UP AND DOWN by Terry Fallis (Douglas Gibson), 432 pages, $22.99 paper. Rating: NNN
Terry Fallis may not be the deepest thinker on the literary scene, but the Canada Reads winner (The Best Laid Plans) is always entertaining.
In Up And Down, he deploys his experience as a public relations consultant to tell the story of PR newbie David, who's told to devise a strategy to increase the profile of the U.S. and Canadian space programs. He suggests citizens be chosen by lottery to be sent into space on the next shuttle.
Fallis has a ball eviscerating the PR work environment, and slyly mocks the United States political culture - especially when it turns out that the Canadian candidate doesn't exactly match the client's ideal profile. Got a hate-on for Americans? You'll love this book.
The characters are meaty, especially the Canadian space cadet, about whom I can't say too much for fear of spoiling some surprises. And Fallis has plainly done his homework so he can offer plenty of details about the rigours of space training.
But he has absolutely no idea how to build a narrative or to develop tension. The story careens from one episode to another, occasionally featuring a glitch in David's plans. But when a hint of conflict appears, the author wraps things up in a neat little bow before you can get too uncomfortable.
Crawford Blake, the big cheese at the head office of David's PR firm in Washington, for example, would have made a terrific villain if he'd been given a chance to wreck everything, but Fallis excises him way too early in the story.
This is a quickie read that's never too heavy, and the title Up And Down is apt. It's the literary equivalent of a roller coaster for kids.
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