BLAST FROM THE PAST By Ben Elton – Reviewed

I read Stark, Elton’s first book, when I was at school. It was funny, political, interesting. I watched The Young Ones, Blackadder, and The Thin Blue Line. I’d seen some of Elton’s stand-up on TV. I wasn’t obsessive, but I considered myself a fan.

I probably bought this book around the time it came out in 1998 and just haven’t got round to reading it. Nearly twenty years after the book came out it hasn’t really dated. It’s still as relevant as it was back then.

It’s the story of a young woman, Polly, who, after having an affair with a US soldier based at Greenham Airbase in the 80s (she was a protester), gets a phone call from him at 2.15 in the morning. She’s also being stalked by a man she called the Bug.

Although the book follows the conversations, it’s about the lives of these characters, their interactions with each other, and the impact of the initial affair.

But, it’s not classic Elton. It’s not particularly funny, there are no laugh out loud moments, and only the occasional smiles. The characters are fairly well rounded, but occasionally come across as typical stereotypes. The plot feels like a writing exercise: can I write a whole book based on a few hours of conversation one night. And it’s all fairly predictable.

That’s not to say it isn’t entertaining, and despite some issues I have with Elton’s all over the place writing style, it draws you in and you want to find out what happens next. It is easy reading.

Not Elton’s best by a long shot, out of his first five books (this is the fifth) this is the least successful.

I still have about four Elton books hidden on my shelves somewhere, but on the strength of this one I won’t be searching them out immediately.

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