Melissa's Reviews > Meltdown

Meltdown by Ben Elton
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Jan 22, 11

bookshelves: 2011, library-book, satire, humour, hardback
Read from January 02 to 22, 2011, read count: 1

Futures trader Jimmy Corby is hit hard by Britain's recession, and struggles to find a way to keep his family's heads above water. Among his closest friends are an expense-fiddling MP and a crooked banker, allowing Elton to take jabs at everything from cash for honours, MPs expenses, banking fatcats and bonuses, to Live8 and laissez-faire society.

Elton tends to be a very hit and miss writer. Meltdown isn't up there with his best (Dead Famous) but nor is it one of his worst (Maybe Baby). It's largely entertaining, and made me chuckle quite often. Unfortunately, it suffers from the speed at which it must have been written in order to capitalise on all these topical issues. Long sections of the book, typically in the form of arguments between Jimmy's friends, read like an extended transcript from Question Time. It's incredibly preachy in places, and flounders around a lot without anything substantial by the way of a plot.

All of Jimmy's friends are caricatures, and not even well fleshed out ones at that. Beyond Lizzie, Robbo and Rupert, none of them get enough distinguishing page-time. Peripheral characters are also crafted straight from tropes - it takes a single paragraph to establish that Jimmy's son's best friend is a refugee whose mother was raped and murdered and whose brother and father were forced to serve in a rebel army - but of course he's cheerful, fearless and inspiring to his classmates, because anything other than paper thin characterisation would require Elton to actually spend some time on depth.

Despite all this, I didn't hate Meltdown. Elton has a knack for creating main characters who are fundamentally wankers, yet somehow making you root for them anyway. I definitely hoped that Jimmy would come good for his family, and as usual, I fully expect to be back to read whatever Elton puts out this year.
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