Top critical review
7 people found this helpful
Average: too long winded, not a lot happens
on 10 April 2007
Following Stark, Gridlock, This Other Eden and Popcorn, Blast From The Past is Ben Elton's fifth novel. It's his worst.
It tells the story of a Polly - a principled 17 year old feminist leftwing peacenik who hates nuclear weapons and campaigns outside Greenham Common in the 1980s - and Jack, a high ranking rightwing US soldier in his 30s. They meet, bizarrely fall in love but then after a summer of love Jack leaves her. Suspense is provided by the 'Bug', a man obsessed by Polly who watches her and is determined to possess her no matter what. The novel charts his obsession as a sideline to Polly and Jack's relationship, his departure and his subsequent surprise arrival on her doorstep 16 years after he left her.
I'm reading Ben Elton's novels in the order they were published and this is his worst to date - why?
It is written adequately enough but the problem is that it is just not funny enough for a comic novel, nor is it gripping enough for a suspense novel. Yes it does have jokes but nowhere near as many as Stark or Gridlock - whole chapters fly by between them - and in a comic novel a joke every 10 to 15 pages is not enough. Moreover, the suspense formed by the Bug wanting Polly only takes off in the last 75 pages of the novel, and this is a BIG problem.
This story would work well as a short story because endless conversations between two people about the same subject ('Why have you returned, Jack?') cannot be sustained over 350 pages. There are only three main characters yet Ben Elton is still afflicted with his problem of excessive wording and poor editing, and whereas Stark is funny but overly long (with huge sections of samey samey leftwing sentiments), Blast From The Past is overly long with fewer jokes and far too much dialogue.
Most of these chapters are conversations going over the same ground, and it would have been far more effective (and less tedious for the reader) had this been accomplished in fewer chapters.
The narrator viewpoint switches at whim from Polly to Jack and back again, so we are never clear who we are supposed to be sympathetic for (if any). To compound matters, instead of showing us how the characters feel through dialogue and body language, we are constantly TOLD what they feel, which is both clumsy and annoying.
It's a shame because Ben Elton can write better suspense (Popcorn) and can also write funnier jokes (Stark). Stick with these and avoid Blast From The Past.