A Big Boy Did it and Ran Away by Christopher Brookmyre

A Big Boy Did it and Ran Away by Christopher Brookmyre

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Mass-market, 502 pages, 2001

Rating: 7/10

Reason for Reading: The title caught my eye when I was working at a bookstore.

Synopsis: Ray, married with a screaming colic baby, has taken a job as a schoolteacher and is quickly discovering real life isn’t quite as much fun as the games he’s played on his computer, or his times in college playing with a band. But real life takes a weird turn when he spies his ex-flatmate Simon, supposedly dead for three years, breezing through the airport, and Ray can’t help but think Simon and the terrorist activities in Britain are somehow linked…

Why you should read this book: A darkly funny look at what happens when a cynic grows up and has to face reality. Tongue held firmly in cheek, Brookmyre takes us on a wild ride, from taking a smirking look at the vanities of the boy with the band who was too cool to listen to The Smiths but couldn’t seem to do any better himself, to chasing terrorists with machine guns who kill not only for the money, but for the joy of avoiding suburbia.

Why you should avoid this book: Brookmyre frustratingly leaves the reader in the dark about the plot for the first 100 pages or so of the book, crossing the line from intriguing to annoying. It all makes sense by the end, of course, but Brookmyre is sure to lose some readers who don’t make it through that first fifth of the novel.

Opening paragraph:

SCCs. Death was too good for them.
These fuckers deserved to live forever. The sleepwalking suburban slave classes in their Wimpey mock-Tudor penal colonies. A jail that needed no walls because the inmates had been brainwashed into believing they wanted to be there. Incarceration by aspiration, all the time mindless propagating and self-replicating, passing on their submissive DNA to the next generation of glazed-eyed prisoners.

Fabulous quotes:

Sheer instinct had taken him from the line of fire, but the same reflexes put him right back there when he automatically resurfaced, seeking his breath and his bearings. Above him, both gunmen were leaning over the railings, scanning the opaque and rain-dappled river. They opened fire as soon as they saw him.
Ray ducked under again, hearing bullets zip past him through the water. It was only about a metre and a half deep, but he was invisible as long as he stayed below. The zipping sounds ceased, the assassins biding their time, saving their ammo. Ray could feel the current pulling at his clothes. He was pretty sure he’d pissed himself, but that was hardly a concern now. The river bent sharply amid thick cover of trees just twenty or thirty yards downstream, next to the playing fields. Unfortunately it also got wider and shallower around the same stretch, but it was the only chance he had.

Div wasn’t winding Simon up with his simplistic explanation (well, maybe just a bit or he wouldn’t be Div). Div listened to Queen because he liked their music. Loved their music. That was all. His overall rock ‘n’ roll philosophy was also very simple: if it was loud, he generally liked it. This was nothing to do with volume. If you listened to The Clash on a pocket tranny, they would still be loud, just like if you listened to Belle and Sebastian at ten thousand decibels, they would still be quiet. Ray hadn’t been round chez Div lately, but considered it unlikely he would own any B&S discs. Granted, Queen weren’t the loudest thing in Div’s student record pile, but they were loud enough, and that overblown grandiosity counted for a lot too.
Despite all of this, they each had enough in common musically (even that they were admitting to) for them to make the colossal but glorious mistake of starting a band. In retrospect, Ray could see that it was probably motivated by a subconscious awareness that there wasn’t quite enough tension between them as things stood, and what the situation really needed was an understanding guaranteed to push them over the edge.

Also recommended: Team Rodent by Carl Hiaasen; Tourist Season by Carl Hiaasen.

Also by this author: Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks; A Tale Etched in Blood and Hard Black Pencil; All Fun and Games Until Someone Loses an Eye; Be My Enemy; Quite Ugly One Morning; Country of the Blind; Not The End of The World; One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night; Boiling a Frog; The Sacred Art of Stealing.

Author’s website: brookmyre.co.uk

© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2007

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