Only nine months til the end of the millennium and the end of the world is being prematurely hailed across the globe - nowhere more so than apotheosis of American cities, Santa Monica, California. Sergeant Larry Freeman, stuck on babysitting detail at the American Feature Film Market's annual convention, is perturbed to notice a counter-meeting across the street. It's televangelist Luther St James and his Festival of Light, calling hellfire down on one of AFFM's showcases, porn-star-turned-actress Maddy Witherson, daughter of a republican senator. Luther St John predicts a tidal wave sent by God to wipe out the defilers, and he's not taking any chances on being wrong.
Like the other Brookmyre's I've read thus far (and I'm working hard at staving off a glut), Not the End of the World more than delivers. Separate strands come together in a deeply satisfying way, the plot twists are unexpected, the characters sharp and deftly drawn, and there are smart comedic asides that catch the reader unaware; after pointing out a Nietzsche reference in an unexpected place, Freeman says he read it on a corn flakes box: "If I'd had Cheerio's instead of corn flakes I never would have known - Cheerio's are still running their Gems of Kierkegaard series." And the throwaway line that online news groups (which, almost ten years later, we can apply to a disturbingly large number of online forums, blogs and random sites) are "syntax meets chaos theory" is gold.
Thia isn't a book for sensitive, fundamentalist Christians, who may have trouble finding the humour in a Christian band singing "'Exit Only', an instruction to homosexual males as to the exclusive function of the anus." Brookmyre reads strongly angry at the hypocrisy of Christianity, and in many ways Not the End of the World is a call to pay attention to the negative affects of fundamentalism, in all its forms. Chapter eighteen in particularly vitriolic about where the philosophy 'love the sinner, hate the sin' falls under its' own weight, and completes with a summation of how little Christ's sacrifice has positively affected the world. Of course, you know this going in - the book's prefaced with a Bill Hicks quote: "Christianity's such a weird religion. The image you're brought up with is that eternal suffering awaits anyone who questions God's infinite love." Can't argue with that. - Alex