This novel is set in London, just over 100 years into the future. And what a future it is! After a great flood came in 2014, London is practically under water. Disease is rife (which child mortality rates at 50%), promiscuity is not only accepted, but actively encouraged, and privacy is illegal. Furthermore, the vaccination of children is a heinous crime, as it is thought to be against ‘The Love’s’ will.
Living in this depressing city is Trafford, an ordinary man, with an extraordinary yearning – he wants privacy. He hates the fact that literally every aspect of a person’s life has to be loaded onto the internet for anybody to read (it is expected that people put up videos of childbirth, sex and any other intimate acts), and that people are expected to keep a blog revealing all of their innermost thoughts.
Trafford and his wife Chantorria (some of the least unusual character names in the book) have recently had a daughter, and with the infant mortality rates being so high, Trafford decides to have her vaccinated, risking great danger and the threat of death if this is discovered. In doing so, he becomes involved in seeking out others who may feel the same way as he does – who want to think for themselves, rather than be told what to think.
I have yet to discover a Ben Elton novel that I haven’t enjoyed. This one is too funny and irreverent to be scary or disturbing in the way that novels like Nineteen Eighty Four are, but nonetheless, Elton does make some interesting points and observations about where the current obsession for celebrity gossip and reality television could lead. It’s not a believable story, but I don’t believe that it was ever intended to be.
Trafford is the most believable character in the story – as it is told from his point of view, this is probably to be expected. Many of the other characters are stereotypes and caricatures, but this is not a criticism – and it is possible to recognise some of their behaviour as typical of the type of person they are based on.
So all in all, if you are looking for a serious study about humanity and a dystopian society, this is not the book for you. But if you are looking for an entertaining and light hearted read with some very pointed observations, this comes highly recommended.