Friday, April 24, 2015
Review of Pandaemonium by Christopher Brookmyre (Abacus, 2009)
There are two great strengths to Pandaemonium: the wonderful way in which Brookmyre captures the personalities, insecurities and interactions of school trip to an outdoor centre; and the exploration of the themes of science and theology. Although it was sometimes a little confusing trying to follow the stories, insecurities and interrelations between thirty or so characters, the teenage angst and clique dynamics is very well evoked. In contrast, whilst the scientists and priests in the secret research centre are well penned, they lacked the same vitality. Where that thread of the story excelled was in the exploration of scientific philosophy and faith, with some really great passages about physics and theology. Running through both threads is a nice streak of dark humour. Up to about two thirds of the way through I thought the book was fabulous – insightful, rich, layered and fun. Then it takes an altogether darker turn towards horror as the two worlds of the outdoor centre and the research labs collide, with some fairly graphic violence and the more literary, thoughtful storytelling being jettisoned for gory action. And whilst Brookmyre tries to pull it all back round to philosophy and theology in the last few pages, it seems to end a little too abruptly and without a clear sense of the thoughts of all the leading characters. Nonetheless, Pandaemonium was a great read – lively, engaging, thought provoking, with a dollop of black comedy.