Sunday, 3 February 2013

#50books2013 - Bright Young Things - Scarlett Thomas

I know already I'm going to really struggle to review this book, so I'm just going to have to jump straight in. I am a ig fan of the other Scarlett Thomas books I have read - The End of My Y, and PopCo. They force you to look at the world in a different way and introduce you to ideas and theories that you might never have thought of  - think quantum physics, code breaking, time travel. So I wasn't put off by the bad reviews of Bright Young Things. Maybe those readers just didn't get it.

The problem is I'm not quite sure I 'got it' either. On the face of it this book was written for me. It follows 6 'Bright Young Things' in their early twenties in the late 1990s. They answer a myserterious job ad to find themselves stranded on an island. One of the things that bugged the other reviewers was the constant and 'boring' pop references. Yet this novel is about pop culture - that's the point of it! It is a compelling read examining the effect pop culture has on us and leaving us questioning the power of television, games and the internet. It also has you reflecting philsophically on capitalism and the media. I think it's a big mistake to see the references to Home and Away and Neighbours as simply references to Home and Away and Neighbours. Unfortunately, although I'm pretty much the perfect generation for the references in the book, I've just always been more of a book person than a pop culture person. Many of the music and film references just went right over my head. And I think that there's possible a whole analogy with the scenario of the book that relates to popular horror movies - gang of young people deserted on an island with mysteries to solve... I've never watched a horror film so I'm not going to get that reference.

It just left me wondering just how many of Scarlett Thomas' other fans were also literature nerds like me, rather than big fans of pop culture and I think that's probably why I had never heard of this book before. It just didn't grab me like her other books - although I was gripped and read it at every opportunity (thanks, Kindle app). By the time I got to the end I wanted to go back and read it again to check the motivations of each character (each chapter is focalised through a different person, so you get a real feel for their emotions), so I was intrigued. But I can't help feeling that something was missing - and really by that I mean that I was missing something.

This isn't quite the glowing review I expected to write for a Scarlett Thomas novel, but I think it's probably better recommended for someone just like me but slightly different. And there I am, back to thinking about the characters of the novel and wondering if this isn't just exactly the way the author wanted me to feel...

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