(2006) Rob Grant, Gollancz, £9.99, hrdbk, 320pp, ISBN 0-575-07420-5
This is the second comic novel from Grant, best known as one half of Grant Naylor, the writer(s) of Red Dwarf. As the title suggests, it is about the hysteria surrounding obesity, the often questionable 'facts' that infest the debate, and other eating disorders, specifically anorexia and bulemia.
There are three strands to the plot, which intersect only slightly: one concerns a TV chef, Grenville Roberts, who has anger-management problems, as well as being overweight, who gets sent to what is, in effect, a Government 'Fat Camp' (attendance is compulsory); the second strand follows Jeremy Slank, a PR man brought in to 'sell' the idea of the camps; and the third features the anorexic adventures of a young girl, Hayleigh. Fans of Red Dwarf will enjoy the sledgehammer delivery of gags, most of which come in threes (since it seems Grant can't decide which is the best line, so includes three at a time, just to be on the safe side), and the targets certainly deserve to be assaulted.
If you are sick and tired of the government telling you not to smoke, or eat, or drink, or have sex, because you'll get diseases and other conditions which will, of course, make you a burdon on the already over-stretched NHS, then this book is for you. Please note, notwithstanding the similarities of these debates to that of global warming (i.e. a lot of 'facts' get bandied around which are not, in fact, proven), this is quite different. As far as global warming goes the argument might run: is global warming happening? (Yes. ) Is it anthropogenically produced? (Partly, but not exclusively.*) Is it therefore worth doing something about even if it's not man-made? (Yes, of course.) Whereas when it comes to smoking, drinking, eating, the argument would run: is doing this stuff to excess harmful? (Yes.) Is it any of the government's damn business? (No, definitely not. The government is there to serve us, not to tell us what to do. If we know the risks to our health of one of our activities and accept them, then the government can keep their damn noses out of our business.) If you don't follow any of that, then those aspects of this satire will be lost on you, though you might still enjoy the gags anyway.
If you've enjoyed Red Dwarf and the spin-off novels, or Grant's earlier offering, Incompetence, then you'll certainly like this.
* Editorial Note: Jonathan has insisted on adding that 'the InterGovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated (February 2007) that roughly between over 90% and perhaps as much as around 95% of the net additional global 'forcing' of climate experienced since 1750 is due to human activities. This might give the statement within this review "Is it [global warming] anthropogenically [human generated] produced? (Partly, but not exclusively.)" a slightly different nuance to that imparted without knowing this IPCC statement. Notwithstanding this there is a difference between 'climate forcing' and 'global warming' but this is perhaps a little too technical to go into here.'
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