Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Reader's Diary #1775- Terry Fallis: One Brother Shy

Not having read anything by Terry Fallis before, I've certainly heard a lot of praise about his brand of humour and knack for political satire. I thought it was high time I give his writing a shot. I almost went with The Best Laid Plans as that seems to be his most popular title, but I've been terribly bad keeping up with new releases (not a great look on a librarian!) and so went with 2017's One Brother Shy instead.

If he's best known for political satire, I'd say this is isn't terribly representational of his work. However, it is amusing and there are definitely satirical elements, so perhaps some of his more avid readers would a make a better assessment.

One Brother Shy revolves around an awkward 20-something year old programmer named Alex MacAskill. Alex's life suddenly takes a left turn as his mother dies and posthumously reveals a family secret. There's also a mysterious subplot involving an incident known as "Gabriel" that has somehow damaged Alex terribly.

There are a lot of wild twists and turns that, along with the light humour, make for a very entertaining read. I've read some other reviews complain that there too many convenient coincidences and while I can see where they are coming from, I didn't think there was anything completely implausible.

I also appreciated some of the brushes against larger topics. Alex's shyness for instance, especially in certain circumstances made me consider the spectrum of assertiveness. Psych 101 classes often label us Type A or Type B, introverted or extroverted, but Fallis hints at a more realistic and fluid approach, one that considers other variables such as the situation, current moods, and so on.

As well, there are a lot of references to modern technology and I found myself wondering about the longevity of such novels. With the pace of technology going the way it is, will this book hold up in 10 years? In 20? In 100? Will readers get enough of the references? If they don't, will they understand the plot? And is this even a concern of Fallis? On the flip side, without such references, the world he's created wouldn't have rang nearly as true.

Finally, and while I said above that I didn't have issues with implausibility, I did note one plot hole that could have decreased my enjoyment more had it not been for the way Terry Fallis kindly responded to my question via Twitter. I won't get into too much as it would involve a spoiler, but if you're interested, you can read the Twitter thread here.


Kate said...

I haven't read this one (yet), but if you are looking for Terry Fallis' political satire, you should read The Best Laid Plans and The High Road - they are a duology that tells the story of a reluctant MP; and the books are laugh-out-loud funny, while giving me the best insight into Canadian politics that I have ever read.

I read them after sitting next to Terry Fallis for lunch at the Sleeping Giant Writer's Festival many years ago and thinking to myself, "if he is half as funny in his books as he is in person, they will be worth reading." Turns out he is even funnier in those books than he is in person.

John Mutford said...

He's coming to Yellowknife for the Northwords Festival in a couple of months. I hope to take in some of his readings then.