24/7 (2001) is a thriller based around reality television. A dozen contestants are sent to a desert island - ready to compete to win two million dollars and their "heart's desire". Within fifteen minutes of broadcasting, all hell breaks loose. The production team are all given designer Ebola (not kidding) and the contestants soon realize that they're trapped - under the control of a madman.
While the world watches helplessly, the contestants battle to stay alive. As well as the lethal terrors of the show, each day one contestant is voted to be "exiled" ("Ebola'd") by the public. THE DRAMA!
24/7 actually has pretty good premise for a thriller - and the book is at its most entertaining when it's also at its goofiest.
The contestants are pretty shallow pen portraits, but it is still fun to read about their adventures with scorpion nests, laser traps and shark pits. Because these are all so completely over the top, they're enjoyable. Perhaps having multiple serial killers running around is too much, but still, points for effort.
However, 24/7 has a tendency to dissolve into preachiness. Society becomes obsessed with the show, and don't we know it. The author interjects a number of scenes & sermons about the shallowness of reality TV. None of this is relevant, although it is certainly preachy. (Topped off with an afterword that condemns viewer culture, reality TV and the proliferation of cameras. Thank you, Cory Doctorow.)
In fact, any part of the book that takes place off the island should be ignored - be it the ponderous scenes with the sociologist, the boring manipulations of the investigative journalist or the weird interjections from the US military. Island: sharks, scorpions, lasers. Rest of the world: boring. Island wins.
24/7 is a quick, silly read that would have been a much better short story. In the effort to tell something serious, the book comes dangerously close to losing everything that makes it fun.
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