Yes, that’s Christopher Brookmyre, as opposed to Christopher M Brookmyre, or whatever his middle initial might be. Brookmyre is one of Britain’s leading crime novelists, but he’s flirted with fantasy before (most notably in 2009’s Pandaemonium ) and this is his first fully-fledged SF novel. We like how he hasn’t bothered with a new literary identity (something Iain Banks said he regretted doing), and has simply ploughed into a new genre with abandon.
And he’s done a fine job. The basic concept of Bedlam – ordinary guy finds himself inside the world of a computer game – doesn’t feel especially fresh, but the story that unfolds around it is ingenious. The ordinary guy in question, Ross Baker, must find out how and why he’s here and why this place exists at all; the answers build on contemporary issues of digital copyright and the amorality of big corporations in a very smart way. The computer-game stuff, which could easily have been a gratuitous excuse for some larks, is in fact a logical and satisfying way to explore the novel’s issues.
The book makes you wait for the really clever stuff to drop, perhaps a little too long – Brookmyre sets up several mysteries early on, all of which he eventually resolves, but only after a lengthy sequence of fights, chases, escapes, world-hopping, PC-vs-console snarking and numerous good jokes. For all the frenetic action, it feels like it’s treading water after a while. But it pays off at the end.
Eddie Robson twitter.com/EddieRobson
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