08/11/2010

"Pandaemonium"

by Christopher Brookmyre

Second in my coincidental trilogy of punning titles is this satire of religion and its place in society. Being Brookmyre, it's also a very dark comedy thriller that takes numerous side-swipes at other attitudes along the way.

The action centres on a school trip away in an activity centre in (of course) Scotland, which just happens to be on land above a highly secret military installation where unprecedented experiments are taking place. Inevitably, the two come together in a very unexpected way - I won't reveal how, since you might want to read the book.

Like most of Brookmyre's novels, there is plenty of action, comedic moments and quite a few deaths. Unlike most other of his novels, however, it doesn't have an unambiguous happy ending. Most of his books are, for all the attitude and black comedy, pure "Hollywood", to use William Goldman's definition of a Hollywood film as one in which the good guys win and the bad guys lose. Pandaemonium is not Hollywood. The body count is substantially higher than his other books and it's not all bad guys either. At the end, the establishment prevails.

One of the things I like most about his stories are that they are pure escapism - partly because of the Hollywood nature of the plots - and although this is darker it is just as entertaining. This is the second time I've read it and I enjoyed it both times.

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