This Other Eden

Reviewer: Ian Leroux

Author: Ben Elton

Published: 1993

Reviewed: 2016-01-06

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

I found this eco-sci-fi black-comedy thriller a rather awkward read.
Elton is both a television writer (notably for Blackadder, some of
whose strident social satire is on display here too) and a stand-up
comic; the latter circumstance is made painfully obvious by the novel's
division into half-page-long digressions bearing individual subtitles,
like bits from a comedy club routine. That structure lets Elton get in
his digs at actors, producers, pubs, shopping-mall music and so forth,
but leaves the plot and characters in limbo much of the time. The
characters, in any case, are mostly there to help set up jokes and
digressions, so don't inspire much sympathy.

Still, the basic theme of the book, the problem of presenting
large-scale environmental catastrophe in a way sufficiently dramatic to
inspire action without driving people to despair, resignation and
indifference remains sadly relevant two decades after the book was
written and Elton's observations on the resulting conflicts of interest
are, if not original, at least sharply expressed. It's interesting,
too, to see what has changed since the early 1990s. The ECU has been
replaced by the Euro, the power of media companies has substantially
waned, and global warming has supplanted large-scale pollution as the
great ecological danger. Much else remains as it was.