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on 26 February 2013
Bedlam sees the return of the Christopher Brookmyre name after a couple of serious crime novels under the abbreviation Chris, and I'd expected that would mean a return to the excellent humour of his earlier novels. Instead I was surprised by what turned out to be a slightly matrix-esque science fiction adventure that still raised a laugh.

Ross volunteers as a guinea pig for an experimental new type of brain scan, but when he wakes up finds he's not in Stirling any more - he's in Starfire, a nineties computer game. As a concept it's fantastic and executed very well, with a good mix of games I'd heard of to add realism and a believable world. Ross is an engaging character who makes a brilliant protagonist and develops well throughout the story.

My one criticism would be that the second half of the story seemed to pass very quickly compared to the first half - but this has been true of some of previous novels and might just be an indication of my being able to read that part of the story more quickly. It did seem that it lost some of the texture later on, and that there was plenty more to explore in the world that Brookmyre had created.

A successful venture into yet another genre for Brookmyre which kept me entertained, though like his 'serious' crime novels not quite up there with the best of his earlier humorous work.
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on 23 March 2013
I was lost and despairing up until a third way through, but thanks to the other reviews I kept going. It was worth it, Chris Brookmyre stylie in the end! Having recently got into Peter F Fielding, I can't help wondering if there's been some influence from his tomes here though? Not that that's any detriment, just a new angle.
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on 15 April 2013
I bought this for my husband and he tells me that it was not one of his best, perhaps because the husband is the wrong generation to be interested in video games. My three nephews, in their thirties, would probably love it.
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on 14 February 2013
I got this delivered to my Kindle on the day it came out and was very excited to read the new CB novel. However within the first few pages I was getting rather confused - it was not what I was expecting. I just was not sure what world I was in or what the heck was going on - a bit like the main character! As I had no reference point, I was not sure whether or not to continue but as I love Mr Brookmyre's works, I figured that I would go with it and see where it took me. Very glad I stuck with it - after the first few chapters you get a sense of the world that the characters are living in and then you get sucked out into "Meatworld" to get the back story. By about halfway through, I couldn't put it down and ended up reading until 3am to get it finished (I didn't want to go to sleep until I knew what was going on). It is actually classic CB but the beginning of the novel throws you a bit. The concepts that are developed really get you thinking and scarily will probably come true in the next few decades - hopefully the controls that are adopted in fiction will be adopted in reality. However I will not hold my breath! I really enjoyed this novel and have only knocked a star off because of the beginning - which felt like a bit of a slog to start with. It also took me back to my youth - I am not a gamer but did play Jet Set Willy (ZX Spectrum game that features along with a number of computer games) and was taken back to the days of yore when getting through the levels seemed to be the most important thing in life! So I can wholeheartedly recommend it, if you have enjoyed Christopher Brookmyre's books before - you will enjoy this one too.
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on 29 September 2014
To preface my review I should state that it will be intentionally vague around plot specifics in order to avoid any spoilers.

This is my first foray into the work of Christopher Brookmyre and from what I understand it is a bit of a departure from his previous books. I went in not knowing what to expect and found myself plunged into an exciting and vividly painted science fiction adventure set against the backdrop of computer games past and present.

As both a gamer and a Scot, I found a huge amount to relate to throughout the journey of the main character, Ross Baker, as he works to untangle the messy and confusing situation he finds himself in. I imagine Brookmyre himself must have been an avid gamer to have come up with such insight into game design, the mechanics of games and how they would apply (or not) if you one day found yourself stuck within one.

His colourful use of Scottish parlance never failed to bring a smirk to my face with a liberal scattering of genuine laugh-out-loud moments. The ability of Brookmyre to seamlessly weave these comedic moments together with the dark and gritty undertones and occasional bleak moment is one to be admired. Combine that with the philosophic questions raised as to the nature of human consciousness and you have a seriously engaging and thought-provoking read that managed to hook into the 90's gaming nostalgia of my youth. Classics from Quake, Serious Sam and Unreal all the way through to more modern titles such as Grand Theft Auto, Just Cause, TF2 and Black and White get a shout out.

Many of the references and details may be lost on non-gamers, but in my opinion the plot of this book is more than capable of standing up on its own. Having now completed the book, I'm going to check out the tie-in game of the same name. I understand that there's an interlinking side-plot to the events occurring in the book, and the idea of a video game collaboration with Redbedlam studios actually formed the basis for this novel. Having been introduced to the world of Bedlam through his writing, I'm excited to actually get in and explore it myself.

In closing, if you're at all interested in dystopian sci-fi and action adventure, I'd recommend giving this a shot. If you're a gamer (specifically PC) and you recognise any of the games I listed above, this book is practically required reading!
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on 9 March 2013
If you liked Pandemonium or have ever played a video game then this is a must buy.
But even if you are not a gamer or a sci fi addict and are looking for your next Brookmyre fix, dont be put off and I would encourage giving this a go. It is still full of foul mouthed saddistic humour, still has political comments about daily mail readers, still has all the philosophical dilemmas you will ever want, and most of all its still a damn good thriller/mystery.
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I have a feeling this is going to divide Brookmyre's fans (again). It's a full blooded science fictional story, akin to last book but two Pandaemonium rather than the more recent "straight" crime fiction. Indeed, there's a case for saying that in narrative terms, this book picks up almost where Pandaemonium left off - with a character flung unexpectedly from this world into another reality, albeit that of a video game rather than a parallel universe.

So begins a breakneck narrative as Ross, a browbeaten Scottish techie with a Dilbertish outlook, tries to find out what has happened and how he can get back to familiar, damp Stirling and his girlfriend Carol. He soon discovers that there's more going on than a simple brain scanner accident, and that events inside and outside the game are threatening its reality: a Corruption is spreading...

It is an exciting story, interspersing chases, combat, philosophy (are we all in a simulation?) and ethical debate (if the simulated inhabitants of a game are sophisticated enough, does that make them human? If so, what rights should they have?) The plot is intricate and, for the first half of the book, pretty baffling, turning on a few unexpected reveals which it would spoil to say much more about. But everything does become clear in the end (perhaps there is a bit too much exposition in the final 20 pages or so) and - no surprise - it turns out to have been very deftly put together.

I enjoyed this book. Brookmyre shows his knowledge of 80s and 90s video games, moving Ross through a succession of different game milieux from first person shooters to platform games to a warped version of The Sims - yet as a non-gamer I never felt left out or baffled. (If I were a "Daily Mail" reader, I might have felt got at by one section...) Philosophically, it felt as though he was joining in an ongoing discussion among Scottish based SF writers about the "simulation hypothesis" and its consequences, coming after books such as Ken MacLeod's The Restoration Game and Charles Stross's The Rapture of the Nerds.

In a postscript, Brookmyre hopes readers will find this venture into SF proper worthwhile - so do I, because it would be a shame if there were no more like this.
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on 14 March 2013
I loved this book. I'm not a game playing teenager but a middle aged woman and did wonder initially if I'd find it heavy going as I'm easily bored by videogames. My teenage son tries to get me interested in Minecraft, Skyrim etc but after 10 minutes I've had enough. I'm thinking of getting him the audiobook as he'd love this but is dyslexic.
The first few chapters I found confusing and heavy going. Partly this was the game related jargon and partly the switching from one time and dimension to another and like the main character I hadn't a clue what was going on.
The plot was clever, unpredictable and well constructed though and after the first few chapters fast paced and started to hang together better as a story. In fast paced stories like this characterisation always suffers a bit as there aren't endless chapters discussing their innermost feelings but there was enough characterisation to make you care about the main characters and to make them interesting, although the main baddie was given no redeeming features, much like a videogame baddie.

The book made me think about the future of videogames, neuroscience, and the possibility of stuff like the book's events really happening.
I was sad to finish the book, unlike some books I've read recently it was the right length with no unnecessary padding to wade through.
I now feel I want to play some videogames, although I suspect the moment I get stuck and have to spend more than 10 minutes trying to do the same thing recurrently in order to progress I'll give up and find another book to read, shame there won't be another Brookmyre book for a while.
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on 31 May 2015
As a longtime, avid gamer myself (PC, natch) reading this book was a no-brainer. But I was cautious. I went into the experience without too many expectations and came out of it without having been surprised. There’s nothing especially bad about BEDLAM, but neither is there anything notably good about it. Basically, it’s an underwhelming cat-and-mouse adventure that’s about twice as long as it needs to be. The ultimate premise of the story is intriguing although not original (a short-lived, spin-off TV show from 2010 particularly comes to mind -- I won’t name it as it might act as a spoiler) but Brookmyre invests most of his energy in the game-hopping manoeuvres that occupy the bulk of the book and when the final revelation comes it feel almost like an afterthought. His prose is transparent (which is not necessarily a criticism, although I did find it bland) but his humour is too laddish and in-your-face for my liking (I prefer a more subtle, nuanced wit). He also has a habit of name-drops game titles for no real reason other than to bolster his already obvious gaming credentials. This is a disappointingly forgettable book centred around gaming, and, much like the clutch of movies based on video games, it doesn’t do the medium justice. And that’s a shame, because there is the potential for a better book to be written about this subject. The question now is, shall I try the BEDLAM game?
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on 30 June 2014
I wanted to give this 3.5 stars but that is not possible. The idea is not original, of being sucked into a computer game, although it is an interesting one that allows more plot freedom than otherwise. Christopher Brookmyre's writing style is rather clumsy and wordy but with some humorous touches. The alternating between the office/home environment and the computer game seems awkward, especially at first, and he seems more at home in his fantasy world. This is my initial impression, as I am only 20% through the Kindle edition at present. I understand that the story is being used in a companion computer game, which might be worth trying out.
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