Book review: Blind Faith by Ben Elton (Black Swan, 2008 )
Imagine a world where everyone knows everything about everybody. Where ‘sharing’ is valued above all, and privacy is considered a dangerous perversion.
Trafford wouldn’t call himself a rebel, but he’s daring to be different, to stand out from the crowd. In his own small ways, he wants to push against the system. But in this world, uniformity is everything. And even tiny defiances won’t go unnoticed.
Ben Elton’s dark, savagely comic novel imagines a post-apocalyptic society where religious intolerance combines with a sex-obsessed, utterly egocentric culture. In this world, nakedness is modesty, independent thought subversive, and ignorance is wisdom.
A chilling vision of what’s to come?
Or something rather close to home?
I gobbled this book up in just a few days, because I couldn’t put it down. Wow. As the above description says, it’s set in post-apocalyptic Britain. A few short years from now, the ice caps melt and The Flood comes. The novel is set 70-100 years after this event. They’ve shunned science – aside from the bits that make plastic surgery work – and the Flood came not because of overusing fossil fuels, but because God wanted to punish mankind for its sins. Or at least that’s the general idea.
In this world, everyone is so special and different, and so that you won’t feel bad about yourself, even the most menial of jobs has a really posh title – Trafford is a “Senior Executive Analyst”, just like the rest of his co-workers at the National Data Bank, because office hierarchy makes people feel bad about themselves.
This society means you have to share everything, and you’re expected to put personal videos on the internet, like when you lose your virginity, and blogging is compulsory. You’re expected to have plastic surgery, to enhance what God gave you, and because they’re considering child vaccinations to be baby-poisoning, child mortality rates have increased to the point that every other child will not live past the age of five.
Trafford, hero of the piece, has just become a father, and he’s starting to see the flaws in the system. He starts to question it. His wife Chantorria wants nothing to do with it, but spurred on for his love of his baby daughter Caitlin Happymeal (oh yeah, you should see the names people give their kids!), he realises that he doesn’t want to share the birthing video. And when he’s approached by a co-worker about the child mortality statistics from Before The Flood … he wants to get his daughter vaccinated. He has already lost one child, to another mother, and doesn’t want to lose another one.
As luck would have it, disease strikes the apartment block where they live, and Caitlin Happymeal is the only child to make it out of there alive. “Miracle baby!” claim the Temple, and although Chantorria knows the baby has been illegally vaccinated, she doesn’t believe it’s science that has saved her child, but opts to believe she’s given birth to something akin to Christ. It can only go downhill from there …
Ben Elton is a genius. While this novel doesn’t treat you to laugh-out-loud gags like in some of his other novels (not to mention the many TV series he has penned over the years), it’s still deeply amusing, while at the same time, scares the crap out of you. The society it depicts is not a million miles away from where we’re at today. After all, we’re sort of half-way there already …
And that’s the brilliant thing about this book – because it’s not so far-fetched as you might first think, that’s what makes it so disturbing to read, and that he’s written about these things makes his observations so great. Elton sure has a good eye for society and its fickleness. Here, reason has given way to flights of fancy, and the result is horrendous.
You should read this book. It will make you think twice about a whole number of things. Big Brother society? Yes, in the sense that you’re living inside the Big Brother house, where you’ll get lynched for being a heretic, and put into prison for believing in Evolution.
Blind Faith is a book that really gets inside your head when you read it, and even afterwards, it stays with you, making you want to gag at society. Eerie, horrific, disgusting and revolting all at the same time, but damned well-written and constructed.
5 out of 5 Wembley Laws. Be afraid. Be very afraid.