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3.5 out of 5 stars
Pandaemonium
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
This is certainly the strangest book ever written by Christopher Brookmyre, and given what has gone before that is really saying something.

Best known as a comic crime writer he extends his range here into science fantasy and horror.

The story to some extent touches on areas he has explored before; a bunch of townie kids in a rural setting where really bizarre things start happening. Having said that he does as ever come up with original and ingenious new twists. All of the usual Brookmyre hallmarks are here; bizarre events resulting from a perfectly logical set of steps, very funny wit and the most amusing foul language you'll find this side of the number 9 bus to Linwood.

As some of his books have had in the past, this book has an underlying polemic, although it does take some time to discern what this actually is (I won't be more explicit as this might be a plot spoiler). The book does take a long time to get going with the first third or so essentially devoted to explaining the science and theology on which the story appears to depend. Some of this is pretty hard going. At times it seemed a bit like "The Da Vinci Code" meets "A Beginner's Guide to Stephen Hawking". There is no doubt that Brookmyre is a very clever man and that his eclectic intellect informs his writing. A reasonably good knowledge of the history of science (particularly quantum mechanics) and the Church (especially the Inquisition) would do no harm to the reader, although it's not essential. Certainly I found myself having to read certain passages more than once, and I'm not sure I "got" it all in the end. He does appear to wear that intellect on his sleeve a bit too much in this book and it could have done with a bit of judicious editing.

Having made this criticism I should emphasise that this is an excellent book nonetheless. As well as his trademark comedy this is a great rip-roaring adventure which engages the reader as well. It is almost like a "Boy's Own" (Although to be fair much of the adventure is down to the distaff side of the cast) adventure, with added gore, sex, violence, bad language, particle physics and ecclesiastical history. A bit like a night out in Paisley.

I would advise anyone new to Brookmyre to start elsewhere. For fans of old, I'd say persist with this coz it is definitely worth it.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
I love Brookmyre's books. This isn't my favourite but is nonetheless excellent. It is full of action but also very funny. There is lots of blood and gore but not horror. The surprising thing is how much well-informed discussion of philosophy and quantum physics is wound into a fast-moving and still very easy-to-read book. The plot is certainly quite different form any other novel I've read before.
I found it difficult to follow some of the scene-setting chapters at the start of the book, and to work out what was actually going on. Descriptions of the scientific facility and its staff weren't successful. But the book was a page-turner for the last two-thirds.
So some brilliant bits. Thought provoking. Very glad I read it. Can't wait for the next one!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 2 September 2010
I am a huge fan of Christopher Brookmyre. His books hit exactly the right note for me with their mixture of superb characters, a similar political and theological viewpoint to mine, pop-culture references that match my own and brilliantly paced action. I look forward to his books all year and have never ben disappointed, I would rate everything he has done at at least an 8 out of 10 and often 9 or 10....until this one.

The build up was slow and careful, which we're used to. Some of Brookmyre's books don't start to pay off until you're half-way through, but the investment you've made in the characters has always been worth it. Here, however, there were some alarm bells ringing early on. Off to a retreat in the remote Scottish countryside where we know they'll be attacked? Wasn't that "Be My Enemy" (even with a repeated makeshift flame thrower)? School-friends together with their crazy mix of personalities and bullies turned good? "One Fine Day..." and A Tale Etched in Blood..."?

Also Chris had some problems writing dialogue for teenagers, some of it was a bit incongruous. Their references aren't really right for their generation and neither is how they speak. He wants them all to talk like his grown up characters and that just comes across strangely.

The real problem though was that the premise for the book was a new direction for the author of science-fiction and I didn't think it really worked. The ending was exceptionally weak for one of Brookmyre's books. There were dissatisfying gaps and loose ends. Most characters' storylines just stopped without any conclusion to their narrative. Rocks, Kirk, Blake, and Deborah all just disappeared rather abruptly.

I look forward to the next book just like always and Brookmyre is still number one for me, but after 13 books, this was his first stumble for me.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 16 June 2010
I've been reading Brookmyre since quite ugly one morning and have largely enjoyed his books.

However.

A constant theme of his stories is 'the world according to Brookmyre' and one always feels somewhat lectured at. Mostly this is offset by the cracking dialogue and the, sometimes wild, storyline. Over the years this disaffection with the world as it currently is has approached rant levels, and this is where, I feel, Pandaemonium falls down. The characters all seem to be overly well versed in a wide variety of subjects, from string theory via chaos, up quantum physics street with a detour down the dark alleyways of Catholicism (with a view of organised religion as a whole), past adolescent angst drive with a view to arriving at social equilibrium square by any means necessary. all the participants know too much stuff? Even the kids. I know they're supposed to be Senior pupils at a Catholic School but some of them sound like peers to Hawking and Dawkins. The 'coming of age' theme is well represented, again, and the spectres of (I suspect) Brookmyres own past get a good exorcising. Again.

I'm at a loss as to why he chose this particular vehicle as the concept of demons from a parallel dimension seems to be a bit heavy handed, even for him. I know he likes to push the boundaries but this could have been so much better played hads the 'demons' been something other than George Romero-esq flesh rippers. there would have been so much more debate if they had turned out to look like demons but been morally superior to Hom Sap.

Some of his books require more suspension of disbelief than others (they all do to a larger than average extent) but he can get it 100% spot on (A tale etched) and sometimes less so (AFAG) but still be enjoyable (AFAG).

Pandaemonium is a good read, but not a quality read. It's atypical Brookmyre because it's Brookmyre condensed. Too much lecture for the length of the adventure!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 20 October 2009
I love Christopher Brookmyre, I go to airports just to get the early copies of every one of his books as soon as they are released. This one strays a little too far into fantasy where the strength of even his most outrageous titles has been their realism. He touches all the usual bases with his evocative backstories - religion, catholic schools, the military, irreverent Scottish bampots... However the ending to this book is deeply unsatisfactory. I was left wishing I hadn't spent the previous 386 pages becoming so involved with characters I really cared about. It almost made me wish I had never read the book, despite the enjoyment I took in most of the preceding pages, and the times I laughed out loud. Very very very not good ending.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 2 September 2009
I'm a big fan of Brookmyre but have mixed feelings on this one.

Firstly, despite some pantomime villains, I don't think it's hugely original. The best bits are reminiscent of the brilliant "A Tale Etched in Blood and Hard Black Pencil" (no complaints there right enough) but the less impressive gore-fest also seems a tad derivative and if you've read his back-catalogue you'll know from where!

Secondly, it's not quite as bitingly satirical as usual, except where the focus is on the kids, who are amazingly well-observed. In fact these kids are I think probably as good as anything he's written.

Thirdly, I don't mind suspension of disbelief, but it seemed like a fairly contrived mechanism to get to a familiar destination. However, my main criticism is that all the bad guys (however you might want to define them) were just a bit one-dimensional.

I'll still pre-order the next Brookmyre, but hopefully we'll get some complex and believable villains next time around, together with a rather more subtle plot.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 30 December 2010
I can see where the author was trying to go with this book, it was supposed to be an nail biting mix of horror, sci-fi, theological debate and moral compass. Sadly it fails. The school children speak in a depressingly cliched mix of old scottish, sixty year old lecturer and twelve year old wet dream veering wildly from having a deep understanding of Catholicism and it's nuances to over frisky teenagers unsure of themselves socially and sexually, it does not make sense although he has painstakingly made sure every type of cliche is available in the book from gay teens playing the hard man, religious types questioning their faith and a good helping of hardened American marine just wanting to live in the woods in peace. Yawn. The macabre blood fest it descends into does not sit well with the big reveal ending.

The ending is the only reason it gets 2 stars. Interesting twist on a much flogged horse.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on 17 August 2009
Previous reviewers have summed-up this book pretty well, but I'd still like to add my own thoughts.

The depiction of an entire class of sixth formers is brilliantly done, and I can live with the occasional dense blocks of text where Christopher ruminates on religion, quantum physics and science in general. But the denouement is pretty weak and the plot too fantastical to be credible. 'Pandaemonium' calls for a bigger suspension of disbelief than usual for such a grounded author, but it does have plenty of other points in its favour.

It's not as satire-heavy as usual - Brookmyre is normally the literary equivalent of the hilariously non-PC Frankie Boyle - although he does lace up his Doc Marten's to give the Catholic Church a good kicking. But, and it's a HUGE but, there are still some superbly-handled intellectual ideas in here, some scenes of real excitement, and I really must once again mention the characterisation. In 'Pandaemonium he gives thirty 17-year-olds their own distinct personalities and thanks, in part, to his helpful list at the start of the book, we're never confused about who is who. I love the sections where he's simply describing their thoughts and actions: we have the class clowns and show-offs, the geeks, the hard men, the self-centred, good-looking ones etc. I can't emphasise how well-written and beautifully observed these passages are.

It is an atypical novel from this very clever writer, yet despite its shortcomings - remember he's never dabbled in quite this type of fantasy before - I still greatly enjoyed the vast majority of it. However, more than any of his previous novels, I suspect there'll be a few long-term fans who won't buy the whole premise of the book.

Brookmyre is one of a kind: ambitious, acerbic, offensively violent and pumped full of bile. He writes like no other British writer, which is why, despite its major weakness - that it stretches credibility to the limit - I feel there are still enough plusses in here to make it worthy of my four-star rating. It's just a pity about the ending...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 19 September 2009
started off by being completely different to any other brookmyre novel but once into the story became, as usual for brookmyre, a rollocking good read. as witty and as funny as anything he has done. excellent.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 8 July 2010
Brookmyre's books are usually very good but I can't help feeling that he's lost his way quite a bit with this offering. For a start, there are far too many characters and some have very similar names (Dazza, Deso for example). I understand that this is that he can kill off a sizable chunk of them but it does make it very difficult to work out who everyone is in the 'action'. I still have no idea who Rosemary is! I would tell my 3rd years off for writing this sort of 'plot driven' imaginative writing - and that's about the level that this appears to be.

There was the odd spark of humour but the gore got in the way a lot for no real purpose other than to describe gore. It's not a terrible book and I got to the end of it but I would say that if this is the first Brookmyre you read then don't bother. You wouldn't read another, which would be a shame because there are some gems out there.

Not a great ending either. Stick to what you know, Brookmyre! Horror / comedy isn't it!
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