Force Majeure

Author: Daniel O'Mahony
RRP: 7.99
ISBN: 978 1 84583 050 2
Available 20 August 2007

Kay, a young woman who has buried her life into her work, is sent to the remote state of Candida to open it up for business opportunities. However, what she finds is a strange land seemingly out of step with the rest of the planet. She quickly finds herself disempowered and has to take a menial job in a house of ill repute and it looks increasingly unlikely that she will be able to carry out her mission...

Force Majeure is a new novel by Daniel O'Mahony. O' Mahony is famous for, among other things, having the balls, at the age of twelve, to demand to professionally write a Doctor Who book. Although rebuffed at the time it did not dint either his ambition or enthusiasm, eventually bringing the reward of having Falls the Shadow published in 1994, by Virgins Doctor Who: New Adventures. Since this success he has penned a number of audio dramas for Big Finish and published a further three books, Force Majeure being his fifth book, which is being published by Telos.

The title literally means 'greater force' and is usually used when discussing acts of god - that is, a force that it is impossible to resist. It can also mean a unexpected event which either inhibits someone's ability to do something or which compels them to do something (lesson over).

O' Mahony throws you straight into the mind of Kay. Her journey to Candida is quickly disposed of and the events which happen to her and her reaction appear to be almost random. Initially, I thought that the book was extremely badly written until the penny dropped. O' Mahony has cleverly used his writing style to evoke an almost dreamlike state. Dreams are never wholly coherent, either with their internal logic or the juxtaposition of elements, and O' Mahony has been able to reproduce that sense of unease that we feel when we have a dream in which we no longer feel in control. This is further reinforced with the use of Kay's own dreams and their importance to the overall plot.

Into this pattern he has woven parts of Franz Kafka's paranoia from The Trial (1925), some of the narrative structure and imagery of Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away (2001) and James Hilton's Lost Horizon (1933), as well as some of the style of Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast Trilogy (1946), especially Titus Alone (1959). The combination is at once as brilliant as it is unsettling.

As befitting this smorgasbord of influences, Candida, is a very peculiar place, being both part and yet not a part of the world which surrounds it. Set high up in the Andes, its citizens dress like they belong in nineteenth century Bavaria and yet they are aware of the rest of the world, having knowledge of current trends in modernity, including the Internet.

In the end, there is still doubt over whether anything depicted in the novel actually happens, but to be honest it's pretty immaterial, just sit back and enjoy the fantastical journey that O'Mahony takes you on, because today here be Dragons.

Charles Packer

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