Long-listed for The Believer Book Award for Fiction
“I spent recess on the edge of the yard, watching the other boys chase one another and slap each other in the testicles. Civilized boys are barbaric in their play, and, to me, every single one of them seemed murderous.”
A new arrival at an isolated school for orphaned boys quickly comes to realize there is something wrong with his new home. He hears chilling whispers in the night, his troubled classmates are violent and hostile, and the Headmaster sends cryptic messages, begging his new charge to confess. As the new boy learns to survive on the edges of this impolite society, he starts to unravel a mystery at the school’s dark heart. And that’s when the corpses start turning up.
A coming-of-age tale, a Gothic ghost story, and a murder mystery all in one, The Job of the Wasp is a bloodcurdling and brilliantly subversive novel about paranoia, love, and the nightmare of adolescence.
Winnette looked at haunted house stories, locked-room mysteries, Victorian boarding school stories, and unreliable narrator–helmed psychological thrillers and was like, I WANT ALL THE THINGS. And thus, The Job of the Wasp was born, featuring a couple of unreliable narrators, a deeply disturbing boarding school environment, dead bodies turning up where you least expect them, and, if all that wasn’t frightening enough, fucking wasps.
The Job of the Wasp is a unique, deeply strange, and satisfying uncanny tale that surprises and at times shocks.
I’m a sucker for smart horror novels, in the same way that I’m a sucker for smart horror movies. They’re my popcorn, and I’ve heard this is a great one. The quiet of the nighttime desert around my yurt will turn any atmospheric spookiness up to 11.
A witty and grisly gothic unlike anything I’ve ever read.
The Job of the Wasp is a madcap mystery, a macabre coming-of-age story and an unearthly fantasy—but it feels like childhood, like the world, like life.
Winnette has conjured a profoundly unsettling story from the murky depths of his imagination; once it clicks, giggles, and slithers into your mind, it’s nearly impossible to dislodge.
[The novel is] commendable for its experimentation: its oddness evokes Robert Walser’s Jakob von Gunten and Ferdydurke by Witold Gombrowicz.
This book works marvelously as a spooky horror before suddenly becoming a moving tale of alienation . . . Winnette’s writing is immaculate. From descriptions of corpses to the inner lives of wasps, I believed every word he gave me. And in our narrator, he’s created a singular voice: prissy, contemptuous, achingly lonely, and darkly funny . . . This isn’t just a ghost story or a locked room mystery—it’s much more an examination of how we define reality, he we interact with our deepest fears, and how we define our humanity. But the ghost stuff is also cool, and if you’re looking for a visceral horror experience, this book is a perfect fit for a stormy night’s reading.
It’s been a while since a book kept me captivated by gory mystery, anxiously awaiting the next turn of the page, as I was while reading Colin Winnette’s The Job of the Wasp. . . . Winnette pulls off suspense masterfully, keeping the reader constantly guessing, uncertain of the true nature of the mischief afoot. Every time I thought I knew ’whodunnit,’ a new element was introduced, rendering my previous theories impossible, and setting me on a new route of grizzly discovery. Throughout the book, Winnette maintains a perfectly gothic atmosphere that is simply gorgeous. At times, I actually felt the proverbial ’chills down my spine’ and had to put the book down, walk away and shake off that creepy old feeling.
Colin Winnette’s short, sharp shock of a novel will convince readers that only the worst can happen among a gloomy collection of administrators, teachers and students. . . . Winnette saturates The Job of the Wasp with odd incidents designed to keep readers perpetually off balance. . . . The narrator proves to be anything but reliable, and that’s the creepy fun of The Job of the Wasp. . . . Winnette’s book. . . . is its own unique, surreal thing, related in a distinctive voice, by turns funny and spooky.
With Winnette’s fourth novel he proves he’s adept at re-appropriating genre conventions in intriguing ways.
A coming-of-age tale replete with darkness and murder, The Job of the Wasp refuses to soften for the sake of its reader.
Oscillating between murder mystery, psychological thriller, and coming-of-age novel, The Job of the Wasp (Soft Skull Press, 2018) is a careful, yet playful, study of the power plays inevitable among children, and between children and adults, by way of an exploration of group dynamics and science fiction. Winnette’s work capitalizes on the spectral aspect of being alive to discover a newfound meaning for self-actualization . . . Winnette effectively paints the picture of the preteen experience: an endless stream of attempts to fit into a group that innately wants to reject you and arbitrarily demean you. Interestingly, Winnette combines this trope with some critical theory. If the child is suddenly a threat to the others, and if no one believes a word he says or wants anything to do with him, then what does it mean for him to be the sole narrator of the story? . . . It’s the unheimlich, the uncanny nature of Winnette’s story that makes each narrative occurrence visceral and creepily familiar.
The Job of the Wasp is what would happen if William Golding’s Lord of the Flies crashed against Guillermo del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone at high speed in a room full of pulp magazines where Kinji Fukasaku was trying to rewrite Battle Royale as a Gothic ghost story.
With The Job of the Wasp, Winnette deftly introduces a stern Headmaster, an indifferent teacher, a perverted tailor and dozens of nameless enemies. This whips up a web of intrigue, but it’s Winnette’s wicked prose (a standout passage: "What use is there in talking about something in the language of what it is not?") that tantalizes the reader and introduces uncertainty at every turn.
Colin Winnette’s fiction frequently pushes at the boundaries of genre, upending conventions and dazzling readers along the way. His latest is set at a remote boarding school for orphaned boys, but quickly moves into the surreal by way of ominous conspiracies, ghosts, and a sense of ambiguity that quickly turns sinister.
I’ve never read anything like this book before. Colin Winnette’s voice is utterly unique, his writing is delirious. This book is surreal, it’s scary like a weird dream, and it is hilarious. He is a hugely talented writer.
Even as The Job of the Wasp delights you with strangeness, with imagination, with intrigue, prepare also for devastation
The Job of the Wasp is an unsettling whodunit like you have never read before. Terrifying and stylish, disconcerting and beautiful . . . This is a perceptive, darkly funny novel that reminds us of how thrilling and bizarre it is to be alive.
The Job of the Wasp is wonderfully creepy and peculiar, a sort of gothic rendition of Lord of the Flies. Colin Winnette is an enviable, natural talent, and to read him is a pure entertainment.