3 journalers for this copy...
Ben Elton's new novel High Society initially appears to be a cautionary tale about Britain today, but its vision of a society totally in thrall to criminality has elements of the visionary novel about it. Happily, the state of the nation is not (yet) quite as awful as it's rendered in this terrifying kaleidoscope. We're taken into a world in which drug use holds total sway, and the whole world essentially functions as a single criminal network. From royalty and the upper crust to drug abusers and prostitutes--right across the social spectrum--we are (in Elton's unsparing universe) plunging into a criminal world.
Elton's cast of characters is massive, but all (notably a government minister who is trying to push through a bill to legalise drugs) are etched in with maximum vividness. Interestingly, although Elton casts a cold eye across the whole of society (including an unforgiving look at the media) the final effect of the book is anything but bleak. All the trademark wit is here, along with a sense of focus that is considerably more sophisticated than anything Elton has tackled before. As a serious satirical novel (yes, there is such a thing), High Society makes an indelible mark.
I'm looking forward to reading this after reading Dead Famous, Popcorn and Maybe Baby.
One thing that did put me off is Elton's style of writing in particular dialects. Sometimes I find this a bit difficult to take it, even the character who was Scottish. But the book has several twists and turns which I'm not going to spoil here. A fantastic and thought provoking read.
(27/08) Finished...review to follow
The bits that I found most interesting, and which meant 7 stars – ‘thought-provoking and gripping’ - rather than 5 stars - ‘formulaic, morally bankrupt and depressing’ - were, in no particular order;
- Paget’s family, and particularly his older daughter, taking on HM gutter press
- The forlorn hope which I harboured to the end, that the book (all its many threads) would have a happy ending :-(
- The biggest moral issue (for me at least, not about drugs per se), ‘do the means justify the ends’ re. PP’s campaign, which was seemingly based on a logical argument, passionately presented, but ultimately flawed because of human failings and trial-by-media. And lastly, another moral dilemma, for which I have no mixed feelings whatsoever,
- The vigilante-style killing of crooked cops and rapists
A quote that I though was funny, especially in the light of the later turn of events. PP has started his affair with ‘bunny boiler’ secretary Samantha, and all is not as it first appeared,
"Samantha had exploded into his life naked and unencumbered. Now, it seemed, her baggage had arrived."