Rasmus: A Television Tale by PJ Vanston

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Rasmus: A Television Tale by PJ Vanston

Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: A dark, graphically violent satire on the state and future of TV that's as clever as it is nasty.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: October 2016
Publisher: Matador
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1785893612

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It's all about the ratings in the world of TV. Therefore the BBC, part of the British televisual establishment since TV was invented, feels it has nothing to fear from a new internet channel. However those in control don't understand what – and who – is behind this new phenomenon. The mysterious Rasmus has a plan and some savagely innovative ideas; nothing can stand in his way.

English born and Welsh adopted P J Vanston has a broad writing CV to be proud of including a Welsh football team song for the 2016 Euros, the biting academic satire of Crump and the sweet, fun story that is A Cat Called Dog. Now, with Rasmus… he goes back to satire and brings us something that's bold, bloody and possibly even scarily prophetic.

PJ gradually draws us into a tale about an obscure online TV station that dares compete against the BBC. Rasmus' brainchild is lean, media manipulative and technologically savvy. Pitted against the BBC, a respected organisation that's lasted decades, our money would be on the Corporation however Auntie Beeb isn't what she was.

PJ rips off the BBC's fascia to show us the guts of a regulation-heavy, beleaguered leviathan haemorrhaging money and losing market share. The world has moved on since Lord Reith and Rasmus has his finger on the zeitgeist: people are ready for old fashioned entertainment…historically very old fashioned in fact.

This isn't a novel to enjoy. Actually if you did enjoy it, your loved ones would worry about you yet that doesn't stop this being a good novel that demands reading. PJ – and Rasmus - increases the heat from chapter to chapter bringing us to a horrific crescendo after a series of stomach churning episodes. Each is a natural step from the previous level and so, although increasingly caricature-ish, we wonder if this could become reality.

One wonders whether PJ enjoyed writing the shock elements just a little too much as he seems to wallow in places. Yet as each scenario is revealed we're almost invited to step over or create new lines of decency. Would we watch this on TV? Yes? Well, how about this?

It's not all horror though; there are some smiles amongst the grotesque. I love the Peter Bazalgette-alike who is a dead ringer right down to his Victorian toilet-based ancestry. There's also pathos as Hugo, the Head of Vision and a remnant of a bygone era, and ambitious, soul-selling TV producer Minty, (a feminist to the extent that such beliefs affect her) both chase their respective dreams.

Yes this is good stuff but it comes with an inherent problem; i.e. whether some faced with this fable can stomach the blood baths. If you can get over that, then it's a great warning for our times and a way to ensure that we'll never watch reality television in the same way again.

(Thank you, Matador, for providing us with a copy for review.)

Further Reading: If you haven't read them already, do try Crump and, written as Jem Vanston, A Cat Called Dog. If you've read them and like good satire, we heartily recommend Something Is Rotten in Fettig: A Satire by Jere Krakoff

Buy Rasmus: A Television Tale by PJ Vanston at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Rasmus: A Television Tale by PJ Vanston at Amazon.co.uk.


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