18 January 2011

Pitouie reviewed

Just sit right back and read a tale, a tale of a fateful trip...


Pitouie (Derek Winkler) is one of those novels that's hard to describe without revealing important surprise plot points. The blurb on the web site of its publisher, The Workhorsery, probably does the best job possible of explaining it without giving anything away. My version goes like this: in the present day there is a small, obscure, independent island nation in the South Pacific. In the early 70s, there are men working at a DEW station in the high Arctic. The common thread between the two settings is how far large corporations are willing to go to see their profit line jump a few points, and the, ah, absurdities that can lead to. Some of the absurdities are funny. Some are chilling.

Pitouie is not for those who believe that the corporate sector provides all that is good in this world (okay, they ought to read it, but chances are they would have a hard time not being too annoyed to finish it). For the rest of us, it offers a lot of laughs, excellent storytelling, and some sobering ideas to ponder after the last page is reached. The plot follows a "crazy enough to be true" line that has made the book difficult for me to describe to my friends — twice I've been asked to clarify if it's fiction or non-fiction.

And maybe that's the point. The story is a tall tale about tall tales, about what humans are willing to believe if the right details are added in. There's even an official web site for the South Pacific island of Pitouie, nudging the story of the novel out into the virtual real world, if not the physical one.

The writing is straightforward and clear — good, accessible subway reading. Character development? Nah. Lars, the radar operator at the DEW station, has a character arc, but most of the rest of the characters are only there to push the plot along. Even Otis, the main character of the South Pacific thread, just seems to be present so he can ask everyone else what's going on and reveal the story.

The story lives up to its top billing, though. It starts with a simple enough premise, but after three chapters I was hooked, and I found the final half of the book difficult to put down.

If you want some light, fast-moving reading that still offers food for thought (lots), check it out.

1 comment:

  1. My Dad worked on the DEW line in Manitoba in the early 60s!

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