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The publicity bumph for Toronto author Laurie Channer’s debut novel promises an edgy narrative in the vein of Douglas Coupland. It’s fine to aim high, but Godblog does not come remotely close to dethroning Canada’s king of hip. Channer’s premise has potential. Dag, a fallen snowboarder, has taken a job as a barista with the ubiquitous coffee chain BlackArts. Like many embittered young adults, Dag opts to relieve his day-to-day stresses by writing a personal blog. His online identity, Hero of the Teeming Masses, becomes a conduit for Dag’s aggravations and an incitement to his readers to rise up against entrenched Western values. Unfortunately for Dag, the public begins taking his online suggestions to heart, resulting in mass instances of minor civil disobedience, often directed against Dag’s employer. While the Hero’s power in the blogosphere rises, Dag’s “real” life begins to unravel, as BlackArts embarks on a search for the Hero’s true identity. Godblog’s conceit of the personality split between the constrained public persona and the Internet rogue freed from the dictates of modern society is ripe for literary dissection. Unfortunately, Channer’s novel is too disjointed to wholly engage its theme, never fully deciding what it wants to be. Is it an examination of the power of the Internet? A satire of lowly flunkies held in thrall to their all-powerful employer? A story about the young and funky taking on the establishment? The novel yearns to be innovative, but any hope of memorable satire is scuttled by writing that is repetitive and stereotyped. Coupland is no master stylist, but he excels at creating sympathy for his assorted nerds and misfits by delving deeply into their characters. Channer’s technique, by contrast, is all surface. Her characters are one-dimensional and indistinguishable, and as a result, the reader feels no empathy for them. Godblog is a good idea spoiled by missed opportunities. Billed as pushing the boundaries of conventional literature, it is in fact humdrum, slapdash, and decidedly conventional.
Laurie Channer's short stories have won a second prize and an honorable mention in the Toronto Star Short Story Contest and appeared in On Spec, with solo pieces and in collaboration. Her stories have also been published or reprinted in several anthologies in the company of such luminaries as Bram Stoker, Stephen Leacock, and Anton Chekhov. She has had a regular back-page space in Canadian Screenwriter magazine since 1998. She lives in Toronto.