Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Reader's Diary #894- Eric Wilson: The Inuk Mountie Adventure

When I was a teenager we used to think it was hilarious to mock those public service announcements aimed at age group and instructing us on how to deal with peer pressure. "Come ONNNNNN!" someone would sneer, "EVERYbody is doing it." They'd hand you a cigarette. "It'll make you look OLDER." As if anyone ever said that. We may have been young, and we didn't always make the best decisions, but we even we could sense and scoff at melodrama. Did adults believe we were incapable of subtlety?

It was an important recollection for me as I came close to letting Eric Wilson off the hook for my lack of enthusiasm towards his YA novel The Inuk Mountie Adventure. I almost caught myself saying, "yes, but young teens would probably find this exciting," which would have sold them short.

When a southern author decides to write about the North, I think my gut instinct is to assume they'll get the facts wrong. I'm not sure why that is. More often than not, the authors have done their research. In this Wilson is no exception. According to the "About the Author" page at the back, he did actually travel to Gjoa Haven (then part of the Northwest Territories, now part of Nunavut) in order to research the setting. That part rings true.

Unfortunately it's the only part that rings true. The Inuk Mountie Adventure involves a prime minister who has somehow managed to convince Canadian voters that they should amalgamate the country with the United States. He has ulterior motives but has gone through great lengths to keep them hidden. Too bad for him, there's a damning micro-cassette in Gjoa Haven with more than enough evidence to not only bring the amalgamation to an end, but to put the prime minister behind bars. It's up to Scooby and the gang, Tom Austen, a teenager who happens to be visiting the northern hamlet for a school trip, to find it. If that's not far-fetched enough, characters say cliched things like, "You lousy no-good Eskimo" and "my people value emotional maturity." Not that racism doesn't exist and not that an Inuk couldn't discuss cultural wisdom, but with Wilson's heavy handed approach it all comes across as disingenuous as those PSAs I spoke of earlier. It's all so very cheesy. There's also not much of a mystery; you can smell the red herring from a mile away and the real villain is so painfully obvious, it makes you question why this gullible Tom Austen kid is the star of his own series.

But, I'll give some credit. Like Robert Munsch (of whose writing I also have some issues), it's admirable that Wilson has chosen to set his books in various locations across Canada. And, if kids are okay with over-the-top plots and hackneyed dialogue, they'll probably also learn from Wilson's in depth research.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

If I read this book while smoking a cigarette will it make me look older?

John Mutford said...

Barbara: It'll make you look like cool, like a Hollywood heart-throb!

Anonymous said...

Oh, gar! My kids *hated" these. Their grandmother kept giving them boxed sets for Christmas presents - there are a fair number in the series - and we ultimately quietly slipped them into the giveaway box. Just found a few leftovers the other day - they are sitting here waiting to go to the Sally Ann with a bunch of outgrown winter jackets. Good-bye! ;-)

The "messages" in each one hit loud & hard & heavy - not much subtlety there.

Maple leaf connection or not, these are pretty lame.

Not a fan, in case you hadn't figured that out.

John Mutford said...

Leavesandpages: Unless their were a lot of well-intentioned grandmothers out there, I think you and I are in the minority. It was a popular series there for a while.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad I tried various volumes. Some are cheezeball and I said in reviews that I don't care for 'Tom'. All at once I was surprised by a much better book, like "The Ghost Of Lunenburg Manor" or "The Kootenay Kidnapper".

'Liz Austen' ought to be the lead. For some reason she sounds like a real person.