Bibliofemme Bookclub An Irish Bookclub

January 10, 2012

Dead Famous by Ben Elton

Filed under: Book Reviews — Femmes @ 12:55 pm

Dead Famous by Ben Elton General Fiction
(Published by Black Swan Books)
5 Stars

Despite a New Year’s Resolution to ration my junk television hours, I managed to begin 2006 with a barely curbed addiction to Celebrity Big Brother. Now that it has come to its inevitable conclusion, I’ve finally had time to sit down and consider a book I read just before Christmas on the subject of Reality TV.

Dead Famous, a fictional take on the Big Brother phenomenon, is my perfect kind of beach read: a gripping page-turner laced with satirical humour. Years ago, I read and thoroughly enjoyed Elton’s Popcorn – which satirises Tarantino-style movie violence whilst also lampooning 24-hour news channels – but I think Dead Famous might be even better.

Elton’s excruciatingly spot-on, highly exaggerated, but barely disguised version of Big Bro is called House Arrest. It’s got the standard tagline: one house, ten contestants, thirty cameras, forty microphones, one survivor. But pretty soon the term survivor takes on a new edge as another factor gets numbered among the main attractions: one murderer. And what’s more, no one is sure quite how many victims there will be before the end.

Elton does a superb job of sending-up the whole Reality TV concept, from the behind-the-scenes manipulation that goes on, to his well-drawn portraits of the stereotypical “unknowns” who court fame by volunteering to “live” under the constant watching eyes of the nation.

The extremely clever plot is driven by one question: how could someone commit a murder in full view of the cameras, and yet disguise their identity in such a way as to get away with it? And even though you’re probably wondering now how the show could have gone on once a murder had been committed, Elton works magic with money-deals and contracts to make a believable case for why the remaining contestants agree to go back into the house, watching their backs, until the bitter end.

Although there aren’t that many laugh-out-loud moments from comedian Elton, the book’s take on the Big Brother phenomenon is absolutely priceless. I found it quietly hilarious, but its main selling point is actually as a whodunit. Some will solve the mystery before the end; most will have a panel of at least two potential killers in mind before discovering they were wrong on both counts all along. Crucially, even if you do figure it out, Dead Famous remains a highly satisfying read.

Fan or not, this is a book for anyone who ever had an opinion on Reality TV and Big Brother in particular. With the UK’s BB7 due to air this May under the tagline “No More Mr Nice Guy”, one thing’s for sure: it doesn’t seem to be going away. My advice: skip the hours in front of the box this summer, we’ve all seen enough to last a lifetime, find a quiet corner, preferably in the sun, and curl up and savour Dead Famous instead. The Writer

February 2006

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress