear and there are some really great ideas given form here. Much of this does involve geology and rather than feel left out not knowing much about the subject, the author manages to create a real interest in learning more. Instead of descending into overly specific detail (which could spoil the pace) the author keeps the technical details surface level and I am still confounded how he manages to make something as sedate as geology sound so sexy. The way the author manages to evoke the feeling of being a tiny mote witnessing events on a grand scale is also something quite special and a feeling I haven't quite encountered this side of HG Wells.
The plot steadily builds as the pages are consumed and reaches a crescendo at the end which is pretty spectacular, if a little abrupt. I actually liked the way this ended, even if there were a few loose ends untied (but hey, that's life after all) and I was genuinely left wanting more which is always a good sign for a story.
A Jar of Wasps is perspicacious, witty and a wholeheartedly entertaining read from beginning to end, one book that really shouldn't be missed.
Written by Antony, 01 June 2012.