Force Majeure by Daniel O’Mahony (book review).

Kay works in insurance and her current mission is to prepare the tiny mountain state of Candida to be contacted by the international business word. Candida exists at the point where the Andes meet a disturbing dream. There is sporadic communication with the outside world and the inhabitants supply various doses of lunacy.


The largest building in Candida is The Old Free House, which doubles as brothel and temporary lodging house for Kay. The owner is called Flower-of-the-Lady or just The Lady to those around her. The Old Free House has historically been at odds with the rest of Candida’s ruling elite, such as they are.

Chief amongst Candida’s pro-outside world factions is the Displaced Club and its leader, Xan. For a while, Kay seeks refuge with this group but their extreme politics quickly alienate her. The various people and groups seem to be heading towards a final conflict and Kay must pick a side as well as deciding which world she wants to live in.

Have you ever had a phone call where the caller says, ‘It’s Me.’ To them, they are being witty, urbane and mysterious. To you, they are being confusing and annoying. Imagine each time you asked, ‘Come on, who is it?’ They continued to just say, ‘It’s Me’ but each time using a different accent or giggling uncontrollably. How would your frustration grow? How long would it take before you slammed the phone down in anger?

This is what reading ‘Force Majeure’ felt like or perhaps a better analogy would be that feeling you get when you really don’t enjoy a film that is hugely successful and everyone around you enthuses about it. My personal example is ‘Lost In Translation’. Fantastic actors and amazing cinematography but the overall product left me cold and confused.

‘Force Majeure’ has interesting characters and a fantastic writing style but I found the seamless transitions between dreams and reality vague and confusing. At one point, a character says to Kay that her dreams and reality are the same. This seems to be the central theme to the story. So the story is a grown-up version of the ‘I woke up and it was all a dream’ type stories.

Perhaps the story’s point is that the point is fundamentally ungettable? Surely a story without a comprehensible plot and clear resolution is half-formed? Mess with the rules of reality or dispense with them altogether, why not? Have the decency to be honest and clear about it though.

Eventually, the story reaches a conclusion, but is it just Kay dreaming about a conclusion? Frankly, I wonder if I might have just dreamed reading the whole thing and it might just be the cheesy sandwich I had before bedtime.

It is tough to know who to recommend this book to. Daniel O’Mahony’s influences seem to include Neil Gaiman but it lack his kick. Perhaps this is the book for you if you like stories which are definitely a bit ‘Out There’, especially if the ‘There’ is a bit ill defined.

Andy Bollan

April 2014

(pub: Telos. 175 page enlarged paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84583-050-2)

Currently reduced to £ 2.99 (UK) in the Telos Sale at their website below and a  further 10% discount available using the code on their Main page .


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