1 out of 4 stars
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Peter Morgan’s Modern Times is a collection of short satirical pieces (written from the British perspective) covering a wide variety of topics, such as healthcare, politics, genetically modified food, the environment, and even space travel. In addition, there is also a short science fiction narrative inserted at the end. By writing and publishing Modern Times, Morgan hopes to spur his audience to take a closer look at the problems present in our society today, in the hopes of motivating them to do their part to solve these problems to create a better world to live in.
Morgan’s desire to better the world we live in is certainly admirable; however, Modern Times is unfortunately an inadequate representation of said desire. There are numerous structural and technical errors present, which regrettably and significantly prevented me from enjoying the read. Hence, I will first proceed to rate Peter Morgan’s Modern Times 1 out of 4 stars, before explaining my rationale for doing so.
Firstly, as mentioned, Modern Times is a collection of satirical writing on various social issues (one issue per chapter). However, these pieces are rather short (each one is only about a couple of pages long), which makes them seem extremely rushed, with no proper development – also, the criticism present in each chapter unavoidably becomes superficial, without providing much food for thought. In fact, the more one reads, the more they seem like Morgan’s angry vents about the problems in society, instead of what he intended his book to be: thought-provoking criticism of the various social problems present in today’s society.
Then, coupled with the lack of connectivity between topics, the book becomes a messy jumble of discussion topics. For example, one chapter could be about the current generation’s obsession with technology, but the very next one jumps to shopping in supermarkets. This definitely broke reading flow and made it difficult to maintain focus. Moreover, the short science fiction narrative placed at the end is very much out of place in a satirical read, and the overall coherency of the book would be improved if it were removed and developed into a separate work.
Next, Morgan utilises the same satirical tool of exaggeration throughout most of his pieces, which led Modern Times to inevitably become long-winded and tedious to read, despite being only 200-odd pages long. It would definitely benefit much if Morgan could mix up his styles a little, in order to retain the reader’s attention.
Furthermore, what I found most distressing is Morgan’s use of ethnic slurs in some of his writing. In his piece about unemployment, he refers to the Japanese as “Japs” and “Nips”, which are derogatory and racist terms. One might argue that this is permissible due to the fact that Morgan is writing satire, but I strongly beg to differ – as an author, one must always be aware of the various racial and political insinuations that arise during the writing process, especially when one is referring to individuals of other races.
Lastly, there are also many grammar and punctuation errors in the book, such as wrongly placed commas and incorrectly used pronouns, which detracted significantly from the reading flow. Most urgently, I would suggest that Morgan work with his editor to solve the various issues present; I would also like to reiterate that depth is more important than breadth, especially in genres like social criticism. As it is, I can only recommend Modern Times to people who have strong interests in satirical writing regarding British social problems.
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