Saturday, March 15, 2008

Quick Comment: Not the End of the World

Author: Christopher Brookmyre
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
ISBN: 0-87113-787-9

Steff Kennedy is an unlikely hero for an action thriller. One thing's for sure: he's no James Bond (nor even a Jason Bourne). Which is okay, because the villain in this piece, Rev. Luther St. John, is no Dr. No either. And author Christopher Brookmyre is no Ian Fleming.

I love a good thriller as much as the next person. There are many nights when I go to bed at 2 or 3 a.m. because I can't put down the book in my hands. There are many mornings when I arrive at work bleary-eyed and fuzzy-headed because I didn't put down the book in my hands until 2 or 3 a.m. the previous night. Not the End of the World did not live up to the publisher's promise (inscribed on the dust-jacket) that this book would "keep [me] furiously turning its pages." In fact, it took me nearly a week to plow through it, reading perhaps 75-80 pages at a time before finally calling it quits for the night.

What's wrong with this book? The plot for one thing. It reads like something that was inspired by some of the lesser James Bond films: a lunatic Christian evangelist schemes to bring America to God by causing a tidal wave to engulf Los Angeles and its environs at a time of his choosing. (Okay, this isn't the plot of Licence to Kill, but that Bond film does feature a villainous evangelist.) This dastardly plot is foiled, after some twists and turns, by an unlikely team comprised of a photographer, a porn star and a policeman. Maybe it would work on film - where it could be enhanced by special effects and beautiful people (I'm talking lots of effects and the most beautiful people on the planet) - but it misses the mark, badly, on paper.

What's wrong with this book? The characters for one thing. The villains are all religious kooks. The villains' disciples are all kooky religious dupes. The heroes are all atheists whose experiences with religion have been unremittingly negative. The primary villain, Rev. St. John - surprise, surprise - was raised by his sexually dysfunctional mother. The secondary hero, or heroine (is that term still acceptable?), porn star Madeleine Witherson, was - surprise, surprise - sexually abused by her father, who is - surprise, surprise - a hypocritical Republican in the United States Senate. And, just in case you haven't guessed it already, the hypocritical Republican Senator is a good friend of the right-wing religious fanatic villain, who is, in turn, a supporter of the Republican Senator. Good God! Brookmyre compounds his sin of religious stereotyping with that of political stereotyping! Did I miss Wal-Mart's three-for-one special on cardboard characters? Brookmyre obviously didn't.

I haven't read any other books by Brookmyre and, based on my experience with this one, I'm not likely to do so. My recommendation is that you avoid this book and read something else. It won't be the end of the world if you do so.

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