Friday, July 10, 2009


by Steve Zipp
Fiction, 2007
Res Telluris, trade pb, 276 p.
Welcome to the mysterious north.
The time is 1998. The millennium looms. Yellowknife, capital of one-third of Canada and home to beasts and bureaucrats, is about to become a player in the world diamond market.

A penniless drifter, a businessman obsessed by bones, an artist with a baseball bat, a fallen academic who lives at the dump, a biologist with a son named after a fungus, a native man older than Canada, a Mounty with a jaw of steel.

Our Lady of the Lake Trout, the Paradox of the Ravens, the Ice Road Café, the Mosquito Research Institute. Y2K and the birth of Nunavut. A legend, a myth, a mystery.
What a wonderfully weird, surreal story this was! And such an eclectic cast of quirky characters! We’re introduced to quite a few different characters throughout the book, who were all equally unique, and bizarre, and memorable. Some of them only showed up briefly, and there is no clear ending for most of them, which has left me thinking about them long after having finished the book. About halfway through I was wondering what the point of it all was, but then I decided it didn’t matter if there was one or not. It’s a portrayal of a city, above all, and the people that pass through it, so we only witness moments of their lives in and around Yellowknife. What happens to them before or after is of little consequence to this particular story. I imagine it’s the kind of book that may frustrate some people because of all this, but I think fans of Haruki Murakami would appreciate it.

The furthest north I’ve been in Canada is Edmonton which is still not really anywhere near Yellowknife, so I can only imagine what life is like in the north. However, the author has done a wonderful job bringing this fantastic, frustrating city vividly to life. I was reading this just after we moved into our new apartment and didn't have my sticky notes at hand, so I didn't make a note of any particular quotes, but this book had plenty of humour, sadness, mystery and wonder. I really enjoyed my brief virtual visit to Yellowknife, and discovering a part of Canada very different from the one I know. It’s a shame that it hasn’t yet found a wider audience, or availability. I hope that doesn’t deter Steve though and that he’s working on something new. I’d love to read more by him in the future.

Thank you to the author, Steve Zipp, for the opportunity to read this book for the 2nd Canadian Book Challenge.

Steve Zipp's Book Blog
For more information, to read an excerpt, to order the book or to download it for free, visit Res Telluris, the publisher's website.

First sentence: The border gave Danny a start.

My Rating: 4/5
(#37 for 2009, 2nd Canadian Book Challenge, ARC Reading Challenge)

Also reviewed at:
Brown Paper
an adventure in reading
The Book Mine Set
She Reads Books (including an interview with the author)
kiss a cloud
The Book Zombie
A Reader's Journal
The Indextrious Reader
SMS Book Reviews
Geranium Cat's Bookshelf
If I've missed yours, let me know and I'll link to it here.


  1. What an interesting concept. I enjoy character-driven novels, so I think I'd like this one. Thanks for the recommendation.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  2. Thanks for this review! I was looking for some new Canadian Authors (to me) for the 3rd Canadian Challenge, and looking for something just like this! This is going on my books to read/buy list! It looks and sounds fabulous!

  3. Sounds like a good read! I love surreal books :o)

  4. This does sound good! Such an interesting way to tell a story. Thanks for your great review, Nat.

  5. I own this book. I really have to read it!

  6. Sounds like a really interesting read and one that you obviously enjoyed so much!! Thanks for the great words and I just may have to pick this one up sometime!!

  7. Anna - It was a very interesting concept and a lot of fun to read.

    Jules - I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! And happy reading for the 3rd Canadian Book Challenge.

    Terri B. - Yes, I know how you love surreal in your books. I think you'd like it. :)

    Wendy - It really was a very interesting way to tell the story, and made for quite an enjoyable reading experience.

    Kailana - Yes, you should! :P

    Staci - It was bizarre but I really did enjoy it. I hope you get a chance to try it someday.

  8. Interesting review Tanabata! I will definitely have to read it. I especially appreciated the link to the author's web site as I have been looking for books connected to Nova Scotia and he has reviews of several interesting ones that I hadn't heard of. Do you have any about Nova Scotia that you would recommend? My copy of No Great Mischief that you recommended has just arrived but am still looking for some more.

  9. Moo - I'm glad you found some more Nova Scotian book recommendations at Steve's website. You may have already heard of it, or read it, but the only other book I can think of at the moment is Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald. Part of it is set on Cape Breton, if I remember correctly.
    I hope you enjoy No Great Mischief!

  10. I just got this one in the mail yesterday and am really excited to read it. It's funny because when you were describing the book and how it might not have to make sense I immediately thought of Murakami--and then you wrote this:I think fans of Haruki Murakami would appreciate it. Makes me look forward to it even more.

    I've been to Yukon (for a few hours on our Alaska trip), so I can only imagine how much more desolate NWT and Yellowknife are. Can't wait to dive in.

  11. Maybe isolated rather than desolate is the word I was looking for...?

  12. Trish - With the many odd, often surreal events that took place in this book I couldn't help but think of Murakami! ;)
    I hope you have fun reading it.


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