Chart Throb is a satirical novel based heavily upon the television talent show "The X-factor" and to a lesser extent, other television talent shows. Readers who have enjoyed other books by Ben Elton might expect a bucketful of laughs from the very beginning, however, for me, these were not forthcoming and it was only later in the novel that I did find myself laughing out loud.
Unfortunately, I would say that Chart Throb is not up to the high standards of Ben Elton's earlier novels, such as Stark and Gridlocked, and at times it can feel that the author is trying to "reveal" the fake aspect of these so-called reality television talent shows, aspects that most viewers would have worked out for themselves long ago. Ben Elton also makes constant use of a few phrases such as, " I want it so much", "you owned that song" and "that song was too big for you" which to some readers may become irritating. However, I found this technique to parody the banality of the competitors' and judges' comments on the real X-factor incresingly amusing the more they were used. However, this could be interpreted as a lack of imagination from the author.
At times, in the early stages of this story, there is the hint of something quite unique to come, particularly with the inclusion of the Prince of Wales who is wonderfully characterised without being ridiculed, but, disappointingly, the plot fails to deliver. Some of the characters, whilst being portrayed as fictional, are far too obviously copied from their real-life inspirations, even though they are quite laughable and ridiculous.
Most of the characters within this novel are easily recognised from television talent shows, including the blind competitor, the girl with attitude, the group who have "paid their dues" and the evangelical rappers. Some of the characters are amusing, such as The Quasar and the Prince of Wales, but others are simply annoying, or perhaps they are supposed to be.
Whilst this is not one of Ben Elton's best creations, it is a sufficient parody of the ridiculous genre of TV talent shows to have made me laugh out loud on a number of occasions.