Ben Elton has a talent for seeing past the surface of things to the reality lurking beneath. In “Dead Famous” he showed us how little reality there is in Reality TV. In “Chart Throb” he exposed how the outcomes of TV talent shows are manipulated. In “Blind Faith” he shows us where we may get to if current trends in attitudes towards privacy, intellect, and the dominance of passionate opinion over factual analysis continue.
I’ve found previous Ben Elton books to be fun as well as insightful. He uses wit, humour and careful observation to make me smile at the gaps between the world as it is presented to us and the reality that he uncovers.
“Blind Faith” is not like that. “Blind Faith” is so in your face and so horribly plausible that it makes “1984” and “Fahrenheit 451” feel like light-hearted romps. Watching the plot unfold made me feel as if I were rubbernecking on a car wreck: the nice part of me wanted to look away but the reptile wrapped around my hindbrain was fascinated by the reality of the disaster.
“Blind Faith” is set in a post-flood near-future London, where the people are packed together so tightly there is only room to shuffle, not enough to walk. Social media are always on in your living room. Privacy is regarded as the kind of deviant behaviour only a pedo pervert would need. Cherry-popping videos are part of everyone’s online bio, laws are set by mass vote, a populist, live it large church guides all decisions, reading is illegal and vaccinations are seen as a lack of faith in God.
In the midst of all this, an ordinary man, trying to do his best and being overwhelmed.
This is a memorable book but it is not a comfortable read. The text began to make me feel as hemmed in as the characters in the novel and as overwhelmed as our hero. Ben Elton offers no comfort and no solutions, just a brutal warning.
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