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I have read books by Ben Elton before, and always enjoyed them.  This is no exception. In his book ‘ Dead Famous’, Elton took a pop at the tv show Big Brother, and he continues his knock at reality tv, with this book, which is very clearly a satire of shows such as Pop Idol, X Factor, etc.  I use the word ‘satire’ perhaps inaccurately; I suspect there is a lot of truth in this book, about the way that reality tv shows work, and what really goes on behind the scenes.  Calvin Simms is the brains behind ‘Chart Throb’ and is clearly based on Simon Cowell.  Beryl Blenheim is the mumsy, mother hen type female judge (clearly based on Sharon Osbourne), and Rodney Root is ‘the other one’ (the Louis Walsh character).  The book shows how such shows manipulate the audience and exploit the people taking part, and that the only winners in the long run are the makers of these shows.

Calvin Simms actually comes off as a rather likeable bastard – the kind of person who you like despite yourself, as we see his attempts to make the Prince of Wales the Nation’s Chart Throb!!

There isn’t a great deal of characterisation – there’s no need for it, because we see the real life counterparts of these characters all the time.  We know who these people are supposed to be.  However, the parts which show what happen behind the scenes of the show are very funny and I suspect, disturbingly close to the reality (of course, these scenes are exaggerated; that’s necessary to get the point across).

I personally am cynical about shows like X Factor, and do feel that it is cruel, cheap tv, so I enjoyed this book.  I wouldn’t recommend it to fans of such shows, as it may cause disillusionment!!  The only complaint I have is that the ending is a bit of a let down. There is a twist which I never would have guessed, but it was something of an anti-climax.  Nonetheless though, this is an enjoyable read.

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