Sunday, 10 April 2011

Am I Hot Or Not Part I [Review: Blind Faith]

Global warming meets Am I Hot Or Not by way of 1984 in Ben Elton's novel Blind Faith. The setting is a Facebook-style future following a rise in sea-level. Privacy and secrets are now perversions: you are required by law to share every aspect of your life. Consumerism, voyeurism and constant ratings are the norms, and there's a chatroom moderator in every block of flats constantly monitoring and interfering with your lives.

Elton uses this setting to tell a story that isn't really about Internet culture but about the rise of ignorance and celebrity obsession in general. Tabloid-style mob justice keeps everyone on their toes and there's a sinister populist religion that has taken advantage of the situation. In this future, the neonatal death rate has skyrocketed and the people have forgotten that it was not always so - a third of the way through, the story changes direction and follows a secret order who continue to provide children with vaccinations in a world where the ignorant population has rejected them as evil and unnatural.

This change in direction doesn't really help the narrative. Nevertheless the satire is spot on - the religious council that suddenly declares that everyone is now a celebrity, or the much repeated slogan "What's not to like?" are products of a society that is self-obsessed to delusional levels. I fully endorse the aims and methods of this novel, and it's an enjoyable satirical read if not quite on a par with Gridlock, Stark or Popcorn.

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