Thursday, 30 December 2010

Books: Pandaemonium, by Christopher Brookmyre

If you haven’t discovered Brookmyre yet, do it now. I finished this book at a gallop, breathless and heart pumping hard with adrenalin. Then went back and read it all again.

What is it about? If I said “a trip by a group of teenagers from a Catholic High School in Glasgow to an outdoor centre in the highlands of Scotland“, you’d perhaps think that senility was setting in. But that’s just the vehicle for a brilliant satire on the beliefs of the Catholic Church, mixed with a fair bit of cool sci-fi, comic bits that will make you weep, teenage angst, Glasgow patter, and some horrific bits of blood and gore that are so wildly imagined that you find yourself laughing out loud. Confused? Reading the book won’t really help. Those of you old enough to be able to quote large chunks of ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ will perhaps understand. Don’t Panic.

Brookmyre’s earlier books have taken some potshots at several sacred cows and purveyors of mumbo jumbo, all in his incomparable style. His writing is rich, and he has a fine command of language. He certainly knows his subjects. If he wrote without the large helpings of Glasgow vernacular, I guess his audience might be wider; but this seems to bother him not one jot.

In my eyes, the books don’t fit into any existing fiction ‘genre’ - they’re in a place of their own. Haddington Library files them under ‘Crime and Thrillers’ - but that doesn’t seem to quite cover it. Other descriptions include Comedy, Politics, Social Comment, Action and ‘Tartan Noir’. I’d be interested to hear what you think.

Just to add a final snippet: since April 2008, Christopher Brookmyre has been the President of the Humanist Society of Scotland.