I don’t watch talent programmes. Can’t stand them. I’m also becoming wary of too many dystopias, so an ebook that combines the two wasn’t going to be at the top of my shopping list. But since it’s that very busy bee Philip Caveney who wrote The Talent, I decided to give it a go. Published a year ago, you can see how long I’ve taken getting started, but I had my reasons.*
Set in Manchester some time in the not too distant future (a parent character recalls going to the kind of concert we have today), people are hungry and poor and live in crowded conditions, sharing flats with strangers. Tobacco and alcohol are illegal, and corruption is rife. Joining the Army is almost the only guaranteed job, but a very bad one. Police brutality is a daily possibility.
Josh plays the guitar, and caterwauls his own songs on the roof of his block of flats. His grandfather believes in him, and now that Josh is old enough, he will try for The Talent, the television programme the whole population follow avidly. If you win, you have a future.
If Josh didn’t get in, there would be no story, so it’s no spoiler to say he ends up taking part. I won’t say too much about what happens, but Philip has added all those things we already worry about, or can see are happening, and this makes his future vision a very realistic one. I can see all this coming, rotten tomatoes and everything.
Not quite totalitarian, but close. Many of the characters are stereotypes, but I believe that’s what makes this effective. We already know these people. We see them on the news and in the talent shows today.
The plot has several interesting angles apart from the competition itself. Is it rigged? Will they fall in love? Is Josh’s MIA father dead? What to do about Holly’s father? Can society even survive?
There are some surprises, and some fun solutions to the problems. Mostly it’s simply an exciting story about musical talent and honest behaviour.
And it’s not only the dystopian future that Philip has portrayed accurately (as we see things today). One of the characters says that he ‘could eat a horse.’ I wonder how he knew?
*Somehow I had mixed in some of the ingredients from the Hunger Games with this book. To put it bluntly, I was under the impression that anyone who didn’t sing well enough was likely to be shot. Or something like that. Not tempting. Sorry to be such an idiot. (And now that I have done all the silliness for you, you can just get on with the reading.)