My rating: 2 of 5 stars
It simply kills me to give Terry Fallis’ comic sequel, The High Road two stars. Throughout the entire reading, and subsequent post-deliberation, I kept wondering why it was did I not only find Fallis’ humour lacking, but sometimes outright condescending, and what was it about the story arc left me feeling as though I needed a real, fully-balanced meal instead of some meal replacement drink.
We again spend time with many of the main characters to whom Fallis introduced us in The Best Laid Plans. They walk on and off stage without much further development, little by way of evolution, and so Fallis leaves the interest and momentum of the novel to the plot. Which is perfectly fine. The plot, however, again looks vaguely familiar, with another unlikely campaign and election happening, the usual bout of falling on ice (instead of dog droppings), misadventures and misdemeanours. It’s all rather deus ex machina.
The humour, however, devolves much in the way Canadian parliamentary procedure and decorum has devolved, smacking somehow of insincerity, self-service, and partisan posturing. This go round humour comes at the expense of anything or anyone ill-fitted to white male, middle-class, liberal privilege. The two keen youths, endearingly monickered Pete1 and Pete2, are ridiculed for architectural and colourful hair, body art, as well as artistic expression in their clothing choices. Fat people are shoved into stereotypes and ridiculed. Middle-aged women are likewise labelled. After awhile the entire slap-stick, heavy-handed humour wears thin to the point I kept listening for the percussive ba-doom-ching of the vaudeville band.
Along with what is, in my opinion, failed humour, is a condescension by way of education and literacy which in itself became humorous, simply because our erstwhile hero, Angus McLintock, on his way to correcting the abuse of the English language to any who dare speak, was foiled by poor copy-editing and proof-reading. There were many instances of a missing comma in dialogue, or a mis-spelling. Normally I would simply read over these omissions and forgive them as the foibles of human nature. But when you have a main character painstakingly particular about correct grammar and punctuating skills, well, you had better bloody well be sure the grammar and punctuation is perfect. Terry, your self-published first novel was better-edited than this sequel, I’m sorry to say.
All considered, a disappointing sequel to what had been a brilliant debut.