Simon's Bookcase

Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe

Dead Famous

Dead Famous: Ben Elton, November 26—December 19, 2012

My rating: ♦♦♦♦◊

Dead FamousBen Elton turns his dark wit to Big Brother and its spawn with his dramedy Dead Famous. The premise is as you would expect – a handful of strangers being filmed in a house 24/7 with evictions occurring on a weekly basis. The twist: somebody inside this CCTV-rigged house manages to get themselves murdered.

The novel is structured in such a way that it takes advantage of the omnipotent time stamps which pervade the genre – there are no chapters, only days and times respective to how long the competition has been running. We begin on Day 29 with the police investigating their murder, and as they watch back the tapes of House Arrest, we go back with them to experience Day 1. Both streams progress until the murder occurs and brings them into sync.

The structure is excellent and allows us to form the same opinion of the characters as the lead detective, Coleridge. At the same time, we get to know the contestants very well ahead of the killing halfway through.

Each contestant is very different, and each sends up a typical Big Brother stereotype. David, Dervla, Moon and Jazz are among the most instantly likeable, while Hamish, Gazza, Woggle and Sally take a bit of time to come into their own. Only Layla and Kelly can merge a bit until their storylines develop, and even then they both have greater plot than character significance.

Elton successfully implies sufficient motive for most of the cast to have been the killer (and, at points, all). Some motives are stronger than others, but there is no obvious candidate which keeps the reader guessing.

Of the production staff, series producer Geraldine Hegnessy is an utterly fabulous pantomime villain. Caricatured within an inch of her life as a vulgar, bullish and shameless executive who happily bullies her staff and exploits viewer and contestant alike, she brings fun and devilish delight to the story.

Her colleagues are also memorably quirky, what with Bob Fogarty’s predilection for chocolate bars, Pru’s stifled ambitioned and… Carlisle. Perhaps the less said about Carlisle the better.

Veteran detective Coleridge is an inspired character. Whether he was intended to be an audience surrogate I’m not sure, though his utter bafflement at how society has come to be what it has very well represented my own thoughts as the story progressed, even if he is frequently criticised for living in the wrong century. He is a decent, witty and thoroughly likeable chap. Hooper and Trish make up his team perfectly, with Hooper being everything Coleridge isn’t (of which they are both very glad) and overall the police unit is superbly cast.

Although I was able to solve the mystery ahead of its reveal, the solution is very clever and, most importantly, satisfying within the narrative. Elton times the ending perfectly, drawing the curtain with an appropriately concise finale where it could have been too easy to dwell of the aftermath.

While Elton scathing take on the Big Brother culture is very intelligently put across, as much through implication and subtext as in his more obvious statements, he often pushes the limits of taste and leaves an uncomfortable taste in the reader’s mouth. Dark themes and sexually crude outbursts jar with the otherwise humorous tone. They are less prevalent than in Chart Throb, while the strengths are much stronger.

It seems every character, speech and plot development have been painstakingly put together, and the result is a funny, biting and clever satire of the defining TV creation of the Noughties.

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One comment on “Dead Famous

  1. Pingback: Popcorn | Simon's Bookcase

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This entry was posted on December 19, 2012 by in 4 star and tagged .

Author Cloud

@Queen_UK Adolf Hitler agatha christie Alan Clements Alastair Campbell Aldous Huxley Aleksandr Orlov Alex Shaffer Andrew Neiderman Anthony Burgess Arthur Miller Bateman Ben Brooks Ben Elton Bram Stoker Bret Easton Ellis C.J. Cherryh Carolyn Jess-Cooke Charles Dickens Chuck Palahniuk Dan Brown Dante Alighieri dashiell hammett david baldacci David Brin David Glattauer David Kirkpatrick David Line David Tennant David Wolstencroft Dylan Jones E.L. James Edgar Allen Poe Emilia Fox Eoin Colfer Erica Spindler Frank Peretti Gabrielle Lord Gareth Roberts Geoff Ryman George Orwell George R. R. Martin George W. Bush Gillian Flynn Gillian Slovo Graham Greene Guy Piran Harper Lee Harriet Lane Herman Koch Ian Rankin J.K. Rowling Jack Thorne Jacqueline Rayner James Herbert James Patterson Jasper Fforde Jeff Green Jeff Kinney Jeffrey Archer Jem Lester Jenny Robson Jeremy Clarkson Jerry B. Jenkins Jim Thompson John Crowther John Green John Grisham John Tiffany John Verdon Jonas Jonasson Judith Kerr Juliana Foster Justin Richards Kaci Hill Karen Levine Keeley Bolger Louis Walsh malorie blackman Marissa Meyer Mark Haddon Mark Z. Danielewski Martin Sixsmith Mary Higgins Clark Mary McNamara Matt Haig Matthew Ravden Michael Berry Michael Connelly Michael Morpurgo Michael Quirke Miguel de Cervantes Mike Lancaster Morris Gleitzman Morton Rhue Neil Sinclair Nick Hornby Nick Page Patricia Cornwell Patricia Stotley Patrick Ness Paula Hawkins Paul Johnston Peter James Phil Allcock R.J. Palacio Rachelle Dekker Raymond Chandler Richard Bachman Robert Louis Stevenson Robert Ludlum Robin Cook Robin Kirkpatrick sandra brown Sebastian Beaumont Sharon Osbourne Stella Rimmington Stephen Cole Stephen King Steve Lookner Steve Lyons Stuart MacBride Sue Townsend Suzanne Collins ted dekker Terry Pratchett Tim LaHaye Tim Randall Todd Strasser Tom Avery Tom Bower Tom Cain Tom Hoyle tony blair William Golding William P. Young William Shakespeare