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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Page Turner
I must confess that I have not read a Ben Elton novel for sometime (Blast From the Past being the last), which is odd as it was Ben that inspired me to have a go at writing. Having read an article on The First Casualty I gave it a go... and loved it. Yes, like many I picked up on the obvious Blackadder 4 links, but as a period project obviously close to the author's heart...
Published on 20 Oct. 2006 by Steve Horsfall - Author / Writer

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Birdsong lite
To its credit this is a very readable novel which keeps your attention to the very last page. The plot is pacey, the characters uncomplicated and the chapters short. For wiling away time on the beach or the train, therefore, it is ideal.

If however you're looking for a book that lends fresh insight and understanding into the First World War, albeit in a...
Published on 23 Sept. 2009 by A. D. A. Davis


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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Page Turner, 20 Oct. 2006
This review is from: The First Casualty (Paperback)
I must confess that I have not read a Ben Elton novel for sometime (Blast From the Past being the last), which is odd as it was Ben that inspired me to have a go at writing. Having read an article on The First Casualty I gave it a go... and loved it. Yes, like many I picked up on the obvious Blackadder 4 links, but as a period project obviously close to the author's heart this works on all levels, i.e. great characters, intrigue, history and comical observation. Against the backdrop of murder investigation there is a touching and poignant account of life in the trenches which really hits home - the cramped train journey, the march to the front and the appalling sanitation. It is observed from all angles - gung-ho hero, pacifist, revolutionary to the scared and brow beaten ordinary Tommy. Ben Elton brings it altogether to make one great novel.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant page turner, Ben Elton has surprised me, 16 July 2007
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P. Dodd (Cumbria) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The First Casualty (Paperback)
I thought this was absolutely excellent. I had reservations at first as, apart from Blackadder, I have never warmed to Ben Elton or observed him to be a particularly sensitive writer. How wrong can you be, this novel aches with love, longing, hope and despair. Yes, it's formulaic; yes, the villain is cliched, but it's a wonderful piece of writing.

I agree with other comments in that it is a 'small' book and not destined to be a classic, it focuses on characters and plot first and foremost, but to dismiss it out of hand is, in my view, wholly wrong. This novel was an unexpected surprise and I doubt whether Mr Elton will write anything to match this again.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it, 16 Aug. 2006
This review is from: The First Casualty (Paperback)
I really think that Ben Elton has matured as a writer from the comedy sketch 'Stark' to this his tenth novel and finest work. Yes you do still get the cheeky juvenile Elton skits but this story captures and intrigues, particularly as you spare a thought for life in the trenches (if you ever want to read the best depiction of how it feels to be on a front line then Stephen Crane's 'Red Badge Of Courage' remains the classic). The blueprint for 'The First Casualty' is straight out of Blackadder 4 - the concert party, nympho nurse and digs at the class system (and Haig) - familiar. And like that piece of TV work, this is a classic
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Birdsong lite, 23 Sept. 2009
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A. D. A. Davis "lodge41" (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The First Casualty (Paperback)
To its credit this is a very readable novel which keeps your attention to the very last page. The plot is pacey, the characters uncomplicated and the chapters short. For wiling away time on the beach or the train, therefore, it is ideal.

If however you're looking for a book that lends fresh insight and understanding into the First World War, albeit in a fictional context, you will be disappointed.

Putting aside the inevitable parallels with Black Adder Goes Forth (which isn't always easy - at one point the senior staff officer tries to calm a situation with "Now then, now then, now then!") you are nevertheless left wondering whether The First Casualty was ever intended as a serious piece of writing. If Dan Brown set out to write a novel about WWI this would be it. The basic historic framework is there but the storyline is flimsy and implausible. That Inspector Kingsley chases and then begins to interrogate a witness as he advances across no-mans' land, with bullets flying and shells bursting all around, is ludicrous. It also trivialises the experience of the thousands of men who really did go `over the top'. In fairness though, perhaps there was no other way to lever the requisite `riveting action scenes' (Sunday Telegraph) into a book whose key protagonist is, first and foremost, anti-war.

As others have commented there are a number of inaccuracies in the book, not least Shannon's journey to Flanders at the beginning of Chapter 51. First we learn he takes a `diversion' to Paris then that he commandeers a staff car to take him `up to the line'. Up to the line? Ypres is over 100 miles from Paris - in Belgium. The `diversion' added 200 miles to a 100 mile journey. That said, in the opening paragraph Shannon was advised by his superior to `return to France' to find out what Kingsley had discovered - which may explain the confusion.

Ironically, I found the wicked and unscrupulous Captain Shannon to be by far the most compelling character in the book - just as Flashheart was in Blackadder.

Overall, this is a reasonably entertaining, lightweight novel. But for something more grown up, consider Birdsong.
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45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Unusual Combination, 17 Nov. 2005
This review is from: The First Casualty (Hardcover)
This new book of Ben Elton's was gripping from the first page. It is an unusual combination of a detective story set in the first world war. Using this canvas it is able to explore many of the major issues of war, morality, conscience and human dignity, as well as highlighting the terrible and wasteful tragedy that the first world war was. Of what importance is the murder of one man when governments are killing millions in the war? What is particularly well defined by Ben Elton is all the power and machinery of the state that is used to compel people to do things, that given the chance to think properly they probably would not do.
Most of this is done deftly by the author, although at times the language, not surprisingly reads as though it is a screenplay, or perhaps one's mind translates it into language that one might have heard in well known TV/screen productions. This doesn't detract from the book, which is too much of a 'page-turner' and too full of thought provoking ideas to distract the reader. The hero sometimes sounds quite stiff, but this is probably in keeping with his character and with social behaviour of the times.
As somebody who has read all of Ben Elton's books, I thought that this was his best, although don't expect the usual humour. It is quite different from the rest of his work, although still retaining the strong moral messages.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Maybe his best..., 4 Sept. 2007
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This review is from: The First Casualty (Paperback)
Reading some of the other reviews here was extremely depressing and also worrying. This is nothing like Black Adder, miles from it. It is a wonderful story. Not an exhaustive history of the first world war but deeply evocative of the horrors of the trenches and the nonsense of war, or certainly that particular one. A really great read with excellent characterisation. Also, although far from a comedy, one of the funniest lines I've ever read when the private and the colonel meet with the hero's piece of cake.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The First Casualty, 7 Nov. 2007
This review is from: The First Casualty (Paperback)
I read too many books to be able to review them all, and wasn't going to review this book until I read some of the other comments! I now feel compelled to defend Ben Elton as an author - I have read and enjoyed all his books and find him an intelligent, witty writer. Of course people are entitled to their opinions, but some are downright rude! The First Casualty is a departure indeed for Mr Elton and I think it worked pretty well. Yes, there are shades of Blackadder, but so what? My only criticism is that some of the dialogue seemed a little stilted, particularly when the soldiers were discussing the war, but other than that it was a good entertaining read. I have read Birdsong and can safely say that I much preferred The First Casualty.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great setting, predictable plot., 29 Nov. 2009
This review is from: The First Casualty (Paperback)
A very interesting novel. The plot and characters are charming but all fairly two-dimensional, but the backdrop of England and Ypres in the First World War are excellent.

The plot concerns a conscientious objector who is selected to solve the murder of an aristocratic officer and famous poet (think Siegfried Sassoon). To do so he must leave his wife and son behind and plunge himself into the battles, thus confronting his beliefs and the horrors and madness of the modern war.

This plot seems to start slowly (which is fine) but then rush itself toward the end, the bulk of the investigation happenning in one quick block and ending with an obvious culprit and an even more obvious motive.

It's all predictable (and at times implausible) stuff, but the passionately-detailed historical backdrop is what makes this a good read. Elton seems to have little enthusiasm for characterisation here, but he clearly has a keen interest and a lot to say about the War and the social / political issues effecting and surrounding it. This might sound like a negative review, but I thoroughly enjoyed the book for its depiction of Bolsheviks, closet homosexuals, conscientuous objectors and suffragettes; all of them plunged into a war unlike any before it.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ben Elton's Best......, 27 Nov. 2005
By 
James C. Costa (Boston, MA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The First Casualty (Hardcover)
I was very surprised when I read the back of the book jacket and found out Elton was writing a serious novel. I was skeptical and did not expect much. To my surprise, I found myself up late at night reading this gripping well written novel. I hope his fans support this novel. I'd love many more like this.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars stunning...., 21 Aug. 2008
This review is from: The First Casualty (Paperback)
Having read 95% of Eltons novels I was expecting great things from this one. I was not disappointed. I read it on holiday - I couldn't put it down and after I finished it it stayed with me for days afterwards. The man is so learned and so committed to his craft that I am staggered by the time he must have spent in research - and then to translate that into an action packed and emotion filled tale is incredible. Ben, I'm sure you don't need this extra review from me but - you can do no wrong!!
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The First Casualty
The First Casualty by Ben Elton (Paperback - 3 May 2006)
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