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Book review
Online lit with a northern flair

Review by John Mutford
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, January 7, 2008

To download a free copy of Steve Zipp's book, click here

"People come here for the darnedest reasons. Something to do with the North Pole, maybe. It attracts them, I think. Like, there's metal filings in their heads or something." - excerpt from Yellowknife by Steve Zipp

While most reviews of Steve Zipp’s Yellowknife are positive, most also remark about the large number of plots and characters. How could anyone connect with such a book?

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Author Steve Zipp lived many years all around the North banding ducks, counting caribou and tagging polar bears. Excerpts from Yellowknife have appeared in Lichen and Pottersfield Portfolio. Other writings by the author have appeared in On Spec and Prairie Fire. - photo courtesy of Steve Zipp

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...

Fortunately, Zipp was methodical with his madness. Yellowknife is divided into three sections. The first deals primarily with two characters; Danny (a newbie to Yellowknife with a taste for dog food) and Nora (a houseboat-living biologist engaged to a mosquito-fanatic). The second revolves around Jack Wool (with a thousand get-rich quick schemes that include computerized fishing lures) and Freddy (father to a GameBoy addicted son who can vanish in the blink of an eye). The third revisits these four characters and most of the minor characters they've met along the way. It's a testament to Zipp's presentation that such a large cast of characters is not overwhelming. Zipp’s version of the city isn’t always accurate. There are references to real establishments and people such as the Gold Range and SnowKing, but locals might only vaguely recognize such references as “Co-Pilot’s Monument” and the “Carboniferous Building.”

First-time visitors to the North could probably be convinced Zipp's zany portrayal of life in Yellowknife is the real deal. Life here is unquestionably different than much of southern Canada, to the point that some of Zipp's scenarios wouldn't seem out of the question. However, after living North of 60 for a while, the idiosyncrasies are taken more for granted. Yes, things can get strange here, but Christmas shopping at the West Edmonton Mall isn’t exactly a practice for the sane either. Clearly Zipp’s book isn’t meant to be accurate.

But accuracy isn’t the same as truth. Good satire, like a good poem, can sometimes reveal that truth. And Yellowknife is great satire. It's funny, energetic, eccentric, and inaccurate, but it rings true.

The Online Literature reviews by John Mutford will appear in this section each month. Mutford is the blogger responsible for The Book Mine Set at