PEOPLE PARK by Pasha Malla (Anansi), 488 pages, $24.95 paper. Rating: NN
Pasha Malla can write. too bad he has no idea what he's writing about.
As far as I can tell, People Park is about a city on a fictional island whose mayor thinks she owns the town and uses her personal security force to keep control. When she hires charismatic, egomaniacal illusionist Raven to create a spectacle marking the 25th anniversary of People Park, her pet project, things go terribly wrong.
I couldn't keep track of all the other characters. There's a family, with gifted son Gip, Raven's biggest fan; two lovers, Debbie and Adine; alienated Sam; activist Calum; and a bunch of artists and security guys with strange names. Who are these people?
Malla then complicates things by shifting storylines in ways that will make you dizzy.
Where's the backstory? Why do bars only have chicken wings on the menu? Is there an eco-explanation for the natural disasters that occur? How come the trains are efficient and everything else is not?
Malla can, however, string a sentence together. His descriptions of the nonsensical events are vivid, he knows how to convey a reaction - the mayor responds to a comment as if she's found a slug in her salad, for example - and in Gip's perennially perky dad, Kellogg, he's penned a credible character.
But the rest is totally out of control. A kindly editor has helped out by supplying a guide to the nearly 40 characters, but who wants to flip to a chart every time someone utters a word of dialogue? Too bad the map at the back doesn't say where People Park is located.
This is the author's first novel after taking the Trillium Award for his short story collection The Withdrawal Method. That helpful editor should have convinced Malla that a novel needs a narrative readers can follow. As it is, I have no idea what this speculative fiction is speculating about.
Malla launches People Park in High Park on Wednesday (July 11).
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