“ Author: Ben Elton / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 02 January 2006 / Genre: Modern & Contemporary Fiction / Publisher: Transworld Publishers Ltd / Title: Gridlock / ISBN 13: 9780552773560 / ISBN 10: 0552773560 „
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This is the third Ben Elton book I have read and I must say that I have enjoyed every one of them. He has the ability to tell a really funny tale and tell it well.
The humour in this book come through the story really effectively so that it doesn't seem like a collection of jokes with a bit of a story to bind them all together but they are used as an integral part of the story.
The story is based on Dr Geoffrey Peason and his fantastic invention for new engine which will be greener than anything previously invented - obviously the motor moguls can see their profits disappearing so they send out a hit man to kill Geoffrey.
But Geoffrey is not quite what they were expecting!! He is a spastic and has some communication problems as a result. The hitmen are totally unaware of his condition and so don't even realise thats who they are there to kill until it's too late. What happens in the next few pages is hysterical and so off the wall its great.
We then meet Deborah, his girlfriend, who is in a wheelchair, and is the reason for many of Geoffrey's inventions. They have many "adventures" whilst trying to secure Geoffrey's plans and it all builds up to a thrilling climax, I won't spoil the end but tears will be running down your face!!!
This is a book I will probably read again it was very well written and very easy to read and you constantly want to turn the page to find out what will happen. I would have no problems with recommending this book to enyone who fancies a lighter read.
Some books are written just to be read. Some are written to make the reader laugh. Some, to make the reader think. Gridlock, by Ben Elton is all of these.
Ben Elton has made a name for himself, not only as an accomplished comedian, but also as a writer. His style, unsurprisingly, combines his acerbic wit with a keen eye for detail and societal observation that many would do well to emulate.
Gridlock is Eltons look into the world of the motor industry; the manufacturers, environmentalists, oil industry and politicians, all of who play their part. The plot, at times far-fetched, is a wonderful pastiche of things we have all thought about the industry or might have thought if only we had been as observant as Elton. We follow the exploits of a disabled scientist and his disabled sidekick as they seek to take on the giants of the Motor industry almost single-handed. Again, in true Elton style, during the course of the tale we are taken off down a myriad of winding and twisting alleys to investigate sub-plots and passing thoughts, each carefully woven into the main plot in a way which captivates and leaves the reader wanting more.
Elton has an ability to keep the reader guessing. His main plots tend to the simplistic. His ideas for a story can be far-fetched and rather child-like in their appearance, and yet he manages to use sub-plots and alleys in such a way as to truly captivate the reader. Gridlock is no different.
The joy of this text, for me, was the fact that it could be read on so many levels. With brain in neutral it is a well-written piece, perhaps not quite on the literary scale, but certainly no worse than the majority of easy-readers. With a bit more thought, one can read in first gear and see where Elton has taken his ideas from. One can relate to events, people and companies who might just have been the inspiration for the events, characters and organisations in the book. I do wonder whether future generations will be able to get as much from the book as events are consigned to the history books and, in particular, politicians come and go back into obscurity. However, at present, and this book is now some 15 years old, as a 30 something I could certainly see some parallels. Indeed, thinking about it, some of the parallels that I drew initially are the result of actions after the date of the book, perhaps showing that some things never really change.
There is perhaps also a second gear to this book. The gear that gets you thinking and questioning the ideas that are borne through the book. Its not a book that will provide the answers, but it certainly has the ability to provide the questions. That having been said, it really isnt necessary to take the brain out of neutral to enjoy this book.
If you have read some of Ben Eltons other offerings, this one will probably come as no surprise. It is, perhaps, less course than some, yet it offers the same high degree of societal observation that Elton has made his own.
If you are new to Ben Elton as an author you could do worse than start with this one. The subject matter is one to which we can all relate (rather than the equally popular Inconceivable).
Perhaps one to put on the summer reading list, to be savoured and enjoyed when one is as far away from the traffic jams as is possible. A quiet beach, room for contemplation . What could be more ideal?
"Gridlock is when a city dies" A great intro to this book as this is the plot. London Is Dying as a result of this. The Plot: --------- Gridlock is all about a professor, Geoffrey, who invents an engine. This is no ordinary engine, clean burning, runs of hydrogen AND just as powerful as a fossil fuel engine. This engine, not yet built, has struck fear into the hearts of the Heads of the Global Motors car corporation. They got hold of the plans through Digby Parkhurst, transport minister and weasel to the car and road lobby, who stole them from the Patents Office. Sam Turk, the head of GM UK has decided to have Geoffrey killed in order to have total access to the plans and keep the engine from ever being produced and to hold the Arab states to ransom. The problem is that Geoffrey is not an easy man to kill. He's a spastic, not the typical professor type so, when Sam's men first arrive at Geoffrey's office they walk right by without a thought. He escapes to his friend's home and he and she, along with the lodger Toss, fight a battle of wits against the men of GM to try to keep Geoffrey's plans in Geoffrey's hands. The twists and turns in this are involved to say the least but needless to say I won't spoil the ending. Principal Characters: --------------------- Geoffrey : Spastic professor with a great mind, he fights off peoples' image of him as useless by facing his disability head-on. Calls himself "Spas" or "spasmo" and is the inventor of something which will change the world - if only "They" will let him, a public transport supporter - will only sell his engine to manufacturers who will promise to only use it on public transportation. Deborah : Geoffrey's wheelchair-bound friend, she was hit by a Global Morritz in her first week in the country after coming into London from New York to study. Her good looks inspired G
eoffrey to invent the engine which would be her freedom. Sam Turk : Global Motors head man in the UK, he is appalled by the idea of public transport more than anything - a real "cars=freedom" man, has built them all his life and is not prepared to have a spastic with a great idea ruin his life. Digby Parkhurst : Transport Minister, a pathetic figure, only appointed because he's a "faceless nobody who won't make waves" He gets ideas above his station and tries to show some independence. He fails miserably and is forced into suicide after an attempted smear campaign on Sam Turk. Overall comment: ---------------- This book has a real place in modern times, it speaks of something which all people in a large city will be well aware, TRAFFIC. The problem of traffic choking a city in the name of personal freedom. The book is hugely political, it follows the rise and fall of the transport minister, the insider dealings between the government and the road lobby and the ever political ideas behind disability prejudices. The book is well written, I'm a fan of Elton's writing and think that all of his books flow really well. This one gives a great build up to a spectacular ending - as usual, a twist in the tail, the characters are introduced to us in style and the feel of the book is lightning-fast. I'd really recommend this book to anyone with views on the way that transport is run, it gives a great summary of the way that the future could look if we're not careful. The human tales are exciting and well written, Elton has a great knack of making you care for the characters in his books.. It is a great book and comes highly recommended. Read it and buy a bus ticket rather than taking the car!
Ben Elton really defies convention with this one. Anyone who has ever seen Ben Elton do a standup routine will be aware of his political opinions and there is an obvious political presence in this book but also an empathy I never expected of him. Our 'heroes' are all in some way disadvantaged, Geoffery is a spastic, Deborah a paraplegic and Toss is a black man. Elton brings his characters to life, giving the reader a clear picture of their personalities before revealling their disabilities, he then deals with this issue in a very sensitive and knowledgable way. The plot; Geoffery has invented a hydrogen engine which will end pollution, he intends it only to be availabe for public transport to ease the roads in London where traffic jams are a permanent feature. Unfortunately the plans are stolen from the patent office by Sam Turk, a player in the motor industry, who plans to hold the oil companies to ransom with the plans, first however he must kill Geoffery. The hired thugs fail in their duty since they didn't expect the great inventor to be a spastic, but they do manage to break into his house and steal all his work. When the thugs realise their mistake they go to kill Geoffery, who turns the tables and kills them using his incredible range of devices which he designed to make his life easier. Once Geoffery realises his predicament he seeks refuge with Deborah (who was crippled by a car made by Turk's company) and Toss (who, as a traffic warden is well aware of the traffic problem). Geoffery sets to work on his plans again but Turk has more thugs on side who find Geoffery in his hiding place in Deborah's house and kill him and steal his notes. Like I said, convention defying, how often does the hero kick the bucket half way through! Deborah discovers that Turk is responsible when she reads a newspaper article about the demise of Digby Parkhurst, transport minister and friend to Turk. Parkhurst had told Turk about the plans in the first
place. Deborah goes to the offices of Turk's company and, using the amazing devices Geoffery added to her chair, she ties him up and secures the plans just as Turk's boss comes in, who wants to build the engine not sell it, and three terrorists sent by General Ali who objects to being forced to pay a ridiculous sum of money to stop the engine being built. Deborah escapes with the plans and she and Toss try to make their getaway followed by the wounded Sam Turk. As it happens London is in total gridlock and they can't get anywhere at all and resort to foot and wheel. A ridiculous but amusing chase scene ensues druing which Deborah races after Turk at high speed in her chair, Toss gets shot and a whole load of motorists get irate. I won't ruin the ending, I'll just say that it's unconventional!
This is the only novel of Ben Elton's that i have read, and i was definitely impressed. Without giving anything away, his treatment of the fate of the central character surprised me greatly, and is a departure from any techniques I've seen elsewhere. The book overall is very well written, with a great sense of humour flowing throughout, making it a pleasure to read. The story is compelling, and there's a real message that he wants to get across here too. Not his best novel, I've been told, but a great read nonetheless.
Maybe more people should read this book before they go banging on about petrol prices. I found that the book was funny the whole way through. The author raises a handful of serious issues. He comments on various aspects of society, usually taking a small chapter away from the plot to do so. The film-like rapid change of scenes with the 'goodies' and the 'baddies' makes you wonder how long it'll be until someone buys the rights, yet at the same time, there is no way they could possibly show the deep analysis of humanity that Elton displays.
This is Ben Elton’s second novel and I have to say my least favourite of the five I have of his. It’s all you’d expect of Elton, political satire, plenty of observational humour and some brilliantly funny sections. However there is too much political preaching, even though you expect it, and the doesn’t make up for the weakness in plot (unlike Popcorn). This reads like a politically correct manifesto by a supporter of conspiracy theories – albeit a very funny one. If you haven’t guessed Gridlock is all about cars and the motor industry. It's a comment on how the motor giants encourage us all into our cars to go anywhere we want, despite the fact that we can’t go very fast to the anywhere we want. The hero is Geoffrey, a disabled hero, who has an invention that can change the world and how the people who make lots of money from our world don’t want his invention and will do whatever they can to stop others getting it. Things to think about, things to laugh out loud about, and a bit of a sappy ending. A good novel, not a great novel and not one I could recommend spending hard earned money on, try Stark instead or pick it up second hand.