Sunday, February 6, 2011

CB #7 Pandaemonium

Pandaemonium by Christopher Brookmyre
                I loved my exchange year in Scotland. Sometimes I get homesick for it… well not exactly homesick, because it wasn’t really my home, but I start to miss mountains and that particular shade of green that only comes from daily rain. I miss Scottish accents and taking the train everywhere. I miss seeing the Wallace monument in the distance. I also miss the nightly cage around the William Wallace statue that prevented locals from decapitating it because it looked like Mel Gibson. I was feeling morose over Christmas so I picked up a book by someone who gets the accents  and the Scottish attitude right. I have found Brookmyre hit or miss in the past, but I thought that a darkly comic thriller involving the US military’s secret facility in Scotland, physics, possible demons from a Hell dimension, the Catholic Church and a group of high school students who are going on a retreat to  deal with the murder of a classmate would keep my attention. This book definitely bends genres.
 At the beginning of the novel, there’s a chart that names all of students at the retreat and puts them into little groups, like the Hard Team, Heidthebaws, the Beautiful People, and the God Squad, so that you have some understanding of the group dynamics. It was essential with about 33 characters including the teachers. Oh, and that was only the school narrative. There’s also the people in the top secret military facility who are studying the demons, until of course the system is sabotaged and the creatures escape.
I loved how Brookmyre portrayed the relationships between the high school students. I liked the  group dynamics, as well as the way that people struggled with how they are perceived both inside and outside the group. They were worried about sex and friendship and the aftereffects of witnessing a murder, but that they also just wanted to drink and have fun as well. It felt pretty realistic. Not all the students were focused on, obviously, but those that were, were distinct individuals who I cared about.
Now my problem with the book is this. I started it on January 4th and read most of it in 2 days. Then I stopped and I only finished it today. Part of the problem is that I often read two or more books at once and sometimes one falls to the wayside, but the other part of the problem is that after all that set up, I wasn’t very interested in having these kids battling for their lives. I just wanted them to figure things out and have some fun.  I didn’t care at all about the people in the military facility and could have used less of that (even though it was incredibly important to the plot).  A final factor was that after reading two chapters I remembered one of Brookmyre’s particular interests and realized how exactly the novel would have to end. If you haven’t read any Brookmyre then it will probably be surprising, and you might love it more than I did.
Overall, I did get my Scottish accent fix, and the teens felt real. I even loved some of the fight scenes (there was a chainsaw!) but I felt that it went on a bit long and could have been tighter.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't read any by this guy, and this premise sounds interesting, so I may have to keep an eye out for this one nonetheless.