Peter Steward's Web Site
Chart Throb - 18
Frankly this book was a great disappointment. There is a feeling that rock and pop artists and current authors all have a shelf life after which they just become mere shadows of their former artistic selves. Elton seems to have reached this and but for an ingenious ending this book would have been very poor indeed.
The cover claims that OK Magazine called it "A brilliantly savage, laugh-out-loud page turner." That seems to be very far from the mark. It was a dull over-long attempt at satire that failed to work and at times became repetitious and boring.
Elton is no longer risque and by liberally sprinkling his book with the f and c words he does nothing to elevate himself above the mundane. It no longer shocks and is rather tiresome. I loved his early books that were spiteful and sharp. Now they seem to be tired as he strings out his take on modern society over well over 450 pages.
It is an easy read, but essentially the plot is quite ridiculous involving the Prince of Wales taking part in Heart Throb - the successor to the X Factor. It goes through the many ways in which the talent show is fixed, fiddled and just a vehicle for the egomaniac judges but I gave up caring about any of the characters long before the end and their posturing and preening became sadly dull as was Elton's attempts to be clever and witty. In many ways this is a one joke or one line book where the repetition becomes very dull and the evolvement of the plot moves at a snail's pace.
Having said that the ending is clever and won't disappoint and I certainly didn't see it coming.
Blind Faith - 22
I thought in recent novels that Ben Elton has gone off the boil somewhat, so I was pleasantly surprised to find another biting satire on life and the universe.
Mind you getting through the jacket blurb as a bit like wading through porridge. "Ben Elton's dark, savagely comic novel imagines a post-apocalyptic society" and that's enough to put you off for starters. My initial thought was "oh no not another 1984 rip off."
Thankfully Elton stretched the bounds of 1984 with some delicious black humour and a wicked ending that brings no real surprises but certainly makes you think about inclusive and exclusive societies. Basically Elton's world occurs after the second great flood when the world (and in this case London) is celebrity and sexually obsessive - so much so that a decree goes out that everyone is famous. It is very much a 21st century view of the future.
The central character doesn't want to conform and sets out to find like minds - people who can think for themselves as opposed to the current Big Brother generation of vacuous me generation self obsessed youngsters.
We meet Cassius who is employed simply to keep up the government's targets for eliminating age discrimination Then Elton has the following to say about the internet "The internet was supposed to liberate knowledge, but in fact it buried it, first under a vast sewer of ignorance, laziness, bigotry, superstition and filth and then beneath the cloak of political surveillance."
In Elton's grave new world virtually everything that happens to a citizen is shared with everyone else through blogs, vids and other electronic means. Nothing is secret. But of course underneath it all lurks squalor and corruption. The thirst for knowledge backfires. And really anybody who uses the internet could be already part of this frightening concept (myself included).
This book is an enjoyable vision of a strange world that hopefully will never exist but at least it's more entertaining than the usual apocalypse fodder from authors that take themselves far too seriously.