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Dead Famous (2001)

by Ben Elton

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1,4382710,927 (3.48)37
One house. Ten contestants. Thirty cameras. Forty microphones. Yet again the public gorges its voyeuristic appetite as another group of unknown and unremarkable people submit themselves to the brutal exposure of the televised real-life soap opera, House Arrest. Everybody knows the rules: total strangers are forced to live together while the rest of the country watches them do it. Who will crack first? Who will have sex and with whom? Who will the public love and who will they hate? All the usual questions. And then, suddenly, there are some new ones. Who is the murderer? How did he or she manage to kill under the constant gaze of the thirty television cameras? Why did they do it? And who will be next?… (more)
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English (23)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (26)
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
I've been doing an IT-job(wanna-escape-from-the-economic-and-personal-slump)related training in Brussels for the past few months and it did not take me long to stumble upon a great used book store during my lunch break. Although the bulk of their stock are French books - a language that, over the years, has done enough rusting in my brain due to relative disuse, I no longer feel comfortable enough with to properly read novels in - they have a great selection of English novels and to a lesser extent, Dutch.

On top of that, I've never seen such a crowded book store, especially not a used book store, so they always have lots of new (old) stuff coming in. And the prices! I paid one shiny euro for Dead Famous. Awesome! Needless to say, I usually come out of that store with an armful of novels, which I cram into my backpack and later stuff into my dangerously bulging book case at home. So, basically, I try not to go there anymore, and when I do I have to strain myself to only buy one or two.

Having to take the train from Antwerp to Brussels and back every day also gives me a lot of opportunity to dig in and do a lot of reading, which has honestly slackened in the past two years, reasons of which are manifold.
"I've been given the gift of time!" (brownie points for whomever equals my fanaticism and gets that pop reference.)Unless there are crying babies nearby, crying babies really kill my lettermood. Humbug.

Anyway, all this clearly has fuck all to do with Ben Elton's Dead Famous, besides the fact that I bought it... in a bookstore, I just wanted to tell you all that I'm having fun reading on the train. Best part of the day, easily.

I picked this up because I've been meaning to read one of Elton's books, since I adore Blackadder and because the concept sounded really interesting. Perhaps the book did not completely live up to my very high expectations of it. I didn't laugh as much as I had expected and the solution didn't really come up as a surprise, but! It was still all quite clever, I've never read a book like this before, the combination of parody, pop culture and murder mystery was quite thrilling. It was a real page turner, with lots of red herrings to make me doubt (a little), and it really was funny. It's just my nonsense expectations. Loads of the characters are quite annoying, but that is the point, of course and along the way you really grow into them.

Very entertaining read.

( )
  superpeer | Feb 1, 2021 |
Dead Famous has an extremely promising premise. You have a Big Brother-like reality show with a bunch of contestants who are locked in a house and being filmed around the clock. One of the contestants gets murdered on live television. Considering the circumstances, this should be a very easy case to solve. Turns out, solving this case is far from easy.
Unfortunately I found the execution of the story to be quite flawed. It's not quite a bad book, but it could have been so much more.

My first problem becomes apparent from the start. The book spends a disproportionate amount of time mocking the concept of "locked in a house" reality television, the people who make it, and the people who watch it. This isn't something that I would necessarily mind, except it happens so much that it just becomes monotonous. The book also falls into the very trap it is mocking. One moment it questions the sanity and intelligence of people who sit around watching a television programme consisting of people having mundane conversations. The next moment it presents an example of one of these lengthy mundane conversations. Sure, this is done with all the irony in the world, but that doesn't make it less dull. It also goes far in criticising television producers and viewers for their love of gratuitous nudity, scandal, and general sex-sells tv. Again, this is fine, except the fact that the book itself becomes more than a little gratuitous on several occasions. I have no problem with social commentary on the topic of reality television (and largely agree with the author), but the sheer amount of righteous moral-highground judging becomes dull, the point becomes laboured, and the tendency of the book to exploit the methods it is criticising makes it all seem shallow.

That said, this could easily be forgiven if the story were as thrilling and interesting as it had the potential to be. But it isn't. On the whole the characters aren't that bad, but the main character, the detective in charge of the case, becomes an unintentional parody of himself by the end of the book. This becomes problematic due to my final problem with this book, the plot. The plot turns into something which needs a strong, relatable character to hold it together and convince you it isn't as silly as it actually is. You don't get that character. And unfortunately the plot just becomes increasingly unbelievable as the story goes on. What could have been a very clever, intricate story comes to an almost laughably contrived conclusion. It also didn't help that I had a good idea who committed the crime long before it suited the book, which made the not-so-subtle hints that followed seem awkward.

However, I actually liked the book. At least a little.
I've complained in the past about good stories that aren't told very well, but I found this to be a bad story that is actually told quite well. There is enough humour and warmth throughout to make the book quite entertaining. It's a pity that it never became more than that, because I feel like it should have and so easily could have, but hey. At least it was quite entertaining. ( )
  clq | Oct 31, 2018 |
Contestants are locked in a house for a Big-Brother style British reality show called House Arrest. But then one of them is murdered, and even though the murder itself was caught on camera, the police find themselves in the middle of a complicated, twisted case they may not be able to solve.

I watch a lot of reality TV (though not Big Brother), so I loved a mystery that was centered around a reality show. Elton does a brilliant job of playing around with the reality show contestant stereotypes and the tropes surrounding putting on and editing reality television.

I especially loved this mystery because not only is it set in a reality show, but because of the type of reality show, it becomes a locked room/the killer is one of us mystery, my favorite.

Elton uses flashbacks, the footage the country saw, and the unaired footage the production company kept back brilliantly to build suspense.

This was a re read for me, and it didn't quite hold up as strongly the second time through. I can't really put my finger on why, because I definitely enjoyed the re read a lot,

I would definitely recommend this book. It is a fun, clever, gripping read-I flew through the re read of it in a little over a day. ( )
  seasonsoflove | Jun 19, 2017 |
I wanted to read this novel because Ben Elton, co wrote Blackadder which is one of my favourite tv series ever so when I saw he had written a book, I thought I would give it a go. I don't read a lot of contemporary novels as I like to escape when I read, so reading about the *real world* isn't escaping, in my mind.

Like the summary of the book says, the plot is based around a reality tv programme, where ten contestants are constantly on camera, being watched by the public. This is very much like the tv series Big Brother, and in essence this book is taking a swing at reality tv shows like this one.

The plot was alright, the author kept the killer a secret until the very end of the novel, although I had guessed who did it about two thirds of the way through. There are also enough background information about the different characters, so that anybody could have been the murderer, they all could have had motives to do it. Also Elton doesn't give away who was murdered until about half way through the novel, which was clever, but was a bit annoying as it felt like the novel was written in a secretive way, which took away from the story.

The 10 contestants in the house were all right as characters but I felt they were all a bit cliched and weren't really like people are in the real world. The police detective was a likeable character but his constant moaning about the people in the tv programme was a tad grating at times.

Overall this is an ok novel that I probably won't read again but if you like contemporary detective novls with a reality tv series, this one is for you.
( )
  ACascadeofBooks | Oct 5, 2016 |
This book was super topical when Big Brother was first on screen and is some brilliant social commentary. I love Ben Elton's way of writing: He can make you see the POV of even the most unlikable of characters - people you would never chose to associate with can suddenly be people you feel compassion and sympathy for - in this case the shallow and vapid contestants on Big Brother style show "Peeping Tom".
Fast paced and entertaining. ( )
  SashaM | Apr 20, 2016 |
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With thanks to:
In the UK: Andrew, Anna, Caroline, Claire, Craig, Darren, Mel, Nichola, Nick, Sada and Tom and Amma, Brian, Dean, Elizabeth, Bubble, Helen, Josh, Narinder, Penny, Paul and Stuart;
and in Australia: Andy, Anita, Ben, Blair, Christina, Gordon, Jemma, Johnnie, Lisa, Peter, Rachel, Sara-Marie, Sharna and Todd,
Without whom this novel would not have been written.
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Television Presenter, television presenter, television presenter, television presenter, train driver.'
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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One house. Ten contestants. Thirty cameras. Forty microphones. Yet again the public gorges its voyeuristic appetite as another group of unknown and unremarkable people submit themselves to the brutal exposure of the televised real-life soap opera, House Arrest. Everybody knows the rules: total strangers are forced to live together while the rest of the country watches them do it. Who will crack first? Who will have sex and with whom? Who will the public love and who will they hate? All the usual questions. And then, suddenly, there are some new ones. Who is the murderer? How did he or she manage to kill under the constant gaze of the thirty television cameras? Why did they do it? And who will be next?

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One house, ten contestants, thirty cameras, forty microphones, one murder...and no evidence.
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