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The Forgotten Classic
on 30 August 2003
I've just got into Ben Elton novels - I've never been a huge fan of his stand-up, but he's a cracking storyteller.
This Other Eden seems to be his least famous work; ominously, there were no quotes celebrating the book's quality in either this one, or in the Also Available... blurbs in his other novels. Had a picked a duffer? I don't think I did at all.
The plot returns to that familiar stomping ground of Elton's: politics and the environment. They say write about what you know, and Elton certainly does know what he's talking about here. The crux of the story - the end of the world is coming sooner or later, so let's market it... and accelerate it as a by-product. Elton gives us his usual bunch of contrasting characters, and without wanting to spoil anything for you, the least promising of the protaganists had me cheering for him by the end. A masterful emotional journey this one...
It's a little slow to get going, but once the odd murder happened and the conspiracy mushroomed, I found it gripping. The climax - a cinematic showpiece, written so well I could see the camera angles - was magnificent, and even amongst the set pieces, there are so many little knowing observations and concepts I loved, some of them Douglas Adamsesque.
Of the books of his I've read so far, this is the most blatantly SF, but it hasn't really been advertised as such, and maybe that's why no one talks about it much in comparison to Stark or Inconceivable. Ben Elton? He's a comedian, he writes clever political environmental satire, not SF.
So, Science Fiction or clever political environmental satire? The answer's simple. It's both. Fiction IS allowed to be multi-tasking you know. And it's actually really good.