I don't know what posesses me to keep giving Ben Elton's books another chance (probably something like needing a third book for a 3-for-2 offer) but Meltdown, his take on the current recession, has surely used up all his lives. Not so much topical as bandwagon-jumping, the millionaire author tells the riches-to-rags story of a group of former university friends who all become successful, end up with more money than sense and lose it all when the credit crunch comes. Never quite figuring out if his characters are villains who deserve their comeuppance or victims of circumstance we might have some sympathy for, he doesn't make it easy to actually engage with them, nor does he give them much of a story beyond "lots of money -> no money." The boom years, told in flashback, seem to consist of the characters endlessly arguing over the unregulated trading that would end up being their downfall, proving that Elton truly is the master of predicting the future just after it's become the past. I will admit that the author photo could have influenced how much I hated the book, but frankly anyone who poses looking not only unbearably smug, but so tanorexic he makes David Dickinson look like Casper and shouldn't go into World of Leather for fear of someone sitting on him, deserves all he gets.