Christopher Brookmyre’s “Bedlam: Let the games begin”

My own introduction to Chris and/or Christopher was through two crime thrillers, Quite ugly one morning and Where the bodies are buried, both of which I found gripping, page-turning and often very funny.  I felt the author or his characters were on my side politically and humorously.  So I ordered his latest book Bedlam pre-publication, and kept an eye on the letterbox.

The publicity describes this book as Brookmyre’s first wholly SF novel and, as a fan of Philip K Dick, Asimov, Bradbury and that ilk, I looked for great things.  Some I did find but this ludic book, with its subtitle ‘Let the games begin’ but it made me work for my pleasure.  Good SF requires the writer to set his parameters, his procedures, protocols and rules of play and then to operate within them.  Brookmyre does this but at a cost of a somewhat clunking plot that is not finally resolved until a series of very short ‘so that explains it’ chapters at the end.

The hero, medical researcher and computer game addict Ross Baker finds himself transmigrated digitally into the games he has played over the years and having to battle their against his enemies, from the real  world and their digital doppelgangers, in order to win in the end.  He has a series of digital adventures that become more and more fantastic, though quasi-credible within the plot’s rules.  The extent of double-crossing builds up the reader’s curiosity very successfully and this is combined with the real world author’s wit and prejudices to make for a great deal of satisfying reading.  Take, for example, his attitude to that well known fiction writer, the Daily Mail and its credulous readers.  ‘It’s like a print equivalent of Fox News and self-aware is not an expression that would ever apply to either.’

SF fans with a yen for computer games will certainly enjoy this.  Other admirers of Brookmyre will have something to be going on with and their appetite whetted for the next Jack Parblane or Jasmine Sharp book.

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