This week Jade offers us a double helping of Ben Elton…
It’s a two-for-one day at Friday Fiction with books from stand-up comedian, actor & writer Ben Elton. He is perhaps best known for The Young Ones and Blackadder (in conjunction with his writing partner Richard Curtis), Elton has a huge back-catalogue covering a large range of topics, art forms & a multitude of books.
Elton is known for his left wing political views & this is often threaded heavily into his work. It is evident in everything from his TV shows to his musicals & his books. He often writes about the oppressed or those in the minority, particularly enjoying taking aim at large corporations & institutions. Although characters like Blackadder weren’t exactly portrayed as ‘good’ people, the monarchy & the government always came off worse.
In addition to cynical, multi-generational anti-heroes & politically minded comedy Elton has also written much more mainstream fare in the guise of the musical We Will Rock You with Brian May & Roger Taylor of Queen & Love Never Dies with Andrew Lloyd Webber.
He has immersed himself in stand-up comedy, acting, musical writing, comedy writing & of course, the reason he appears in today’s Friday Fiction, novel writing. Elton has written 15 novels to date some having been adapted for stage & screen. Stylistically, he tends towards modern satire & the deconstruction of popular culture in particular. In the past he has taken apart the X-Factor, Big Brother, environmental issues & gender politics. He has even had a go at a First World War crime thriller.
Today’s double offering are, Blind Faith & Meltdown, both satirising our culture in different ways, highlighting oddities & flaws in the way our lives are represented.
Blind Faith is set in a dystopian future where global warming has caused water levels to rise drastically. The book challenges ideas of religion & science leaning very strongly to the left-wing & atheistic side of the argument. The plot is dark & bleak but Elton’s style of comedy is perfectly adapted for these surroundings & provides an excellent framework for his humour.
On occasions the book can be somewhat ham-fisted in the way some topics & characters are dealt with but the story is good natured & interesting. Being blunt is Elton’s way as evident in his TV writing; after all, Blackadder wouldn’t have been the same without Baldrick’s numerous beatings.
Meltdown is also a satire but this time Elton tackles a monster of a subject – the banking crisis. Highly & painfully topical, main character Jimmy Corby is a stock trader who, until he loses his job in the financial crisis of 2008, is a typical example of a hedonistic banker brought down by the industry he sought to sustain.
Throughout the book, the character and his friends deal with the fallout of the credit crunch & in the process discover just what it was that was important to them in the first place.
Both books are typical of Elton’s later writing, they are cynical & lack subtlety but are true to his ideals. Strong themes of anti-conformity are the main aspects of both stories, the former with the main character desperate to rebel & the later dealing with a main character who should have rebelled.
They are sharp, fun & witty although somewhat cliqued in their characterisations, something which does not detract from the story but can be slightly off-putting. However, if you are looking for something fun & funny with a serious, politically charged edge it’s definitely worth giving one or both of these books a read.
Library & Digital Assistant
“Imagine a world where everyone knows everything about everybody. Where ‘sharing’ is valued above all, and privacy is considered a dangerous perversion.
Trafford wouldn’t call himself a rebel, but he’s daring to be different, to stand out from the crowd. In his own small ways, he wants to push against the system. But in this world, uniformity is everything. And even tiny defiances won’t go unnoticed.
Ben Elton’s dark, savagely comic novel imagines a post-apocalyptic society where religious intolerance combines with a sex-obsessed, utterly egocentric culture. In this world, nakedness is modesty, independent thought subversive, and ignorance is wisdom.
A chilling vision of what’s to come? Or something rather closer to home?”
“For amiable City trader Jimmy Corby money was the new Rock n’ Roll. His whole life was a party, adrenalin charged and cocaine fuelled. If he hadn’t met Monica he would probably have ended up either dead or in rehab.
But Jimmy was as lucky in love as he was at betting on dodgy derivatives, so instead of burning out, his star just burned brighter than ever. Rich, pampered and successful, Jimmy, Monica and their friends lived the dream, bringing up their children with an army of domestic helps.
But then it all came crashing down. And when the global financial crisis hit, Jimmy discovers that anyone can handle success. It’s how you handle failure that really matters.”