Friday, January 1, 2010

Review Transfer #3 - Godblog

GODBLOG by Laurie Channer

Tall, non-fat, blond, extra-conflicted, to go...

Circumstances force Dag, a young snowboarder based in Whistler, to give up his sport and to find another way to live. He embarks on two paths, the first, a subsistence job as a barista in a coffee mega-chain where he works hard to be a worker extraordinaire to boost his tips. He also invents an online alter ego who pronounces his own brand of wisdom and rant, an outlet to express what Dag can't in his day-to-day role of coffee slave. His dark side blogs provocation in every post and gains a following.

Women figure prominently in his life, including his friend Heathen, whose competitive skiing successes are a painful counterpoint to his own loss; his new roommate Grace, whose expectations are impossible for him to live up to; and the flirtatious customers and the casual flings he suddenly finds himself drawn to and capable of. Dag's personality suffers in the struggle between his real and cyber lives as the blog veers wildly between bluster and baiting, as people begin to do what it says.

When his blog butts heads with the corporate paranoia of his coffee overlords, Dag has trouble keeping his real and cyber selves integrated. His percolating identity crisis boils over into real-life jeopardy, scalding himself and those around him.

Godblog raises fundamental questions about the risks and rewards of reinventing ourselves in the twenty-first century. The story is told through a combination of regular narrative, blog entries, and corporate memos from the coffee-industrial complex, which also becomes a catalyst in the drama.

My review:

Dag Olsson “crash and burns” his opening day of snowboarding on the Whistler slopes, limps into the nearest BlackArts coffee shop and applies for a job. Within a week, he’s the star barista (or as he calls himself, javaslinger), providing coffee and entertainment (coffetainment) to the customers and his fellow coffee-slaves.
But who is Dag? No longer a snowboarder, he struggles to make a living while figuring out who he should be. He vents his frustrations on an anonymous blog, calling himself the Hero of the teeming masses, not realizing the impact his words will have on his readers.

His looks are drawing attention, too, and for the first time in his life, Dag finds easy relationships, well, easy, to the annoyance of his female co-barista Heathen and roommate Grace. Heathen’s attracted to him, even if she won’t admit it to herself, and Grace slowly finds herself falling in love with him, in spite of the fact that he’s so not her type.

When the Hero posts an off-handed rant against BlackArts, it catches the attention of the corporate office, whose attempts to simultaneously capitalize on the publicity and uncover his identity only irritate the Hero into calling his masses to act.

As things heat up between his work, home and on-line lives, Dag struggles to keep up with everything going on around him. In the end, when lives are literally on the line, what can he do to stop the madness his life has become?

Because I’m a writer myself (or working on it, at least), I tend to read with a critical eye. I’m studying characters, motivation, plot construct and keeping an eye on sentence structure, punctuation, and whether or not the author breaks any established writing rules. And if they do break any rules, are they breaking good or breaking bad?

Laurie breaks some of the rules—breaking bad—but I’m not so sure the average reader would notice them—a few places where she gives background information on some of the characters felt a little forced to me. And she broke what I always thought of as a major rule but did it in a way that worked out, so that broke good. I can’t tell you what that rule is because (1) I’m not so sure it really is a rule and (2) it’s a major plot spoiler and I won’t do that.

There are a number of intertwining subplots throughout this story, but Laurie blends them smoothly like a rich cup of (I don’t drink coffee, so insert your favorite specialty coffee drink here), sure to satisfy.

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