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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 27 April 2017
This may be one of Ben Elton's best novels to date. It is a rattling good story about one of the UK's most pressing social problems - drugs, and the war on them. There are many, of course, who wish not to see the problem, who turn their backs on it, or see it as an example of criminality that must have the full force of the law brought against it. There are others who see this war as already lost. Ben Elton's eighth novel presents an alternative perspective.
The writing is a persuasive argument for the decriminalising of drugs, with the invitation to consider all of the attendant questions that this would raise. Further, The writing takes full account of the role played by the print media, television, advertising and the attention given to celebrities in order to capture some of the hidden realities of contemporary British youth culture.
It is an intelligent account, laced with wit, humour and drama. It is a no-holds barred account of the drug-induced, sex-crazed and publicity-hungry nature of the contemporary generation. It is a courageous account that tackles a subject to which few are willing to commit their literary powers and moral reasoning. It is a society that Elton savagely and satirically comments on, sparing few and highlighting the role played by the laws that he seems to consider have been responsible for this ever-changing society but which offers little protection from its ravages.
Despite the darkness of the subject matter, however, this novel provides captivating reading with a constant momentum and sharp characterization. The book is a provocative and entertaining read, Ben Elton in top form and full flow.
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on 26 June 2017
Really enjoyed it.
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on 24 August 2015
One of Ben Elton's finest, came like new.
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on 21 November 2002
With High Society, Ben Elton has done it again. Having been a major fan of his previous work, I was all over this in a second. All of Eltons trademarks are here. Achingly brilliant observations about the world we live in, dry wit and absolutly spot on humour.
High Society focusses on the fact that in this day of age, there are no truly lawful people. Either we, or someone we know go about there life breaking all mannor of laws. Not nescecarily big things like drug offenses, it could be as small as not cleaning your dogs poop off the street, or copying a friends CD.
The main issue here though is topical (like all of Eltons books) Previously he satarised Big Brother with Dead Famous, and Quentin Tarantino with Popcorn. Now he turns to the current issue of the legalisation of drugs (and one minister who is a great believer in this)
Without giving too much away, needless to say that once again Elton leaves the reader with a lot to think about. How you do your thinking ultimately will skew your opinion of the book.
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on 16 November 2002
Drugs are the scourge of society. But rather than committing already stretched police resources to solving the problem, why not legalise all drugs? Not just cannabis but heroin, cocaine and E. This is the central premise at the heart of Ben Elton’s new book, a typically vituperative attack on this country’s draconian drug laws.
Writing with a passion and fervour that he hasn’t evidenced in a long time, Elton patiently sets out his argument, using a multitude of characters, and a wonderfully flowing style, without traditional chapters. The main story deals with a government back-bencher’s attempts to get his private member’s bill introduced - a bill to legalise drugs. It gives Elton a marvellous backdrop onto which to paint his story, a story in which everyone takes drugs, the media are nothing but a pack of ravenous jackals and the general public is only interested in sound bytes and celebrities. A story which deals with prostitution, corrupt police and gangsters.
There’s a danger that a story this complex could run away from an author, but Elton is to suave for that, letting many of the stories unfold in the character’s own words. It’s a wonderfully fluent piece of work, with characters that, although obvious characatures, still elicit strong emotion from the reader. If it seems bleak, it’s because this is a bleak subject, but Elton’s customary humour and satire are there to lighten the load.
There are caveats, of course. The prose does lapse into preachiness at times (a side-effect of the author’s fervour) and, of course, not everyone will agree with the points that he raises.
But even taking that into consideration, this is a wonderfully well thought out and realised book, which feels so “now” you’ll swear it was written last week. It’s a fine return to form for an author who, after such powerful books as “Gridlock” and “This Other Eden” was beginning to look as if he’d gone a little soft. It’s a book that should be compulsory reading for every politician and newspaper editor, not to mention every parent and teacher. Read this first, then read the equally superb “Out of It” by Stuart Walton, a book that more scientifically puts forth the reasons for legalisation.
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on 11 January 2015
High Society is a slippery-slick, fast-paced satirical series of observations on Britain's duplicitous drug laws, which will thoroughly entertain any reader who is willing to confront and question the rightness and functionality of the law. Especially when considering just how appropriate current legislation actually is, in relationship to the attempted resolving of the many inter-related problems caused by the illegal distribution, use and abuse of drugs throughout society. The same society that cannot help itself from wishing to get ‘high.’ I feel that there’s a little of the intellectual ranting of a very observant and oftentimes thoughtful Ben Elton in each of the main characters; but it’s his creation anyway, so this clearly is a paradox that must be tolerated and we are obliged surely to indulge Mr Elton in this regard. After all, we bought the book because of who wrote it, didn’t we? Personally I believe that whilst its message is serious and thought-provoking, we should still try to enjoy it as a bit of good old-fashioned pot-boiler entertainment, even if it rides dangerously upon the back of a wide and prevalent drugs theme. I’d like to read more from the keyboard of Mr. Elton, whose writing style is juicy, pacy and commands that the pages be turned.
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on 20 March 2004
The book is about how the war on drugs has been lost in Britain, and how everyone is breaking the law or knows people who do.
The story is told from the veiw point of a number of key characters who's own lives are linked to drugs in one way or another. There is Peter Paget, the back bench politician who launches a campaign to legalise drugs, Tommy Hanson, the popstar with his well known addictions and Jessie, a young girl caught up in a world of prostitution and drugs.
As with other Ben Elton novels, this book runs close the edge, with realistic characters intermingled with lots of references to real celebs and events that happened, which make the plot all the more credible.
This book is thought provoking - it makes you consider and question the society with live in as well as providing a page turning story! A great read!
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on 14 November 2002
There can't be too many social issues left which Ben Elton hasn't sought to address in a novel, but his take on the UK's drug culture has to be one of the most ambitious to date. A large cast of characters enable Elton to approach the issue from several angles. The main protagonists include a backbench Labour MP, Peter Paget, who is seeking to introduce a bold Private Members' Bill for the legalisation of all drugs; a teenage runaway, Jessie, forced into heroin addiction and prostitution; and a kind of post-Robbie Williams beloved bad boy of pop music type character (and winner of a TV show called, amusingly, "Pop Hero"), Tommy Hanson. The characters are cleverly drawn and don't at any time descend into stereotype - Jessie in particular is an appealingly memorable character and Ben Elton resists the temptation, despite her undeniably tragic situation, to portray her simply as a victim.
The stage is therefore set for a well constructed comedy/drama the outcomes of which are never predictable and which finishes, rather oddly, in a very unlikely love story. There are many pleasingly sharp observations on the political climate and the media in particular which clearly demonstrate that Elton, though no longer the stand-up comic in the sparkly suit, has not lost his talent for witty social observation.
Ben Elton's vision is bleak in many respects and some scenarios do leave a bitter aftertaste. If his aim was to advocate, like Peter Paget, for the legalisation of drugs, I didn't come away entirely convinced in spite of some persuasive arguments. However the book is undeniably a good read and does provide food for thought. Elton's writing style and plotting has certainly improved since the publication of his first novel, and in "High Society" he has created an intelligent, unflinching and probably overdue comment on a critically important issue.
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on 10 November 2002
Again Ben Elton has found just the right balance of observational humour mixed with telling points on Britain today. Althouh this doesn't have the laughs of 'Dead Famous' it is still witty in many places but it is the story itself, cleverly wound together with many different characters, all with their own excentricities and dark secrets, that really makes this another must read from Mr Elton. It draws on the many chances for comedy that our political system brings, none more so than the highly comitted Peter Paget MP who's fortunes swing from one extreme to the other in a matter of pages due to the whims of Fleet Street editors. His story should read depressingly familiar to any politician today and could even serve as a warning to them. The story is based on the arguments of what might happen should the government even discuss the possibility of legalising all drugs. This in itself brings a number of laughs as well as provoking the reader to actually wonder 'what if?'. It is typically bitter sweet in places, the story of the heroin addicted prostitute who tries to go straight is a good example and what happens to Paget is grim simply because it reads so true to life. For those of you who like Elton, buy it; for those of you considering buying Elton, get 'Dead Famous' first but this should be on the list as well.
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on 17 May 2006
I was a bit uncomfortable when I started reading this book and thought that I was going to hate it after 20 pages, however the book and subject matter does grow on you.

Having read a number of BE's other novels, the skill with which he weaves a number of characters towards an inevitable conclusion is to be admired, if the result is a little predictable.

In the end I couldn't put the book down as I wanted to know what happened to one of the characters in particular.

The book is BE's take on how the British media has the power to make and then break people. These are subjects which have been close to BE throughout his comedy career, and his distaste for the media and modern politics in general, shines through.
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