Blind Faith

by Ben Elton

This, the venerable Mr Elton’s twelfth novel, re-establishes his position as a top-notch comic writer. Elton, who started out in the early eighties as a stand-up comedian and went on to write cult TV including the Young Ones and Blackadder, has more recently been involved in writing musicals (The Beautiful Game, We Will Rock You and Tonight’s the Night) and has been behind less successful TV ventures like the forgettable Man from Auntie and plain awful Get a Grip. Yet his fiction writing goes from strength to strength, somehow managing to pull off weaving together political comment with intriguing stories.

boom book reviews - Blind Faith by Ben Elton - cover image

The backdrop for this most recent offering is the not-too-distant future, where London has become an archipelago and both epidemics and temperatures have soared as a result of the effects of catastrophic climate change. Possibly one of my favourite things about Blind Faith is that it just isn’t about climate change – that has happened already – it’s about what happens afterwards. Faith replaces reason, and science is seen as akin to witchcraft and under the new system of governance, controlled by the religious, those caught even talking or reading about science are treated to the same fate as the witches of mediaeval England – they are burnt alive. Elton provocatively depicts a dystopian future whose tenets are caricatures of some of the defining characteristics of our popular culture today – the cult of celebrity, of permanent personal disclosure and of homogenisation masquerading in the guise of individuality. The hero of this tale, Trafford Sewell, tells the story through his experiences of living, loving and working. His underlying disaffection for his indoctrination into this social system leads him into a personal Enlightenment, where he meets with others who believe in science and reason instead of blind faith.

If you like your fiction bitingly satirical, ever so slightly unsettling and with the kind of momentum normally associated with the application of brakes to a speeding car on black ice, then this is for you. Even though at times his style of writing might be irritating, there’s no getting away from the fact that this is a great book - Mr Elton may like to over-egg his pudding, but he sure can write.

four out of five