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Literature: Pandaemonium

A novel by Scottish author Christopher Brookmyre, published in 2009.

Pandaemonium is Brookmyre's 13th novel; it's a stand alone and it's a bit different from his other works. That being said, the style and tone is still very much recognizable as being Brookmyre's.

Secluded somewhere in Scotland, the U.S. Army is carrying out a top-secret military experiment which has led to such astounding results they've called on the Vatican itself for advice and support: They fear they may literally have opened the gates to hell. The project's scientists, however, are not impressed with this explanation and even less impressed with the clergy taking control, and discord abounds.

In the meantime a busful of Scottish teenagers and their put upon teachers are heading for the area's outdoor activity center where they will (officially) be spending the weekend therapeutically coming to terms with a fellow student having murdered a class mate before commiting suicide, or (realistically) gossiping, partying and getting drunk and high on what they've smuggled along and (optimistically) getting laid.The teens think the greatest challenges they will face this weekend are finding someone to hook up with, avoiding teacher detection and interference, avoiding ending up rooming with someone undesirable and avoiding aggravating Big Kirk. They are, of course, very much mistaken.


Tropes:

  • Abandoned Area
  • Adrenaline Makeover: Rosemary Breslin
  • Alpha Bitch: Gillian Cole seems to be the head of the local Girl Posse, although she's outdone in levels of actual bitchiness by Julie Meiklejohn.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, previously known as the Holy Inquisition, have been concealing the evidence of 'demons' for centuries.
  • Armoured Closet Gay: Kirk Burns
  • Asshole Victim: Fat Bastard Julie Meiklejohn is among the first of the kids to be killed off.
    • Subverted with Kirk Burns. The text seems to imply he will be the first victim when he goes outside alone to knife a fellow student, but in fact he's the one person in that particular area of woods who survives.
  • Bad Ass: Kirk Burns nuts a demon into submission. "Sarge" Sendak comes a close second, being just as capable a fighter but not quite so freaking mental.
  • The Beautiful Elite: Jason, Liam, Rebecca and Samantha. They're also kinda jerks.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: The Big Bad is finally defeated by Father Blake of all people! Also, there's this line from Rosemary, regarding methods of fighting the demons:
    "I was thinking more infernal than divine."
  • Big Bad: Literally everything that goes wrong, from the demons' escape to their being so Axe Crazy in the first place is all the fault of Cardinal Terrance Tullian.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Twice. First, there's Kirk Burns with a chainsaw. Second is Deso and Rosemary with a flamethrower.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: Bows and arrows.
  • Break the Badass: Kirk Burns is terrified after his first brush with the enemy. And this is the guy the nerd and closest-thing-to-a-main-character Adnan classified thusly: Warrior Class: Undisputed Best Fighter. Status: Fucking Mental. Strength: Hard As Fuck. Weakness: None Documented.
  • Break the Haughty: Gillian loses her mind after encountering a demon, and tells everyone who will listen that they are doomed, or are already dead and being punished in the afterlife.
  • Can't Act Perverted Toward a Love Interest: Rocks aka Paul Roxburgh.
  • Chainsaw Good: When Kirk gets his hands on a chainsaw, the ensuing massacre is simply described as "Vengeance ensues".
  • Class Trip
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Not, actually, from the demons, who prefer to kill their prey quickly and then eat it. However, the priests and scientists in the Orpheus Complex are more than happy to use torture on the demons.
  • Cool Gate: The Dodgson Anomaly.
  • Cool Teacher: Stewart Kane - can also be the Stern Teacher.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Sendak keeps morphine in his on-site medkits.
  • Death by Sex: Liam and Rebecca are the only pair to have full-on penetrative sex in the course of the novel. Liam is killed right afterwards. Rebecca survives, but is traumatised worse than anyone else save for Gillian.
  • Disney Villain Death: Subverted when a demon knocks Big Bad Cardinal Tullian through the portal in mid-fall.
  • Dying Dream: Both Merrick and Gilian entertain the thought that they died in vehicle crashes and this is their Self-Inflicted Hell. Merrick goes through a genuine one later on which, ironically, is about him crashing a vehicle.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: Orpheus Complex.
  • Evil Plan: Tullian rigs an experiment to apparently show holy water burning the 'demons'. He intends to destroy the facility with a disaster so terrible no-one will risk retrying the project, and subsequently release footage of the experiments. Thus, with apparent clinching proof and no way of repeating the tests, everyone will believe in demons and flock to the church.
  • Exotic Weapon Supremacy: Sort of. Nothing arcane but Kirk Burns getting up close and personal with a chainsaw is pretty badass.
  • "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner: Stewart Kane.
  • Fartillery: Beansy. Sadly not used against the demons, despite there being a flamethrower on hand.
  • Five-Man Band: Those involved in the final battle: Adnan, Blake, Sendak, Steinmeyer and Rosemary.
  • For Science!: Steinmeyer and, to an extent, Merrick.
  • Gaydar: Matt Wilson knows Kirk Burns is gay and matter of factly tells him so.
  • Gayngst: Kirk Burns - and perhaps also the detached Matthew Wilson to some degree.
    • Justified more than usual since they attend a Catholic school and may well therefore have been taught that homosexual thoughts are sinful.
  • The Generic Guy: Four girls: Michelle, Roisin, Carol-Ann and Ruth. Adnan refers to their clique as Mostly Harmless.
  • Genius Bruiser: Well, probably not an actual genius but Kirk Burns is a lot smarter than he's letting on.
  • Girl Posse: Referred to by Adnan as Back-Biting Bitches.
  • Good Shepherd: Father Constantine Blake. Possibly subverted - not in the 'good' but in the 'shepherd': he isn't particularly pious, struggles to believe his own faith and in the end it's left ambiguous whether he even considers himself Christian.
  • Gorn: Several of the deaths, even before the main characters see what's left of the military guards in the facility.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: One demon uses Julie Meiklejohn's severed head and spinal column as a weapon to kill Liam Donnelly.
    • Kirk Burns later takes out a demon with the severed head of another demon!
  • Heel-Face Turn: Kirk Burns. Arguably Deborah.
  • Hell Gate: The Dodgson Anomaly. Except it isn't.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Guthrie performs one to close a door on some attacking demons. Cardinal Tullian believes he is performing one by trying to blow up the facility.
  • Hidden Depths: Father Blake, Guthrie, Rosemary, Kirk, Rocks, Caitlin, Deborah, Marianne, Matt... pretty-much everyone, to be honest. Brookmyre seems to like introducing characters through another, biased character's eyes before letting us see inside their head later on.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Deconstructed. Tullian believes he is in a holy war and, therefore, this is the case with regards to his crimes. He is quite emphatically demonstrated to be wrong.
  • I Know Mortal Kombat: Adnan, only it was Doom.
  • Information Wants to Be Free: The belief of Merrick, prompting him to steal video files of what was going on in the facility. The ending implies that, unless the military comply with Father Blake's demands, that information may well become free.
  • Improvised Weapon: From both the demons and the heroes. Of particular note is a flamethrower made from a plant-sprayer and some petrol.
  • Jerk Jock: Kirk is introduced as one (well, more like a Jerk Ned because he's Scottish) but undergoes Character Development later.
  • Karma Houdini: Cardinal Tullian. Possibly. He doesn't die or anything, and he gets to be revered as a god, but he is also trapped in another dimension with no apparent technology beyond basic tools and clothing and no clear way of getting back.
  • Kill 'em All: nearly everyone dies, including characters who'd been built up and in whom the reader was developing an interest.
  • King Mook: There's an abnormally-massive demon in what Adnan half-jokingly says is a Boss Room.
  • Knight Templar: Cardinal Tullian, to the point that he becomes blind to even the concept that he might be wrong.
  • The Legions of Hell: Subverted. Everyone jumps to this conclusion when they first see the 'demons', but it turns out they were all duped by a combination of hysteria and Cardinal Tullian's tricks.
  • Loners Are Freaks: What most people think of Matt and Marianne. It is, however, telling that Adnan - shown elsewhere to be more observant and a better judge of character than most - gets on well with both of them.
  • Mad Scientist: Steinmeyer and, to a lesser degree, Merrick. Both, however, are nonetheless sympathetic.
  • Man on Fire: Happens in the beginning - not very fatal.
  • Non-Giving-Up School Guy: The deputy head Dan Guthrie. He tries very hard for Stern Teacher but this doesn't work out well.
  • Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: Kane muses that Robert Barker - who murdered a fellow student in backstory - may have been this. This foreshadows the revelation that the 'demons' are just creatures from another dimension who attack humans because they believe we are the demons.
    • Bear in mind, however, that the demons that come through the anomaly appear to be ones that were sentenced to death in their own dimension. So they may have been evil after all, even if they didn't deserve the treatment they got.
  • Now or Never Kiss: Rosemary and Deso.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The biggest of the demons is in a tight corridor, between Sendak and the other heroes. Next time we see Sendak, he's opening the door to the room where the others are, armed and alive.
  • Posthumous Character: Dunnsy and Barker.
  • Punch Clock Villain: Rocks and Dazza are both sick of the reputations they've gained from hanging around Kirk for so long, and are wary of his growing obsession with Matt. Dazza is killed when he goes to stop Kirk from stabbing Matt in revenge for Dunnsy's death.
  • The Reveal: Two big ones. Firstly, the 'demons' aren't even supernatural in origin, and are only so Axe Crazy because, having been imprisoned, starved and tortured, they ironically believe themselves to be in Hell. Secondly, it was Tullian, not Steinmeyer, who released the demons and sabotaged the anomaly, because he knew they weren't real demons all along and wanted to hide that knowledge.
  • Redemption Equals Death: How Deputy Dan sees his Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Sequel Hook: Adnan is trapped in the Demon's Realm, where Cardinal Tullian is being worshipped by the demons as their god.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: Adnan believes this, evidenced early on when we see him playing Doom. He later picked one up in real life and Took a Level in Badass on the spot.
  • Shout-Out: The name Sendak. Think Maurice Sendak, author of the young children's picture-book Where the Wild Things Are.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Combined with Pre-Mortem One-Liner.
    Cardinal Tullian: "It is the measure of our faith to believe in spite of evidence, Father. Satan is using science to seduce you. And only faith can save us from him."
    Father Blake: "Science says you fall at ten metres per second squared. Let's see if faith can save you from that."
  • Sinister Minister: Cardinal Tullian. Merrick seems wary of him even when he admits he's thankful for the guy's presence. It turns out he was right to, as Tullian is personally responsible for everything, and directly murders Merrick.
  • Suspicious Video Game Generosity: Referenced. Adnan finds a shiny new shotgun and a box of shells outside the door to the Cathedral, and points out that this probably makes the Cathedral a Boss Room. Sendak argues that This Is Reality, and Adnan basically says 'yes, and in reality someone stashed an ammo supply here for a reason.' Sure enough, there's an eight-foot demon inside the chamber, not to mention Big Bad Cardinal Tullian.
  • The Tetris Effect: Adnan sees a Doom HUD around his vision constantly. Turns out to be a Chekhov's Skill when he uses that detachment from reality to help him take down several demons, Doom-style.
  • Token Minority: Adnan is from a Muslim background while all of the others (presumably) are from white Catholic ones.
  • Token Religious Teammate: Rosemary Breslin. Despite the kids being from a catholic school, she is the only truly-religious protagonist to do anything besides hang around in the background or die.
  • The Dog Bites Back: After extended periods of torture and starvation, the demons' first act upon escaping is to tear apart the facility and kill all the soldiers and priests.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Several characters, most noticeably Kirk and Rosemary. Also Adnan when he picks up the shotgun.
  • Violent Glaswegian: There's something satisfying about a kid swearing at a demon in Scottish slang.
  • Wild Teen Party: Of course.

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alternative title(s): Pandaemonium
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