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on 11 January 2010
Ben Elton uses the credit crunch as a backdrop for a book about "greed." The dialogue is sharp and funny, and the book follows a group of ultra-successful University friends through the late 90s up to present day. Anyone hoping for a thriller that represents an in-depth examination into the mechanics behind the financial meltdown would be better reading The Credit Crunch Conspiracy. This book is an interesting, amusing character piece, and is exactly what you would expect from Ben Elton covering a subject of this type.
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Meltdown is another highly topical commentary from Ben Elton on modern society with the focus this time on the effects of the global financial crisis on the UK, encompassing individual and institutional greed that had become so passé up to the inevitable downturn. The world of finance had long since forgotten its own health warning of what goes up must come down and was instead able to breed a world of individual greed that saw no contentment in just making a million; it was how you used that million to make multi-millions that marked your place in the world. The central character Jimmy Corby is an Investment Banker who epitomised this greed as he hedged the value of his own home against buying more property to cash-in. The story here is told through Jimmy's situation and how it touches the lives of his old group of friends from university (`The Radishes') - here we have the most arrogant banker ever (Rupert) who runs one of Britain's top banks and payrolls all his honours through the government. The government is represented by Henry, a talented up-and-coming MP who truly hates Rupert but also ends up getting caught as the expenses scandal breaks. Robbo is married to a successful entrepreneur (Lizzie) and appears to have a laidback attitude about life as long as he can get a good pint of real ale, but even he was looking to cash in. Sanity in a mad world is mainly provided by Jimmy's wife Monica and his dad, Derek. Monica is an old hippy at heart and brings Jimmy back to reality during the bad times and is the rock that sees him through - Jimmy becomes quite likeable by the end and you realise the Monica is really the book's hero(ine). Derek represents the values of old fashioned banking and could have been smug in the extreme, but he is not and this again reinforces the message about how crazy this modern greed really was.

Meltdown is written almost like a play or one of those popular ITV drama serials like `Cold Feet' that covers the lives if several couples. There is a good use of contrast through flashback in showing the good and bad times. I also love some of the sub plot rants, like the old maths versus new maths as Jimmy moves his son from a private to a state school. It did take me a few chapters to get into the flow of the book but once I did it hit the mark.
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on 11 August 2011
I will hold my hands up and say that this is the first Ben Elton Novel that I have read, so I have no basis for comparison, but i thought it was poor. This novel struck me as nothing more than Eltons mind poured out on paper with a loose story stuck on it. The endless meetings and dialogues between the characters left my mind wandering as to which character was which as they are not well characterised and have interchangeable personas. The ending, as so many reviewers have stated, felt like a quick and hastily written wrap up to cap off a weak offering. In all honesty it struck me as a book that the average amateur writer could have bashed out in a few months.

In my opinion I dont think Elton can shake off ( nor do I think he wants to ) the "Trendy Lefty Thatcher basher" That I remember him being throughout the 80's. Perhaps his other novels are something to behold, I cant really say that I'm interested enough to find out though.
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on 10 August 2010
Ben Elton's novels are usually pretty reliable as light and amusing holiday reading. Past Mortem, for example, had some genuine laugh out loud moments and the story line - far fetched as it was - did keep the pages turning. Meltdown, however, has surely got to represent the low water mark of Elton's ouput. At a leaden 500+ pages, it tells the 'story' (such as it is) of a set of shallow yuppies: with characterisation as deep as a car park puddle, it's impossible to care about the fates of any of the main players. Their purportedly incisive conversations are stilted, tired and repetitive, inviting the reader to skip long passages in the vain hope that something interesting will come along in a minute. Trust me, it won't - this is a guaranteed laugh free zone (were the gushing media review blurbs plastered over the paperback referring to a parallel universe edition?). I read Meltdown immediately after Kingsley Amis's Lucky Jim - and if any reading sequence highlighted the lurch from the sublime to the ridiculous, this was it. Amis: some nicely understated hysterical set pieces and character insights; Elton: none of the above. In summary, Meltdown reads like Ben phoned it in from his own summer sunbed. Unfortunately, it takes a lot longer to read it than he must have spent churning it out. Bottom line: he's done much better work than this, and my advice is to give it a swerve.
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An attempt at the sort of 'politics intertwining with personal lives' novels that Jonathan Coe excels at, only rubbish.

Anyway, to summarize: 6 students share a house together, in the early 90s. Despite having absolutely nothing whatsoever in common, they are still best friends 20 years later, by which time by an amazing coincidence they've all become extremely successful in areas that make them especially vulnerable to the late noughties financial crisis. (This latter also being a bit hard to believe, as judging by the conversations they have with each other, none of 'em seem to have that much going on upstairs)

So, after Ben's introduced a few subsidiary characters who conveniently explain the financial crisis in terms a five year old could grasp, we have 500 pages of dull, one dimensional caricatures of what are already caricatured media 'types'(A yuppie trader, a tory banker, a Blairite MP, a postmodernist architect and a Nigela-Lawson stylee foodie guru) sitting around their Notting Hill gaffs having banal and tedious conversations which serve to only exposite Ben's banal and tedious insights into noughties culture: The problem here is that, one guesses, that Elton intention to satirise these sort of lifestyles,but seems to think that merely describing them qualifies as that. So the Nigella Lawson character 'has a range of sandwiches in Marks nd Spencer' From which I suppose we're supposed to deduce...what, exactly?

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on 25 November 2011
I eagerly awaited the publication of this, as Elton is one of my favourite contemporary authors. What a disappointment! I couldn't get into this at all. I found the characters little more than caricatures of stereotypes and the plot (such as it was) bored me rigid. This is first Ben Elton book that I have not thoroughly enjoyed, and the only one which I was more than able to put down.
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on 16 June 2015
I read this on the train over the course of a few weeks and found the story really gripping. I'm quite new to Ben Elton as an author, but will definitely be reading more. This book is great if you're interested in politics, but also if you're not.
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on 20 August 2013
He is such a good storyteller and the lives of this group of friends is woven into a very readable book using flashback as the current-day story progresses.
The subject matter is current and the story very believable/credible.I know people knock Ben Elton now as being a sell-out to his lefty roots, but it is still there in his writing, without being forced down your throat.
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on 17 July 2016
Ben Elton books are so topical, so very much of the moment, that a year after publication they tend to have deserted Waterstones only to appear en masse in the second hand bookshops (where I bought this one)
A lot of the books have a (basically sympathetic) central male character, he is likely to be very much an ordinary bloke with an ordinary bloke’s faults for which he tends to pay dearly. He will be hopelessly in love with a woman he regards as being utterly beautiful and she may or may not return his love. There will be a pretty good plot and everything will be tied up neatly in the end.
Elton is good at family life,knob jokes, baddies (usually rabid capitalists), smart one liners, love (requited or otherwise), disasters and worrying about drinking too much. His outlook is consistent old fashioned democratic socialist (hurrah!)
This is a Ben Elton book about the financial crash. If you’ve read one about global warming or reality T.V you'll know pretty much what you’re getting.
Having said all this I do seem to carry on buying them, often if I’m facing a long train journey or flight . Having bought one I’ll then read it in one sitting. The only problem with this is on two occasions I’ve bought one I’ve read before and then not realised ‘till I’ve read the first two chapters whereupon it all comes flooding back.
So the bottom line is Elton books may be considered to be a tiny bit samey, they are nevertheless entertaining, craftsmanlike and very easy to read even if you’re sitting behind the engines. Almost makes you think you could do as well yourself…………
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on 26 May 2010
Having read all of Ben Eltons back catologue, I am a fan of his work. Living and working in London, I was thrilled to see this book coming out. What a massive let down.

The characters are unsympathetic and boring. The story is slow paced and predictable. Anybody who's read a paper in the last two years will know what coming here, and to dwell on the misery and gloom of the credit crunch for 300 plus pages without any light relief is depressing.

Avoid avoid avoid.
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